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Quw’utsun Nation interests in Municipal Forest Reserve laid out in municipal report

Carbon credits one of seven ongoing topics of discussion in Working Group

After years of closed discussions, North Cowichan has provided the first public insight into the Quw’utsun Nation’s areas of interest in the 5,000-hectare Municipal Forest Reserve.

A staff report to council today lists the following seven categories:

— Carbon credits: “Staff will work with Quw’utsun Nation and proceed with a request for proposals to hire a qualified contractor to investigate further a forest carbon credit project which could be considered as the forest management plan for the MFR is developed in the future.”

— Co-management: “There is consensus to explore further co-governance models and frameworks that could potentially be implemented to benefit both parties. However, more research and discussion will be required before any conclusions or recommendations are brought to Council for consideration. This work is anticipated to be funded through the $200,000 grant funding received to further the development of a forest management plan.”

— Revenue sharing: “While no specific details have been determined, it is anticipated this will be an ongoing and developing topic of interest that will require further discussion.”

— Procurement: “Over the last few years, North Cowichan has direct awarded small silviculture contracts to Khowutzun Forest Services.” There has been “recent discussion around exploring options to direct award larger (>$100,000) forest related works, such as FireSmart fuel mitigation. Both parties express “general support to explore this further.”

— Biodiversity: “Staff have been engaging with Quw’utsun Nation members as part of a separate engagement process, but if this is a topic of interest, it will be discussed further in future working group meetings.”

— Culturally sensitive areas: “More discussion will be required to develop strategies to identify, map and incorporate culturally sensitive areas into future management planning to ensure appropriate protection measures are implemented and supported.”

— Future trail development: “Concerns surrounding recreational use and trail development within the MFR have been raised, most notably around the increased public use of Mount Tzouhalem and proposed trail development plans for Mount Richards.”

Mayor Rob Douglas said in a written statement that the development is "a significant step towards the shared stewardship of the Municipal Forest Reserve.”

He added: "While the work on establishing a co-management framework and developing a plan is underway, North Cowichan will suspend all new decisions or initiatives related to the Municipal Forest Reserve. Ongoing forest-related work such as FireSmart mitigation, danger tree assessments and removals, storm clean up, silviculture activities, and invasive plant management will continue as required.”


North Cowichan and Quw’utsun Nation signed a memorandum of understanding on Aug. 17, 2021, to create a Working Group to discuss future management of the forest reserve. The Working Group missed its first deadline and soon fell far behind.

The report says that council directed staff at a closed council meeting on Nov. 15, 2023, to “suspend any forest management recommendations, including new recreational trail development, until a co-management plan framework for the MFR is developed in partnership with Quw’utsun Nation and endorsed by Council.”

At the same meeting, council also supported the following initiatives: “hire a consultant using the approved grant funding to investigate further and refine the details of a potential forest carbon credit project within the MFR in partnership with the Quw’utsun Nation and report back to Council when the review is complete; direct award economic opportunities that relate to forest activities within the MFR to qualified Quw’utsun Nation members; and, continue co-management discussions considering future trail development, advancing mapping of culturally sensitive areas, and revenue sharing frameworks."

North Cowichan owns the forest reserve and is under no legal obligation to consult with First Nations on future management, but is doing so in the spirit of reconciliation.

A separate, parallel consultation with the public last year showed 76-per-cent support for a conservation vision for the forest reserve. Only 17 per cent supported status-quo logging.

Normally, staff reports are released with the agenda package on the Friday before a council meeting. But this time, municipal hall released it only a few hours before today’s council meeting, making it difficult for the public to comment.

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Despite interest from First Nations in carbon credits, Chief Administrative Officer Ted Swabey told last month that they had not yet been provided a copy of a consultant’s report received last year upholding earlier research on the potential for carbon-credit sales over logging in the forest reserve.

Today’s staff report is marked “for information only” and concludes: “Joint statements will be released at key milestones and/or when a significant update occurs. Should the requirement for greater public engagement opportunities arise, staff will seek further direction from Council, including any budget implications.”

The report is signed by Shaun Mason, manager of parks and forestry, and George Farkas, general manager of planning, development and community services.

Quw’utsun Nation is comprised of Cowichan Tribes and the Halalt, Lyackson, Penelakut and Stz’uminus First Nations.

Read the staff report:

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