January 17, 2019
Dear Mayor, Council, and All Concerned About Our Community Forests,
In a recent correspondence, our Mayor raised the question: What is the public perception of a clearcut? It was shared with Where Do We Stand (WDWS) and the ripple effect was immediate—the one question growing into others moving outward through the community. As comments came back, so did insights into the confusion of the December Council meeting and it became clear: To query the public impression of our municipal logging is also to ask why hundreds of people showed up at the extraordinary meeting and afterward walked away scratching their heads.
We thought our collective message had been clear. The meeting of the 19th saw an unprecedented turnout and expression of concern by community members about the future of the forests.
The concerns stated were diverse, ranging from lack of transparency, forest management practices, a lack of planning, to clarity about a vision and role of our Community Forests: Tzouhalem, Prevost, Sicker, Richards, Maple, Stoney Hill.
1,200 people had submitted written comments and signed a petition requesting a pause in all logging of the Six Mountains to allow time for public consultation on the future of our forests with a variety of experts. (The petition has not yet been submitted to Council as it is ongoing)
At the end of the meeting, the request for pause in logging of all Six Mountains was left unaddressed by Council. Why? Hundreds of citizens walked away asking, “What just happened?” No one could say for sure. There was no time to ask.
The next day, the tempest hit our valley and pause happened in its own way—or, since this about the forests—as nature would have its way. The citizens were told we can’t afford to pause—(the numbers are debatable). As if on cue, the extraordinary storm delivered possibly hundreds of thousands of dollars of timber, and many questions: How best to capitalize on this opportunity? What if revenue from the windfall could offset a pause in logging this year? What would the sustainable, “Close To Nature,” “Continuous Cover Forestry” models of the world recommend for salvaging? What about the forest city of Lübeck, Germany—the land of small logging roads, tractors, pulleys, minimal disturbance, and increased productivity? What are the options? Who will decide?
Our new forester is already facing the challenge of learning a new forest, creating a new plan, responding to citizens articulating changing priorities—is there a mandate to allow the forestry department to pause to consider the options of how best to salvage?
For those who are new to the conversation about our community forests, if you read nothing more about this issue, please read this: When the pause movement requests time for public consultation on alternative logging practices, there is no implied criticism of how our forests have been managed to date. Advocates for pause have repeatedly expressed gratitude and respect for our foresters who have served, mostly as volunteers, to raise revenue for our community.
The pause movement is not about the past; it is about our community awakening to the gift of our Community Forest—the only one like it in North America; it is about changing ecological, economic, and social values.
When hundreds of people show up at a council meeting before Christmas out of love for the forests—change is in the air.
When 1,200 people request the expansion of the Forestry Advisory Committee to represent a community forest, it is a sign of the changing times.
When citizens ask to see a five year Forest Management Plan—including visual images of what our mountains could look like in a relatively short time—it is a sign of an engaged citizenry hungry for involvement in the management of its’ Forests.
Over the holidays, some citizens reached out to Councillors to ask why the public request for pause of logging of our Six Mountains had not been addressed. Some Councillors explained: The unprecedented attendance at the Council meeting was so overwhelming, the information so complex, (like other issues on the agenda), the process so new to those Councillors recently elected—it was impossible to digest everything in one sitting. In fact, after the meeting, some Councillors were left asking themselves, What just happened?
We know the feeling. Post Council meeting confusion, to be clear, here is what we are asking for:
WhereDoWeStand.ca will continue to compile questions and comments submitted by citizens to be forwarded to Council. The petition will continue until pause is granted. This letter is the first of a series called Voices Of The Valley; it began when our Mayor generously opened the floor to allow all people at the Christmas Council meeting to speak. Public engagement has just begun.