North Cowichan council approves biodiversity report, leaving Mayor isolated
North Cowichan council approved a staff report Thursday aimed at producing a Biodiversity Protection Policy, with only Mayor Al Siebring speaking against the idea due to the ongoing cost of consultants.
The policy will take place in two phases — assessment and policy development — with the help of a consultant yet to be selected. The tentative completion date is summer 2022.
Senior environmental specialist Dave Preikshot gave warning that the $25,000 budgeted for the project might not be enough, although he declined to give further numbers.
Siebring then asked senior financial manager Talitha Soldera how much had been spent on consultants since the current council took office.
Soldera was unable to say overall, but in terms of consultants specifically hired for reviews of the Municipal Forest Reserve and Official Community Plan she said the budget is “just over half a million dollars.”
Siebring said a biodiversity strategy is a “cool idea” but cautioned that the costs continue to add up. “At some point we have to stop folks because we’re facing major cost challenges already as we all know.”
Councillor Kate Marsh provided the only response, suggesting funding for the biodiversity strategy might come through the Climate Action Plan fund.
Siebring called the motion and found himself alone in the political wilderness. “Looks like I’m the only one opposed.”
The staff report on the Biodiversity Protection Policy noted that “forestry management” would not be within the “scope boundaries” of the project because it is “being dealt with through other management processes….”
Preikshot responded to concerns about that point, insisting that the forest reserve would be addressed in terms of biodiversity.
“Environment Staff and Forestry Staff are working closely together to ensure that these two processes can proceed in parallel and naturally inform one another,” he told sixmountains.ca.
“The Biodiversity Protection Policy will describe how the Municipal Forest Reserve is a significant component of North Cowichan’s Biodiversity. Policy and actions that arise will also recognize the extensive and exhaustive review of management of the Municipal Forest reserve that is currently underway.”
The forest reserve constitutes one-quarter of the municipality’s land base and falls within the rarest forest ecosystem in BC, the coastal Douglas-fir zone.
The Coastal Douglas-fir Conservation Partnership — which includes the provincial ministries of forests and environment, but, alas, not North Cowichan — warns the coastal Douglas-fir zone is “at risk of losing many of the species, relationships, and healthy ecosystems that define it.”
The partnership also states:
• The coastal Douglas-fir biogeoclimatic zone (CDF) is the smallest in BC and home to the highest number of species and ecosystems at risk in BC, many of which are ranked globally as imperiled or critically imperiled.
• The global range of the CDF lies almost entirely within BC, underscoring both its global uniqueness and BC’s responsibility for its conservation.
• Of all the zones in BC, the CDF has been most altered by human activities. Less than one percent of the CDF remains in old growth forests and 49 percent of the land base has been permanently converted by human activities.
• The trend of deforestation and urbanization continues and has resulted in a natural area that is now highly fragmented with continuing threats to remaining natural systems.
• The extent of disturbance combined with the low level of protection places the ecological integrity of the CDF zone at high risk.
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(Photos of clearcut logging on Mount Prevost in the Municipal Forest Reserve)
— Larry Pynn, Oct. 7, 2021