Consultant warns that two-phase talks on Municipal Forest Reserve could create public confusion, fatigue
A draft plan for public consultation on future management of the 5,000-hectare Municipal Forest Reserve — also known as the Six Mountains — has highlighted several “challenges” with the process being undertaken by North Cowichan council.
One of those challenges involves “avoiding confusion” over the requirement for both interim and long-term management plans and the potential for “engagement fatigue,” according to the draft plan by consultants Lees & Associates of Vancouver.
The interim forest management plan covers the period Sept. 1, 2020, to Dec. 31, 2021, whereas the long-term management plan begins on Jan. 1, 2022 — the same year as the next municipal election. Which raises the question: will a reduced public engagement result in business-as-usual logging in the Six Mountains over the next two years while council completes a more extensive public consultation for a long-term plan?
Municipal logging in the Six Mountains continued unchallenged for decades until the public expressed concerns over ever-more logging scars just over a year ago. One information rally sponsored by the watchdog group, wheredowestand.ca, drew a full-house of 700 concerned citizens to the Cowichan Performing Arts Centre.
Public concerns include the impact of logging on viewscapes, forest ecology, climate change and recreational opportunities. An average of 20,000 cubic metres of timber are logged annually in the forest reserve.
Other potential challenges identified in the Lees draft plan:
— Limiting the scope of engagement to the Municipal Forest Reserve, and not other forest lands.
— Reaching a representative sample of the population.
— Reaching individuals as well as organized groups.
— Providing clear and concise information about tradeoffs.
A separate consultation process will apply to Cowichan Tribes as well as the Halalt, Stz’uminus, and Penelakut First Nations.
Council will discuss the draft plan at its meeting on Wed., Jan. 29, at 1:30 p.m. Further details can be found on page 138 of the agenda package: https://bit.ly/2TXkOMo.
— Larry Pynn, Jan. 25, 2020