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As approaches a milestone of 50,000 “unique visitors,” now is the time to reflect upon accomplishments of the past four years — and to consider financial support for strong, independent reporting.

Threats include ‘unregulated hunting,’ human settlement, and excessive logging

To the residents of Lakes Road in North Cowichan, the patch of municipal forest land locally known as Owl Hill is akin to their own private park.

Trail development in Municipal Forest Reserve a ‘very sensitive issue’

Economic development may conflict with residents’ desire for uncrowded trails

A non-profit society seeking to preserve the historic Elkington House on Maple Bay Road in North Cowichan is optimistic it has turned a corner after years of effort.

Two members of Cowichan Tribes vie for same provincial riding

An 11-day raft trip down the Tatshenshini-Alsek Rivers

Merlin app helps beginners identify birds by their calls

This opinion piece first appeared in The Globe and Mail on April 20, 2024

Carbon credits one of seven ongoing topics of discussion in Working Group

‘This hasn’t been done before in this area,’ UVic researcher says

‘A classic case of overlooking what’s in one’s own backyard’

North Cowichan releases report only after freedom-of-information request

Thieves reportedly ‘collecting wood illegally, selling on Facebook Marketplace’

CVRD board members Stone and Abbott swayed by tax concerns

Municipality remains committed to “principles and spirit” of Memorandum of Understanding

The Cowichan Valley Regional District board has voted to put about $2.5 million annually into a regional parkland acquisition fund — a decision rooted in the results of a public referendum almost 16 years ago.

An estimated 84,000 rainbow trout fry died last summer in the upper Cowichan River, and that could result in about a 30-per-cent reduction in adult steelhead returning to spawn, a provincial fisheries specialist said Monday.

It’s fascinating to watch the natural elements reshape the forests of the Cowichan Valley.

‘The sad thing…is it’s gradually disappearing. You won’t be able to find it eventually.’

The presence of deer carcasses and shotgun shells is raising questions about potential poaching in an area of the Municipal Forest Reserve that is off-limits to hunting.

As 2023 draws to a close, the big question looming for 2024 is whether Rob Douglas will serve out his term as North Cowichan’s mayor or run provincially for the NDP in Cowichan Valley.

As urban legends go, it doesn’t get much better than the one involving actor Jack Nicholson and the Red Rooster Cafe in Westholme, south of Chemainus.

Have you ever wondered how streets are named in North Cowichan? I have. But getting an answer from the Municipality proved more difficult than expected.

Clearcutting in Chemainus River watershed seen as key contributor to downstream flooding

‘The Agricultural Land reserve was never intended to be a single-use zone.’

Police say 2006 shooting death ‘remains under investigation’

‘It is unique to us. We’ve been practicing this for thousands of years.’

The carcass of a harbour seal that washed ashore last week in Maple Bay generated plenty of questions on how it died.

‘No one looked at the whole mountain, what it should look like for recreation purposes’

‘Robust noise bylaw’ sought to regulate ‘rapid impact compaction”

Discharge from the Town of Lake Cowichan’s sewage-treatment facility is being investigated as a potential factor in a fish die-off in the Cowichan River last summer.

Material is coming from new Cowichan hospital construction site

The president of Cowichan Search and Rescue is making sweeping suggestions for reducing the risk of drowning on the Cowichan River.

Martin Drakeley accepts job of fire chief in Powell River

The song, Jaws of Old Marie, describes the experience of tumbling through rapids

North Cowichan’s top fire official is resigning in the wake of a report citing firefighter concerns with how the department is run, has learned.

So why won’t BC Coroners Service recommend improved safety for inner tubers?

The Chemainus River is the latest Cowichan Valley stream to generate concerns about drought-related impacts on fish stocks.

Our forest type ‘contains more species at risk than any other ecological zone in BC’

This letter-to-the-editor first appeared in The Cowichan Valley Citizen.

Prominent California vinters claim 'sustainability is in our DNA'

As water flows on the Cowichan River continue to drop, a rescue mission is underway to “salvage” salmon and trout fry stranded in isolated pools and side channels.

Fire department undergoes “communication and leadership effectiveness review”

Development, invasive species, historic fire suppression also raise concerns

Victoria law office that investigated Kate Marsh received $44,284

Effective Thursday, North Cowichan will close the gates and prohibit motorized public access to three areas within the Municipal Forest Reserve — Mount Prevost, Mount Sicker and Grace Road — until further notice.

