Give forest lands heritage designation, says WOLF member

Petrina Arnason said Langley Township council has the power to designate Glen Valley forest as a heritage area

While Petrina Arnason may have been the lone WOLF (Watchers of Langley Forests) member to appear before Langley Township council Monday evening, she certainly isn’t alone in her desire to preserve the Glen Valley forests.

On behalf of the group of residents trying to prevent a purchase by developers, the Langley resident discussed community charter provisions for protecting municipal lands as a heritage conservation area — specifically, that the Glen Valley land should not now or never be considered to be surplus land.

“I believe it’s important for people to realize that just because these properties — the ones that have been taken off the market — are actually off the market,” said Arnason, who applauded council’s decision last month to preserve 50 acres of land west along 257A Street.

“ I just want to thank you for the wisdom that it took to make that decision — I know I speak tonight on behalf of WOLF, but also many members of the community. I’m here tonight following up on that resolution.”

Arnason asked council to take concrete action to formalize its earlier intention to preserve the land by setting it aside for conservation and protection perpetuity. She also noted a “cost-effective way’’ to go about it.

“Under the Community Charter Act: Section 30, it says ‘a council may by bylaw reserve or dedicate for a particular municipal, or under public purpose, real property owned by the municipality’.. if council were to decide to do this, this would be done for the purpose related to heritage or heritage conservation by an informative vote of at least two-thirds of all members of council.”

Arnason noted the land has been identified as historical and socio-cultural for the Kwantlen First Nation, which would support the designation. She also argued that these particular forests were exceedingly important to the many generations of the pioneers who have populated the region for the last 130 years.

“It’s one of the last areas we can see and feel what Langley pioneers experienced,” she said matter-of-factly.

“Their proximity to Fort Langley and Glen Valley make them one of the few easily accessible places where one can get a sense of the magnificence of the natural heritage and irreplaceable biodiversity that once dominated the region. To say they are a living museum is to underline their real significance in creating a link to our pioneer forbearers.”

Arnason stated there is a growing body of international knowledge captured by the term biocultural heritage, which seeks to understand the importance of forests within the broader understanding of one’s cultural heritage.

“This perspective embraces global governments, heritage authorities, tourism, biodiversity and also conservation agencies and the scientific community.  I believe that our current understanding of heritage values should be expanded to include a new vision of the importance of these forests within our overall understanding of heritage values.”

Councillor Kim Richter asked which lands Arnason was specifically referring to — McLellan East, West, or both parcels?

“It kind of comes down to consultation,” replied Arnason. “Either side has potential and both could be collectively put together under that umbrella — either or both.

“I like both. WOLF is always ready to cooperate in dialogue with the Township and our community to the property and conservation of these unique properties for generations.”

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