Cartoon courtesy of the Cowichan Valley Citizen
2019 was supposed to be the year that North Cowichan scaled back their logging and reviewed their forestry operations.
This was in reaction to a groundswell of interest beginning in December with packed council meetings, petitions, letters to the editor and public meetings.
What has happened since?
In this year of pause and consultation, it turns out that we are increasing our logging activities 50 per cent over 2017. With blowdown recovery and patch logging we are expecting to log over 16,000 cubic meters in 2019 versus 10,500 cubic meters in 2017.
A terms of reference for a municipal forest review was adopted by council emphasizing the best and highest use of the forest, but there has been no indication as yet that the forest review is being conducted in an organized, methodical and meaningful manner: specifically, there appears to be no one managing the process.
There appears to be uncertainty as to what the review is actually supposed to address. There are no clear objectives. There is no work plan or schedule beyond a commitment to complete the process by January 2020. There appears to be division among the FAC about what the terms of reference actually mean. Indications are that staff and many of the committee view the review as being focused on traditional operational considerations (essentially an audit), while other members believe it important to sort out the mission and management philosophy/framework before making judgments about what highest and best use means in terms of land use, land use priorities, management objectives and more.
The UBC Faculty of Forestry recently made a generous offer to collaborate with the municipality in its review and consultation process. This seems like a wonderful opportunity to kick start the process. Has the municipality responded to UBC?
It’s time to put someone in charge of the forest review and get things rolling.
The area on Stoney Hill featured in the WhereDoWeStand film is now slated for 2019 blowdown recovery, including widening an old forest road, building skid paths, a landing area, and 5 patch cuts.
Were alternative harvest methods even considered by staff or did they just default to business as usual? Alternative harvesting methods, (manual felling, use of ground-based cable system such as a Skidder), could avoid the need for extensive road reactivation, construction of landing sites and removal of additional standing trees to facilitate the salvage.
Such an approach could address environmental concerns, visual concerns, minimize potential site impacts and more.
Given Stoney Hill is subject to a tabled motion to PAUSE all logging on Stoney Hill pending public engagement, and that the mission and management framework for the MFR is under review, one would assume the administration would make some effort to address things differently.
Also, given the number of trees down, the canopy cover largely intact, some have even queried whether salvage is necessary. There is also the issue of cost: How do the salvage costs for Stoney Hill compare to the revenue generated by the salvage?
In the last FAC Committee meeting, the members asked for a clear direction from the community. The Municipality did not give the Committee access to the 100 pages of citizen comments collected on WhereDoWeStand.ca as they were deemed to be too political. Now there is talk of a citizen survey focused on forest management.
Why not pause the Stoney Hill logging until public consultation decides the best and highest use of the Stoney Hill forest. Keep the area intact in case we decide the best use is that of a park or nature reserve.
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If you would like to support the PAUSE logging initiative, please contact us at email@example.com