Forestry staff continue to monitor for wildfire risk during dry weather

The estimated $100,000 cost of developing a new management plan for the Municipal Forest Reserve will be covered by a $500,000 provincial grant, Mayor Rob Douglas said Thursday.

Consultations with First Nations on the Municipal Forest Reserve will be a “long-term project” based on a “new reality,” Chief Administrative Officer Ted Swabey has told North Cowichan council.

A newly appointed Environmental Advisory Committee featuring extensive First Nations experience met for the first time on Tuesday at North Cowichan municipal hall.

It was sad to hear of Gordon Lightfoot’s death May 1 at age 84. It got me listening to his music again. A passage from The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, based on a shipping tragedy on Lake Superior, caught my ear: “The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down, of the big lake they called Gitche Gumee.”

North Cowichan councillor Christopher Justice is asking council to investigate the ecological impacts of recreational trails in the municipality, be they for mountain bikers, hikers, or horse enthusiasts.

North Cowichan and local First Nations are not meeting the terms of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) related to consultation on the Municipal Forest Reserve.

Development company was ‘saddled with significant debt,’ BC Supreme Court finds

Al Siebring 'open to considering work anywhere my services are needed'

Safety, blowdown, wildfire risk, and water infrastructure all cited as factors

The public would continue to not have the right to lodge complaints against council members under a revised Standards of Conduct policy being recommended by North Cowichan municipal staff.

It has now been well over 1.5 years since North Cowichan signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with “Cowichan Nation” on August 17, 2021, regarding the Municipal Forest Reserve.

Early prospectors created adits to look for mineral deposits

North Cowichan, First Nations welcome to join in and save start-up costs

‘Guiding light’ to family, friends, clients banned 25 years by BC Securities Commission

The Duncan-North Cowichan sewage-treatment facility on Marchmont Road has once again been cited by the province for a slew of environmental infractions, a review of provincial compliance-and-enforcement files by reveals.

‘You’re in a really great position. It just needs leadership to pull it all together.’

North Cowichan is within its rights to not publicly release details of a standards-of-conduct complaint against former councillor Joyce Behnsen, the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner has ruled.

Tree removal related to a wildfire-mitigation program underway on Mount Tzouhalem/Shquw’utsun in North Cowichan will disrupt public access to some trails over the next several weeks.

Evi Mustel provides a simple analogy for the seemingly complex field of statistically valid surveys.

'When you look at its forearms, those are getting close to the size of my legs'

For a council meeting to take place in North Cowichan, a quorum, or majority, is required. That means at least four of the seven council members must be present.

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.

On-line survey shows 76 percent of respondents back two ‘conservation’ options

First published in The Cowichan Valley Citizen on Feb. 23, 2023

Failed mayoral candidate John Koury received a high $20,961.00 in contributions in the 2022 municipal election campaign in North Cowichan, Elections BC data shows.

Is last week’s 4-3 vote on North Cowichan council an indicator of more to come over the next four years?

Kudos to North Cowichan council for unanimously approving a motion requiring that the authors of letters appearing on the consent agenda be made public.

As a well-known and opinionated columnist in the Cowichan Valley for years, Don Maroc wasn’t one to pull his punches.

Mailing of 14,921 cards may have had ‘large impact in the Cowichan area’

Ted Swabey’s ‘democracy’ comment hints at culture of secrecy at municipal hall

‘Veterans’ serve as reminder of the past, and inspiration for the future of our forests

Homes on the slopes of Mt. Prevost, Maple Mountain and Mt. Richards ‘might become quite desirable’

We’ve come to identify North Cowichan’s 5,000-hectare Municipal Forest Reserve as the Six Mountains — Prevost, Sicker, Richards, Maple, Tzouhalem, and Stoney Hill.

Beware of false information spread by a few pro-logging advocates

Decision goes against more-open policies of other Vancouver Island municipalities

Scheme viewed as a faster way to earn revenue than waiting for poorly harvested forest to recover

Do you have any photos that depict historic logging operations in North Cowichan’s Municipal Forest Reserve?

North Cowichan has published an article ostensibly to encourage public participation in a consultation process on the Municipal Forest Reserve — but which comes off as a plug for status-quo logging.

Transition from clearcutting to partial harvests, thinning, wildfire interface predicted

On-line survey with four scenarios must be completed by Dec. 31

Public can now weigh in on future of Municipal Forest Reserve in on-line survey

Its name is a handful — the Coastal Douglas-fir (& Associated Ecosystems) Conservation Partnership.

That would be the outcome of one of four management scenarios posed by UBC

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

Debra Toporowski — a member of Cowichan Tribes — has the potential to cast a decisive vote on a split North Cowichan council..

