Round 2 of the public consultation process to determine how North Cowichan’s 5,000-hectare municipal forest reserve will be managed is set to begin on Nov. 28, and the Where Do We Stand group wants people to understand what is at stake if the MFR is not properly protected.
Local forest activist and film maker Icel Dobell, who is a member of WDWSG, has recently released Part 4 in her video series The Sovereignty of the Six Mountains called The New Old Growth: Voice of Promise in time for people to view before the public consultations begin.
“Since the 1980s, the backsides of the mountains [in the MFR] have been extensively logged, and behind yellows gates and signs to keep people out; most people haven’t seen the devastation,” Dobell said.
“There’s basically nothing left to log for years. If we continue logging, it will be coming over the tops of the mountains above the valleys. We made the New Old Growth video to show what the tree plantations (that were planted after logging) look like compared with the mature, naturally regenerated, second-growth forests on the Valley side.”
Dobell said the New Old Growth video is an “undocumentary”, a short story to reach the heart, to show what’s at stake in the public forests above the Cowichan Valley.
Last month, the UBC Partnership Group that is working with the Municipality of North Cowichan, which owns the MFR, to draft a new management plan for the reserve, presented council with four draft forest-management scenarios, which were developed with input received last year in Round 1 of the public engagement process on the issue as part of the ongoing review of the forest reserve.
The options range from continuing harvesting the MFR as in the past on one end of the spectrum, to permanently stopping all logging on the other end.
Dobell said Where do we Stand is supporting the proposed “active conservation” management model, which would focus on targeted logging with the goal of restoring and enhancing ecosystem conditions that promote biodiversity, while providing some income from harvesting and generating progressively more carbon credits than the first two scenarios.
Those scenarios advocate for status-quo logging or reduced harvesting that would cut logging by up to 50 per cent.
“After watching the UBC presentation, and poring over benefits and consequences — including revenue, jobs, ecosystems, biodiversity, climate change, fire resilience, water sheds, recreation, viewscapes, and Indigenous culturally significant areas — Where Do We Stand supports active conservation, with caveats,” she said.
“As long as conservation experts are on the team, working out the details, we believe active conservation represents the highest good of North Cowichan’s community forest, and therefore the best interests of generations to come. The problem with the reduced harvest management option is that in 30 years, it logs 60 per cent of the forests in most places on the Valley side of the mountains. Leaving 40 per cent is not enough because it is not an intact forest ecosystem.”
Dobell said that over 30 years, through carbon credits, active conservation would bring in millions of dollars more in revenue for North Cowichan than reduced harvest, and potentially more jobs.
“And that doesn’t include eco-tourism and other potential revenue sources,” she said.
Dobell said that in the first round of community engagement on the MFR, the majority of people spoke out for ecosystems, biodiversity and recreation.
She said reduced harvest is not in alignment with these principles, and squanders the opportunity and responsibility to protect and nurture 5,000-hectares of mature forests.
“Remember that we are the only community on the continent with such a vastness of rare forests that are ours alone to manage,” she said.
“The reduced harvest option is not a middle ground. Any way you look at it, from the perspective of the forests, from mycorrhizal and root networks to canopies, to every possible impact on the community for generations, reduced harvest is not ‘in balance’. Only active conservation represents these values.”
Dobell said Where Do We Stand has synthesized the four management scenarios on its website, which can be found at www.wheredowestand.ca, as a simple list of facts.
“Also, realizing facts only go so far, and after four years campaigning and hearing that most people still don’t know the different between naturally regenerated forests and tree plantations, we also decided to release New Old Growth: Voice of Promise,” she said.
“In our Valley, as a community including the Cowichan Nation, we can make a profound difference, now, if we know the facts.”