Much-anticipated public engagement on future of Six Mountains about to begin

Citizens of North Cowichan will soon have an opportunity to apply to join a public working group as part of the engagement process for future management of the 5,000-hectare Municipal Forest Reserve, also known as the Six Mountains.

 

Megan Jordan, North Cowichan's communications and public engagement manager, tells sixmountains.ca that a call will go out in two or three weeks via social media, the municipal website (northcowichan.ca), and the newspaper to apply for the working group.

 

Municipal staff will work with Vancouver consultants Lees & Associates to “finalize the membership, and will ultimately decide on composition of the group to ensure a diverse range of perspectives is included in the group,” Jordan said.

 

Lees’ representatives mentioned the public working group as part of their presentation to council on Jan. 29. The working group, comprised of perhaps 15 individuals, will help to guide the engagement process, but won’t have decision-making powers. 

 

The engagement process will include interviews with stakeholders, guided forest walks, phone and on-line surveys, public forums, and community pop-up events. 

 

Council unanimously approved a two-phase engagement process for an interim forest management plan covering the period Sept. 1, 2020, to Dec. 31, 2021, and a long-term management plan beginning on Jan. 1, 2022.

 

During council debate, Mayor Al Siebring urged the consultants to ensure that stakeholder consultations are balanced — which is his way of saying he doesn’t want the process weighted in favour of pro-conservation forces.

 

The cost to the municipality of the engagement process is estimated to be at least $200,000, not including a separate engagement process with Cowichan Tribes and other local First Nations. 

 

Public concern over increasingly visible logging scars in the forest reserve just over a year ago led to a municipal moratorium on new logging pending a public engagement process. 

 

— Larry Pynn, Feb. 6, 2020

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