North Cowichan hopes to have its new community engagement facilitator, who will play a major part in efforts to create a long-anticipated management plan for its municipal forest reserve, in place by late October.
A request for proposals for the position is expected to be posted in early September and close in early October, council decided at its meeting on Aug. 21.
The expectation is that once the facilitator is in place, the public engagement could begin later in the fall or early winter.
Many in the community had been demanding for some time to have more say in management plans for the municipally-owned 5,000-hectare forest reserve.
In February, council endorsed just the completion of existing 2018 forestry contracts and harvesting of blow downs from last December’s windstorm in the forest reserve in 2019 until experts are tapped for their input and the public has been thoroughly consulted on what people want for the future of the public properties.
Council also agreed in principle in July to a proposal from the University of B.C., the Coastal Douglas Fir Partnership and 3GreenTreeConsulting to assist in developing the forest management plan.
At the meeting on Aug. 21, council endorsed a proposal from a number of UBC professors detailing what the management plan can deliver, timelines, and budget for this team of professors to support North Cowichan in developing short and long-term management plans.
The short-term plan is scheduled to be implemented on Sept. 1, 2020, and the long-term one would come into effect in Jan. 1, 2022.
UBC’s work will begin this fall, in alignment with the community engagement process.
Council also decided to waive the municipality’s procurement policy to enable the project to be sole sourced to the UBC partnership group.
A “sole source” procurement is defined as any contract entered into without a competitive process, based on a justification that only one known source exists or that only one single supplier can fulfill the requirements.
It’s estimated that at least $75,000 from the municipality’s forest reserve fund will be needed to conduct the study and develop the management plan.
That decision was opposed by Coun. Tek Manhas who said that while he is in favour of the review of forestry operations, he doesn’t see allowing the waiving of the procurement policy as a benefit to taxpayers.
But Coun. Kate Marsh said that while she respects the intent of the policy, the municipality has been working with the UBC professors since April and people want to get the process started.
“The responsible thing to do is to waive the procurement policy,” she said.
“I’d like to see this process completed by the end of this council’s term.”
Icel Dobell, from the Where Do We Stand group, said the goods news is that council voted for the UBC partnership to lead the way both with public consultation and the forest review.
“Our concern is that the next two years appear like a vacuum,” she said.
“We have no idea what’s going to happen in terms of logging.“