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Illegal shooting, campfires, wood cutting and garbage thrive in our Six Mountains

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.

 

Tree poachers in the Municipal Forest Reserve have garnered a lot of publicity in recent weeks, from local to national outlets — even on the international stage, The Guardian.

 

But there are a slew of other illegal activities — gunfire, dumping of garbage, and campfires — that, unfortunately, also flourish in our forests.

 

The evidence is everywhere. Just randomly drive up and see for yourself.

 

This week on a spur road on Mount Prevost, at just one site, I found burned-out car parts and a cement mixer, the discarded pelt of a black bear, empty liquor cans, smashed glass bottles, shotgun shell casings, and on and on.

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Small trees are typically chainsawed to fuel illegal campfires at such sites, which are often chosen for their views of the valley — post-removal of trees, of course.

 

A lack of enforcement patrols, especially on weekends and evenings, allows such behaviour to flourish. 

 

Municipal fines are no deterrent.

 

Under the Forest Use Bylaw, littering carries a $200 fine  — the same as illegal removal of wood products— compared with an illegal campfire $100, and damage to trees $100. 

 

Stronger fines are clearly needed. Curiously, someone who builds an unauthorized trail or defaces a sign could be fined $500. 

 

The Municipality should also consider at least occasional patrols on weekends to roust partygoers and extinguish campfires — which are banned year-round. 

 

One is reluctant to restrict respectful users of our mountains, but more gate closures might also be necessary.

 

There is no excuse for bad behaviour. 

 

But it does make one wonder: given the Municipality’s history of clearcutting its endangered forests, does that send the wrong message to a certain segment of society inclined to abuse those same forests?

 

Currently, there is a moratorium on municipal logging pending pubic consultations on the future of the Six Mountains — stalled for more than a year now while parallel but secret talks with local First Nations continue.

 

Read why our forests are endangered at https://www.sixmountains.ca/north-cowichan-has-a-remarkable-opp

 

— Larry Pynn, May 29, 2021