600-plus respond to one-month extension to North Cowichan forest consultation
The consultants’ report on the final phase of public consultation on North Cowichan’s Municipal Forest Reserve is chock-full of interesting stats and numbers — notably, 76-per-cent support for conservation management.
We know that the number of on-line respondents increased considerably during a one-month extension to Jan. 31 from 1,285 to 1,922 — an increase of 637, representing about one-third of the ultimate total.
But which of the four management scenarios did those 637 support?
Evi Mustel, principal with the Mustel Group, said: “We looked at the results — before and after Dec. 31st — and they weren’t that much different, really. A little bit higher support for Status Quo, but the overall findings were about the same.”
At its Dec. 21 meeting, council considered a letter from an individual — name redacted, but now known to be a retired forester — seeking the extension.
Councillor Tek Manhas, a leading proponent of logging the forest reserve, seized the opportunity to move that the request be granted.
Not long after the meeting, Manhas gloated on social media: “I think we are going to have some real debate in January. So far it’s been so one sided.”
If Manhas hoped the extension would somehow reverse the tide of public opinion he was sadly mistaken.
The 76-per-cent support for conservation sends an unequivocal message to council.
Across the board — in workshops and all surveys — the public favours conservation-based management of the forest reserve and a shift from old-school logging.
(And why not? The forest reserve falls within BC’s imperilled coastal Douglas-fir forest — rarest in the province, according to the BC Forests Ministry.)
The findings are also consistent with the first phase of the consultation process which demonstrated overwhelming public support for the forest’s ecological values over continued logging. (https://bit.ly/3kvuU6A)
One final note: during tabulation of the survey results, 100 responses were rejected.
“Duplicate responses were removed only if there were more than 2 or 3 per IP address, assuming there could be more than one person per household,” said Megan Turnock, principal with Lees and Associates. “There was not further analysis of the duplicates in terms of what their votes were.”
Recent social-media comments on this issue raise eyebrows.
One woman commented — inaccurately — just days ago on a local Facebook page known for its pro-logging posts: “I am not sold on these results 100 % as there was no limit to how many times one person could take the survey..just saying.”
An administrator of the same Facebook page responded that he “actually voted 3 times just to see if I could….”
With comments like that, one can’t help but wonder how much higher the conservation vote might actually be.
The consultants’ report will be presented to council’s Committee of the Whole meeting today. Further details: https://bit.ly/3ZK9h1v
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— Larry Pynn, March 7, 2023