This Tuesday (February 11, 2019) Council is being asked to consider 2 options for the 2020 Forestry budget at a Special Council Meeting dealing with North Cowichan’s Five Year Operating Budget. These are:
Log 5000m3 plus 2018/19 obligations of 2,000 m3 (for a total harvest of 7,000 m3 in 2020)
The second option (logging an additional 5000m3 in addition to the 2018 / 19 obligations) and raises a number of questions:
Why is an additional 5000m3 proposed? Why not 500m3 or 10,000m3?
How was the amount of this additional volume chosen, and where would it be taken from?
Don’t the public consultation and UBC Interim forest management strategy processes play an important role in developing options like this? Is presenting options for additional logging actually undermining these processes?
In short, why is Council being asked to consider additional logging before the public consultation is underway and UBC interim forestry strategy is completed?
There is also the issue of the scheduling of Special Council Meetings and when Agendas are published online. Agendas, we are reminded, come out on Fridays before Council meetings the next week. This does not preclude giving Council and the pubic advanced notice and information about important complex matters, like logging the forests. The last minute timing makes it difficult for the public and Councillors to better understand the ramifications of the options presented.
Until the community knows the outcomes from the public consultation and UBC Interim Forestry management strategy processes we strongly believe that Option 1 (Harvest just the 2018/19 contract obligations) is the right choice, for these reasons:
It does not presuppose an outcome - why jump ahead of UBC and Lees and risk a $190,000 investment in these processes to create unnecessary controversy – all for what appears to be an arbitrarily chosen 5000m3 of additional volume?. Lets wait till the September meetings where when we can make an informed decision based on information received from public input and a rigorous planning process.
To the public - Option 1 means "pause", Option 2 means the municipality is attempting to continue with "business as usual" during the engagement period; well before we have heard from Lees about public views and UBC about management options.
If option 2 is chosen and the work starts in the spring – limited staff resources at the Municipality will have to be directed towards tendering and presenting the harvesting plans to the Forest Advisory Committee and Council. This could lead to another round of contentious Council Meetings arguing about clear-cuts; rather than focusing on the forest review, forest management options, and public engagement.
Since it has already been decided that the profit shortfall will be coming from the Forest Reserve Fund (stated in the agenda) - there will be no impact on the 2020 property tax calculation.
2019 turned out to be a banner year for logging profits generating $420,000 of additional profit over the original budget. This is almost equal to the shortfall predicted for 2020.
Favorable weather and good log prices in 2019 will effectively pay for the pause in 2020.
In closing, WDWS wishes to thank Council again for their leadership in this and for getting the public consultation and UBC collaboration processes underway. A lot has happened over the past year, and we believe the next few months bode well for the future of the six mountains.