Forest consultation suspended due to coronavirus concerns

The Municipality of North Cowichan announced today that the public consultation process into future management of the 5,000-hectare Municipal Forest Reserve — also known as the Six Mountains — has been suspended due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The municipality posted a statement on its website, northcowichan.ca, stating: “Public engagement, including engagement on the future of Municipal Forest Reserve and the Official Community Plan, will be paused for 90 days. 

“Staff and Council will re-evaluate resuming engagement before the end of the 90-day period if it can proceed in a safe, fulsome, and inclusive way.”

In addition, all regular council and committee-of-the-whole meetings are cancelled until further notice. Council will only hold emergency meetings electronically for the foreseeable future, the statement added.

Municipal hall will remain closed until further notice, and all services non-essential to health and public safety will be unavailable at this time. RCMP, Fire, sewer, water, waste-water treatment, and curbside collection will continue. 

Last week, a citizens’ Working Group was named to help guide the consultation process: Bruce Coates, Dan Williams, Roger Wiles, Sharon Horsburgh, Marilyn Palmer, Robert Fullerton, Paul Tataryn, Margaret Symon, Rhonda Hittinger, Rick Martinson, Deb Wright, Larry MacIntosh, Sally Leigh-Spencer, Michael Petereit and Susan Derby. 

Individual bios have so far not been released, but Lees and Associates, the Vancouver consulting firm hired by the municipality, reports members have the following “interests and/or backgrounds:” forestry (4), economy (2), conservation (4), recreation (7), and general (7).”

The meetings of the Working Group are not open to the public.

At the same time, 16 stakeholders are also being interviewed, but the names of these individuals and their organizations have not been released.

The Six Mountains that make up the Municipal Forest Reserve are Prevost, Sicker, Richards, Maple, Tzouhalem, and Stoney Hill. 

— Larry Pynn, March 18, 2020

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