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Back to the Future

By Larry Pynn

Almost three decades ago, North Cowichan’s Forest Advisory Committee retained a consultant to review municipal logging on Maple Mountain and to ask people and organizations to fill out a questionnaire on what they value in our forests.

Does this sound strangely familiar to today?

At that time, only “six to seven persons per day” used 980-hectare Maple Mountain, according to the Forest Advisory Committee’s March 1992 report: A Framework for Integrated Forest Resource Management — Maple Mountain block.

That’s a convoluted way of saying, ‘consideration of values other than logging.’

The questionnaire was sent to “government agencies responsible for resource management,” forest companies operating in the Municipality, resource groups using the area, water licensees, and individuals who expressed interest.

Given the weight put on forestry the results are all the more surprising.

Respondents to the questionnaire “identified the highest resource values as aesthetics, hiking and other recreational activities (and) indicated the Forest Reserve must be viewed as providing many resource values besides those associated with timber harvesting.”

A total of 43 responses were received, “a very good return considering the limited time available,” the report finds.

Alternative values ranked highest by far, including wildlife at 13.3 per cent, hiking 11.5 per cent, education 9.0 per cent, recreation 8.7 per cent, and aesthetics 7.4 per cent.

Thirteen forest management categories such as timber and jobs ranked so low (at best, 6.0 to 7.0 per cent) that the Municipality had to lump them all together into one new category of “forest management” to produce a score of 21.9 per cent.

That’s right, the Municipality was even trying to stack the deck back then.

Among the key points made by those who filled out the questionnaire: “The public does not want revenue to drive a forest management program.”

The report goes on to say: “The practice of clear cut harvesting followed by reforestation is not acceptable unless aesthetics are considered in the planning process.”

The report’s comment on ecosystems, however, is downright cringe worthy: “A key goal in this process will be establishing a network of trails and signs to assist in public education on forestry.”

All was not lost. The consultation process did create a “preservation zone” of 390 hectares on the eastern and southeastern side of Maple Mountain. This encompasses today’s scenic Blue and Yellow hiking trails overlooking Sansum Narrows.

But this preservation zone is by no means set in stone. The Municipality is working with University of B.C. forestry officials on a new management plan for the Six Mountains and “whether or not UBC will recommend that it remains, or parts of it, or perhaps use it as a guide/template is unknown at this time,” a municipal staffer informs me.

As evidenced by the 1992 report, there is a long-standing public interest in values such as recreation, ecology and aesthetics that far and way exceeds logging.

Yet the scars of logging continue in the 5,000-hectare Municipal Forest Reserve — even as recreational needs continue to grow. Potentially hundreds of mountain bikers and hikers use Maple Mountain alone on a busy day.

The Municipality has currently suspended public consultations on the future of the Forest Reserve for 60 days.

It’s a good time for the public — and council — to reflect on what we really value in our Six Mountains and to put the lie to claims that continued logging is the highest and best use of our forests.

View the 1992 report at: https://bit.ly/31lnHIF

(Photo: municipal logging site on Maple Mountain)

Larry Pynn is an independent veteran environmental journalist, Explorers Club member, and author of two non-fiction books, including Last Stands: A Journey Through North America's Vanishing Ancient Rainforests. He lives in Maple Bay. These articles are reprinted from Larry's website at https://www.sixmountains.ca/

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