We asked, Who is doing the logging? Why was there no notice given? Who owns this land?
Here is what we learned:
25% of North Cowichan is a municipal forest reserve, (5,000 HA— six forests on six mountains). It is a community forest owned by the citizens and managed by its elected officials. Until the alarm was sounded most citizens thought the forests were owned and logged by private forestry companies.
The Municipal Forest and all logging is under the direction of the Municipal Forester with advice from the Forest Advisory Committee.
Trees are harvested using a patch clear-cut method (2017 forestry report).
Up until now, most of the patch cutting has been done on the back mountains largely out of sight. Now logging is moving into the open with planned patch cuts on all the mountains closer to our communities.
Now that the public is learning that the forests are community-owned,
WhereDoWeStand is a group of concerned citizens, a film, a facebook page and a website. Our one shared message is stated by the petition and signed by over 1400 citizens.
What is the greatest value of our municipal forest, not just now, but for generations to come? Where do we stand?
This website began as a conversation between several people of the valley who revere our public-owned forests and are, as a collective, knowledgeable about their history. We come from all walks of life and include loggers, arborists, biologists, conservationists, gardener, landscapers, fire fighters, farmers, and people who have been hiking and biking through the forest for decades.
For awhile, increasingly, individually and in groups, we had begun to notice that our municipal forests are not growing back the way they used to. We started to talk, and we started to research.
If you have found your way to this website you are probably aware of the principle concerns. If not, the conversation begins as follows, in short:
In the past, the logging industry was the principle source of income for the valley. Now, arguably, tourism has taken the lead. The south end of the island, including the gulf islands, is considered to be one of the top eco and agri-tourist decorations in the world. Suffice to say, eco tourists are not coming here to see a patch work of logging slash.
Our forest reserve comprises 25% of our public-owned land.
Prevost has borne the brunt of logging. Now the other mountains must take their turns, including, the well-hiked and biked Tzouhalem, Maple Mt., Stoney Hill.
The municipal allowable cut per year is 2%. This means that in 25 years, half the trees of our forests will have been cut down.
It appears that the exact numbers are more complicated than this. We would like to understand the actual maximum limit in terms of hectares and truckloads, (stay tuned).
One of the arguments in favour of logging is that trees grow back.
It is true. Trees do grow back. On the other hand, trees and the native understory—habitat to birds, insects, and animals—grow back to varying degrees in varying circumstances. Climate change and invasive species, (broom, ivy, holly, Japanese honey-suckle, morning glory, tansy, daphne, etc.), competing with native trees and the understory, are a relatively new phenomenon on the island impacting our forests, and not in a good way.
Seventy years ago, before climate change and invasives, when the municipality was still logging first growth trees—land before Arbutus and Alder, etc. were sprayed with broom as “pests”—the forests were able to recover in such a way that allowed a diversity of trees, including Douglas Fir, Big Leaf Maple, Gary Oak, Arbutus, Cedar, and others, and the native understory to come back to varying degrees. (In some places, such as Stoney Hill, the forest and undergrowth is slower growing).
Candidates in the recent election recognized that there is a water crisis in our valley. Clear cutting removes the canopy that holds in moisture necessary for the native understory and also for young trees. Recent years of drought, wind and water erosion, combined with the absence of intact roots to retain soil and water means the quantity and quality of our ground water will continue to be adversely affected. We cannot know what this will mean in the long run.
The management and use of our public owned asset is complex. It is rare for organizations to show great foresight in the use and protection of natural resources. Should we, for instance, be doing as Saltspring Island and putting aside a part of our forests as a nature preserve as opposed to park or for industrial use? Ironically, it is not the residents of Saltspring but we of North Cowichan who profit most from their wisdom; from Maple Bay and Stoney Hill, we look out on the beauty of a mountain of protected wilderness.
An intact wilderness, or relatively untouched forest is fast becoming a rare and valuable asset. Eco-tourism and not logging appears to be the more lucrative and sustainable option going forward.
As for the future, have we not already taken more than our fair share of our municipal asset? If the forests and understory are not growing back as in the past, what are we leaving our children and grandchildren?
Committees investigating the future of our forests, until now, have been working under the assumption that logging is the only way to profit from our forests. This way of thinking may be outdated. In this website, we hope to foster an on-going dialogue with our Municipal leaders, the Mayor and Council, the forest committees, and the public — arborists, biologists, conservationists, fire fighters, experts on eco tourism, et al... Please feel free to submit any information about the forests, for or against logging, eco or agri-tourist, or whatever uses you may support, and whatever relative insights you may be aware of in other parts of the world. The possibilities, of course, are endless.
We are a loose collective of concerned citizens.
Our group started meeting on the hiking trails in late October 2018.
At the current moment - we are just an idea, a website, a short film and an upcoming Council meeting.
Some members of our group want to stop all logging in the Municipal Forest, others are open to logging after public consultation and the development of a plan approved by the community.