With ‘municipal forest friends’ like these, who needs enemies?
First published in The Cowichan Valley Citizen on Feb. 23, 2023
I read with bemusement the Feb. 16 guest column by a group of largely former, past and ex foresters and politicians parading as “Friends of the Municipal Forest.”
My first reaction: with friends like these, who needs enemies?
Their column represents a desperate last gasp by the old guard to defend logging of our coastal Douglas-fir forest — the rarest forest type in B.C., according to the BC Forests Ministry. A consultant’s report for North Cowichan has estimated 141 species at risk.
Today, the signatories to the guest column exceed the number of known old-growth trees in the Municipal Forest Reserve.
Eric Jeklin is among those whose names are attached to the column.
He is a retired forester who sat on the municipality’s Forestry Advisory Committee as recently as last Sept. 28 when the committee considered four options from the UBC Partnership Group for future management of the forest reserve.
By unanimous vote — including Jeklin — the committee recommended that UBC’s Draft Forest Management Scenario Summary be referred to Council “as presented.”
Will the real Jeklin please stand up?
The signatories complain in their column that no forester sat on the UBC Partnership Group, yet fail to mention that North Cowichan’s registered professional forester — active, not retired, with experience in private industry — worked closely with UBC through the process.
Which makes me wonder what the signatories to the guest column actually want for the forest reserve.
We appreciate that they are nostalgic for the old days when the public had no say in municipal logging of our forest, but when it comes to the future they have little to offer.
In a final summation, they provide vague support for “modern alternative harvesting systems,” which could be interpreted as a knock against the old ways, but there is no way to really know.
After criticizing UBC’s work on carbon credits, the columnists say these modern harvesting systems could “potentially generate carbon credits.” So, I guess they now support carbon credits, after all.
And why not? UBC estimates revenues from carbon-credit sales will earn millions more than logging over a 30-year period.
There is much to correct in the old guard’s column, including the suggestion that a few individuals pressured council into stopping logging pending a consultation process.
Truth is, shortly after the 2018 election, hundreds of concerned citizens filled the council chambers demanding a say in the future of our forest. Hundreds more filled the Cowichan Performing Arts Centre. In comparison, the voice of those seeking continued status-quo logging has been virtually silent.
The column also makes exaggerated claims about “local” economic benefits from logging. During the last logging operations in 2019, the two companies involved were actually based in Campbell River and Nanaimo. Sixty-three per cent of the timber removed that year was exported as raw logs.
And by fixating on current market prices, the old guard ignores the inevitable ups and downs of the forest economy.
Finally, one must be curious about the timing of their column.
This group had every opportunity to express their opinion in the last few months, during phase two of the public consultation process into the forest reserve’s future, which ended Jan. 31. The results will be released publicly soon.
Is it possible they know the results of the second phase, and that they are consistent with the first phase, in which citizens spoke out overwhelming in support of forest conservation, not logging?
I wouldn’t be surprised. Nothing surprises me at this point.
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(Photo: clearcut atop Mt. Prevost, Municipal Forest Reserve)
— Larry Pynn, March 1, 2023