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Council maintains halt on approval of new logging pending public consultation on Municipal Forest Reserve

North Cowichan council has rejected a staff suggestion to approve logging an additional 5,000 cubic metres from the Municipal Forest Reserve.

Instead, council voted unanimously to log 2,000 cubic metres of timber, representing outstanding contract commitments from last winter’s blowdown storm.

One standard logging truck hauls about 40 cubic metres of wood, which means that 2,000 cubic metres totals about 50 logging trucks.

Council this week debated logging in the reserve as part of its budget discussions. Information in the agenda package was confusing and poorly presented — and even Mayor Al Siebring said as much. One does wonder why staff cannot present information on such an important topic of public interest in a clear and straight-forward way.

Siebring said he met with staff prior to the council meeting and learned that the additional 5,000 cubic metres is meant to give the municipality options going forward for logging later this year and is contingent on the recommendations by September from University of B.C. forestry officials on future management of the forest reserve as well as the outcome from a public consultation process.

“I didn’t understand this going in and I don’t think the public understood it,” Siebring said. “I didn’t get that from the documentation here.”

Council decided not to approve the 5,000 cubic metres.

Councillor Rob Douglas instead won unanimous support for his motion urging staff to proceed with the 2,000 cubic metres of harvesting obligations from last year and to “consider additional harvesting” after receiving recommendations from UBC as well as a FireSmart study into ways to reduce fire risks in North Cowichan.

Council already approved a two-phase engagement process for an interim forest management plan covering the period Sept. 1, 2020, to Dec. 31, 2021, and a long-term management plan beginning on Jan. 1, 2022. earlier reported on freedom-of-information documents revealing Chief Administrative Officer Ted Swabey’s personal support for continued logging in the 5,000-hectare forest reserve. In the documents, Swabey advised council to preserve the “logging mandate” and warned that the “divisive” issue could take staff away from other priorities and that logging trees in the forest reserve is “part of our cultural makeup.”

The reality is that logging has dominated the 5,000-hectare Municipal Forest Reserve, also known as Six Mountains, for decades and citizens are now demanding consideration of other values, including protection of viewscapes and forest ecology.

— Larry Pynn, Feb. 13, 2020


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