Most people know Mosaic Forest Management Corp. as just that—the company that manages all the forest on VanIsle that’s owned by TimberWest and Island Timberlands.
That’s nearly 700,000 hectares, to be exact, or a land empire bigger than PEI.
What you might not know is that Mosaic is also in the real estate game.
Couverdon is Mosaic’s real estate division and it’s selling off huge chunks of land for residential development from Campbell River to Shawnigan Lake.
TimberWest and Island Timberlands have largely become exporters of raw logs. In 2016, the former exported 2 million cubic metres—or 2 million telephone poles’ worth—of raw logs.
Now, these two companies are licking their real estate chops. And it’s no wonder! They’re sitting on a goldmine.
Communities on the southeast side of VanIsle have seen huge spikes in real estate prices over the past two years, and Mosaic-managed lands surround them.
In fact, more than 12 years ago, TimberWest decided that 55,000 hectares, or 17 percent of its VanIsle holdings, were worth more as real estate than working forest.
Why should anyone care?
It’s private land, after all, and they can sell it if they want.
Well, not so fast. The only reason there is so much private forest on the Island is because of the E & N Land Grant, one of the biggest land giveaways in BC history.
In the late 1800s, the provincial government gave 800,000 hectares of land, much of it unceded Indigenous territory, to Robert Dunsmuir. It was an incentive to build a railway from Victoria to Campbell River.
He never completed the railway—the tracks stopped abruptly in Courtenay. But Dunsmuir got rich from coal and logging.
So, too, have many companies. That includes TimberWest and Island Timberlands, who purchased these E & N lands over the years.
The companies claim these lands are being managed sustainably. But the logging roads getting blasted into the mountains suggest otherwise.
They are cutting roads into the steep slopes of the Beaufort Range between Cumberland and Horne Lake to log some of the last of the old-growth on VanIsle.
Yet, Couverdon spins its real estate with slogans like “island lifestyle, inspired communities, local roots.”
But is developing tract homes on the outskirts of forests “inspired,” or just old-fashioned suburban sprawl?
It looks like the latest in a long history of cash grabs by heavily subsidized companies that long ago abandoned the business of creating local jobs from local trees.