Al Siebring photo _edited.jpg

Logging ranks lowest on social/ecological scale in Municipal Forest Reserve, UBC team finds

North Cowichan income from carbon credits would overtake revenues from timber harvesting

Status-quo logging ranks lowest in terms of protection of viewscapes, sensitive ecosystems, habitat connectivity and wilderness recreation in North Cowichan’s Municipal Forest Reserve, UBC forestry experts report.

In a presentation to council, the UBC Partnership Group laid out four potential scenarios for future management of the 5,000-hectare forest reserve — status quo, reduced harvest, active conservation and passive conservation.

UBC noted that the forest reserve is part of the “imperilled” coastal Douglas-fir forest in the Georgia Basin. Half of this forest has been converted to human use. More than 80 percent is privately owned, and more than 153 species are at risk.

The status-quo scenario is based on logging about 17,500 cubic metres of timber per year, which compares with 7,400 cubic metres under reduced harvest.

Active conservation would allow the annual harvest of 1,300 cubic metres for purposes such as restoring/enhancing ecosystem conditions that promote biodiversity, while passive conservation would have no logging.

The public will soon be asked to weigh in on the four options in the final phase of a consultation process.

Both harvesting scenarios fare poorly compared with the two conservation scenarios in terms of social and ecological indicators, including protection of viewscapes, sensitive ecosystems, wilderness recreation values, as well as habitat connectivity and fire risk, and ability to produce old forests.

From an economic standpoint over a 30-year period, revenues from carbon credits for letting the forest stand would exceed those of the logging scenarios. UBC calculated a five percent annual increase in carbon prices, reflecting the positive outlook for this sector.

Al Siebring photo _edited.jpg

The UBC Partnership Group consists of forestry professors Peter Arcese and Stephen Sheppard, along with Brad Seely and Clive Welham, research associates in UBC’s forestry faculty who are also carbon-credit consultants with 3GreenTree Ecosystem Service Ltd.

Seely made it clear that continued harvesting would increasingly be conducted in the public eye.

Al Siebring photo _edited.jpg

He told council on Oct. 4 that “past harvesting has happened mostly in the backcountry and that was by design by the previous forester. It was easier to harvest in those areas because … it’s not so visible to the public and there’s less people that are concerned about it.

“Now… there’s not as much of that area left available to harvest, and so if we want to keep continuing to harvest we’re going to have to start shifting that harvest into the front country which is more visible.”

View the full UBC presentation to council at https://www.connectnorthcowichan.ca/mfr/widgets/113765/videos/10155 .

Backgrounder and drone video on the Six Mountains: https://www.sixmountains.ca/article/bd2b2380-ac3c-40df-a828-8ec51254d2a4

Subscribe free to sixmountains.ca. More than 24,000 unique visitors.

— Larry Pynn, Nov. 14, 2022.

Al Siebring photo _edited.jpg