It’s been an ugly political campaign these last several weeks in the race for a seat on North Cowichan council — with the future direction of the municipality at stake.

A mayoral candidate in North Cowichan is pushing to begin logging the Six Mountains within 90 days of being elected.

Biodiversity, water quality, viewscapes, climate change cited

No candidates are anti-development; it’s a question of where and what type

One seldom gets clarity at all-candidates meetings where those seeking public office put their best foot forward, soft pedal their failings, and typically avoid acknowledgement of any hard-line positions that might alienate voters.

Carbon credits: ‘a lot of buyers would be willing to pay higher prices’

Mayor Al Siebring says he was accused of being ‘stooge’ for global interests

Charles Borg calls supporters of covid vaccine mandates ‘bad apples’ in on-line interview

Kate Marsh cites “need for consistency on handling breaches of Standards of Conduct Policy’

“I actually don't believe political parties should play a role in local elections:” Rosalie Sawrie

“Despite what some people like (mayor) Al Siebring say...”

“Organizations cannot raise money and use it to campaign for local candidates.”

Rainsford Lake contributes to biodiversity of Municipal Forest Reserve

Overdevelopment of land cited as support declines for municipal changes

North Cowichan council on Wednesday voted 5-1 to approve a new Official Community Plan.

North Cowichan mayor unable to keep speakers ‘on topic’ at public hearing

‘Today is a milestone’ says planning director after three years of work

North Cowichan public hearing into critical planning document set for next week

7 things to know about public consultation into the Municipal Forest Reserve of North Cowichan

Concerns include vegetation loss, safety, erosion, water quality, and wildlife impacts

North Cowichan Mayor Al Siebring’s complaint against Councillor Kate Marsh should have been resolved informally long ago and not reached the stage of a full-blown legal investigation, Councillor Rob Douglas told council on Wednesday.

Have you wondered what’s happened to the consultation process into the future of North Cowichan’s Municipal Forest Reserve?

“It’s becoming quite a problem of people harvesting trees illegally.”

Spending on municipal staff up 17.5 percent in one year due to covid, new hirings

The Nature Conservancy of Canada announced Wednesday it is removing the controversial cross from atop Mount Tzouhalem.

The cross atop Mount Tzouhalem — a subject of intense ongoing controversy — has been vandalized yet again.

Mosaic Forest Management says it is willing to partner with municipalities — including North Cowichan — private landowners and First Nations who are interested in preserving forest lands through the sale of carbon credits.

Richard Hughes — the social activist and outspoken former long-serving regional district director — has finished his career on his own terms.

The province paid more than $800,000 to fight last summer’s Copper Canyon wildfire on Mosaic private forestlands, a freedom-of-information request by reveals.

First published by the Times Colonist on Mar. 17, 2022

But remains consistent on central themes of the event

Public cannot file complaints against councillors for bad behaviour

The mystery of the Mount Tzouhalem cross — taken down, then put back up, all without permission — has adopted an unexpected hue.

Logging-related revenue and jobs do not even rank within the top-10 list of what citizens value most about the Municipal Forest Reserve, a consultant’s report for North Cowichan council reveals.

‘Many community members expressed concern about harvesting practices’

You may have watched news reports last October of the rare visit of a beluga whale to Puget Sound, Wash.

Council should acknowledge changing community values

When forestry ribbons start showing up on trees, you have to think the chainsaws aren’t far behind. When those ribbons are spotted during a pause in logging in North Cowichan’s Municipal Forest Reserve, it can be especially troubling.

The lengthy battle over expansion of Vancouver Island Motorsport Circuit is not over.

The BC Forest Discovery Centre is conducting a review of its operations in response to concerns that the Forests Forever exhibit — funded by forest companies — offers a one-sided view of forestry in the province.

Forests Forever exhibit is biased, sidesteps logging issues

Organizers are calling this year’s Christmas Bird Count a success, despite enduring some of the most challenging and diverse weather in years, including rain, cold, wind, driving snow, and, yes, sunshine and rainbows.

RCMP and municipal bylaw staff converged on a gravel logging road in North Cowichan’s Municipal Forest Reserve this week after receiving a public complaint about potential tree poaching.

North Cowichan taxpayers are not expected to pay a dime as a result of a legal challenge by Vancouver Island Motorsport Circuit over the Municipality’s refusal to allow expansion of the controversial operation.

