North Cowichan embarks on new but uncertain path for the Six Mountains

Short-term forest plan next step

North Cowichan Council approved what could be considered a milestone this week in terms of management of our 5,000-hectare Municipal Forest Reserve — better known as the Six Mountains. What it all ultimately means, especially in the short term, for logging in our community forests is not at all clear.
During a meeting attended Wednesday by an estimated 300 citizens at the Ramada Duncan, council officially approved two key motions: one, to move forward in partnership with the University of British Columbia on developing a long-term, forest-management plan for the Six Mountains, and, two, to hire a consultant to engage the public on this plan.
On the surface, it sounds good. But the details can be unsettling.
The goal is to implement this new forest management plan on Jan. 1, 2022. 
What happens before then? The municipality promises to “incorporate public feedback” as it develops an interim plan “to help the local forest manager meet short-term forest resource objectives” from Jan. 1, 2020, through Dec. 31, 2021. 
That’s barely four months from now.
“Some key topics to be assessed include management response to natural disturbance events, reduction of fire risk, and promotion of forest health,” say municipal documents.
The plan also calls for identification of “areas where interim forest management activities may be warranted” and information on “different silviculture methods and options.”
All words that could be interpreted as justification for continued logging, much of which results in the export of raw logs.
Whatever happens in the interim, it’s critical that citizens be involved, have an opportunity to assert ecological diversity, recreation, and protection of viewscapes as the highest and best uses of our forests. Interim plans must not simply be developed by staff and UBC. 
All six councillors told me in writing prior to last fall's municipal election that they support the public’s right to review logging plans before any decisions are made. I now ask them to live up to that commitment.
Ernie Mansueti, general manager of community services, further informs me that the interim planning process “may or may not result” in harvesting, adding that “ultimately, council will make that decision….”
For now, I won’t be popping the cork on the champagne. 
While the future of the Six Mountains is in doubt, it remains a time for public vigilance.


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