Exclusive: new video documents beauty, threats to Six Mountains
7 things to know about public consultation into the Municipal Forest Reserve of North Cowichan
(1) The Six Mountains are an unofficial, popular name for North Cowichan’s 5,000-hectare Municipal Forest Reserve. Six Mountains more accurately captures the geographical landmarks that define our sense of place, and include Mt. Prevost, Mt. Sicker, Mt. Richards, Maple Mt., Mt. Tzouhalem and Stoney Hill.
(2) For decades, successive councils have commercially logged the Six Mountains. Forestry decisions were been made by a few individuals, with no formal public consultation process. In December 2018, hundreds of citizens packed the North Cowichan council chambers demanding a say in their forest’s future. Where Do We Stand held an information session attended by a full house of 700 people at the Cowichan Performing Arts Centre.
(3) In February 2019, council placed a moratorium on new logging and later hired consultants to help guide two separate consultations on the future of the forest reserve — one with the public, the other in private with local First Nations.
(4) At last count, 63 percent of the trees logged in the Six Mountains were exported as raw logs, and the last two logging companies to operate here were based in Campbell River and Nanaimo. North Cowichan estimates logging in the forest reserve creates 10 to 12 direct full-time jobs — sometimes fewer — which includes a municipal forester, forest technician, and secretarial staff.
(5) The Six Mountains overlap the coastal Douglas-fir forest, the most at-risk forest type in the province. BC’s Ministry of Forests is heading a coalition of governmental and non-governmental organizations (but not North Cowichan) trying to save these forests. One report for North Cowichan estimates 141 species at risk. The old-growth stands are long gone.
(6) The first results of the public consultation by Lees & Associates released in February 2022 showed overwhelming support for conservation. Citizens value water quality, recreation, habitat, ecology, viewscapes, old forests, tourism and cultural/spiritual use of the forests. Logging values ranked near the bottom of the list.
(7) Guided by Lees’ findings, the UBC Partnership Group will be presenting several forest management options soon. A no-logging conservation scenario is anticipated, along with sales of carbon credits to leave trees standing. The public will have an opportunity to comment on the options later this year. Stay tuned. Become engaged.
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— Larry Pynn is a veteran environmental journalist who lives in Maple Bay. (June 6, 2022)