On-line survey, Zoom workshops available now for Six Mountains

Skutz Falls on the Cowichan River is impressive enough at this time of the year as salmon fight their way upstream against rain-swollen waters.

North Cowichan farm non-compliant for manure application

The paint on a memorandum of understanding signed between North Cowichan and First Nations is barely dry, yet it is already showing some wear.

They’re called rub or mark trees and are used by bears for more than simply scratching their backs.

North Cowichan council approved a staff report Thursday aimed at producing a Biodiversity Protection Policy, with only Mayor Al Siebring speaking against the idea due to the ongoing cost of consultants.

An arsonist is thought to have caused a 2018 wildfire on Maple Mountain in North Cowichan’s 5,000-hectare Municipal Forest Reserve, municipal forester Shaun Mason said Monday.

Development around wetlands also a concern

Society president is open to showing ‘both sides’

A 12-minute forestry presentation to council by industry mouthpiece Resource Works fell flat Wednesday, offering little on North Cowichan’s Municipal Forest Reserve.

The Coastal Fire Centre says the 32-hectare Copper Canyon wildfire on Mosaic private forest lands on the back side of Mount Sicker is officially under control.

Mop-up of Copper Canyon fire continues (Updated Wed., Aug. 11, 2021)

North Cowichan council on Wednesday defeated a motion from Councillor Tek Manhas to specifically invite Resource Works — an industry mouthpiece — to provide input into a review of the 5,000-hectare Municipal Forest Reserve.

The financial benefits of forest carbon credits will continue to grow as the carbon tax increases in the coming years, a UBC forest research associate predicts.

The provincial Office of the Ombudsperson has ruled that meetings of a citizens’ forestry Working Group are not required to be held in public because the group was created by a consultant rather than by North Cowichan council.

North Cowichan’s parks and recreation director says he is disappointed that someone has taken it upon themself to spray paint numerous trees to needlessly mark the blue and yellow trails on Maple Mountain in the Municipal Forest Reserve.

North Cowichan has endorsed the recommendations of municipal forester Shaun Mason for stiffer penalties to combat a rash of tree poaching and other infractions in the 5,000-hectare Municipal Forest Reserve.

I spend a lot of time in the Six Mountains — hiking, mountain biking, bouncing around gravel logging roads in my pickup truck. I often don’t like what I see.

Mayor confirms carbon credits an option for forest reserve

Another tree-poaching site has come to light on Stoney Hill near Maple Bay, within North Cowichan’s 5,000-hectare Municipal Forest Reserve.

North Cowichan’s standing forests have economic value

North Cowichan Mayor Al Siebring recently referenced an opinion piece written by some of Canada’s senior timber industry officials who support the notion that it is better to log trees for profit before they grow old and turn into carbon and methane emitters.

How a private timber company turned a tidy profit by not cutting old-growth trees in the Cowichan Valley

North Cowichan should seize the moment and take a leadership role on environmental policies and regulations, a consultant’s report for the Municipality recommends.

North Cowichan has publicly released a list of individuals recommended for appointment to a new Environmental Advisory Committee — but won’t divulge any information about them.

North Cowichan is proposing a land-transfer deal with a property developer that would add new and expanded parking lots to help manage a growing number of mountain bike enthusiasts on Mount Tzouhalem.

Ask North Cowichan residents to name their favourite tree, and arbutus would be right up there. The Six Mountains are blessed with an abundance of them and I believe we also boast some of the biggest specimens in BC.

Chief Administrative Officer Ted Swabey earned $195,949 plus $9,870 in expenses — highest in the Municipality of North Cowichan — last year, according to the 2019 Statement of Financial Information.

While tourists enjoyed a world-class wildlife spectacle this month — Steller and California sea lions hauled out on the Cowichan Bay waterfront — Cowichan Tribes engaged in a “demonstration” commercial fishery of chum salmon.

The BC Ministry of Environment has issued a “non-compliance advisory letter” for several violations related to a municipal sewage-treatment plant that empties into the Cowichan River, a review by of provincial enforcement and compliance files reveals.

Cost and environmental factors cited
Latest in an occasional series on the Six Mountains

Second in an occasional series on the Six Mountains

North Cowichan councillor who sits on Cowichan Tribes disqualifies herself from vote

The president of a consulting firm that provided early advice on North Cowichan’s engagement with First Nations on the Municipal Forest Reserve says the municipality lacks experience in the area.

An internal email from North Cowichan’s municipal forester is fuelling concerns that a public consultation process into an interim management plan for the Municipal Forest Reserve is actually a talk-and-log show, freedom-of-information documents reveal.

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