Christopher Justice wants the Municipality of North Cowichan to stop its logging plans in the Stoney Hill area until a community discussion is held on the issue.
Justice, a newly elected councillor in North Cowichan, put forward a notice of motion on the issue at the council meeting on Dec. 5 and it’s expected it will be put on the agenda to be discussed at the next council meeting, scheduled for Dec. 19.
Justice said North Cowichan’s entire 5,000-hectare Municipal Forest Reserve is a “great gem” whose future he also would like to be part of the public discussions, but he’s currently more focused on Stoney Hill due to the municipality’s plans to log some areas of it, and the fact that much of its lower-altitude section is a unique and rare Douglas fir ecosystem.
He said he’s aware that North Cowichan has been carrying out self-sustaining logging operations in its forest reserve for years that cover maintenance costs of the reserve, as well as adding revenues to municipal coffers.
“I’m just saying we should temporarily pause logging in the Stoney Hill area until we have a thorough community discussion on what people want North Cowichan to do there,” Justice said.
“There are a lot of intelligent people in our community who really care about those forests and I believe the municipality can gain a great deal by talking with them. Everyone would benefit from a good and creative, thoughtful discussion on the long-term future of these lands.”
Last month, the Where Do We Stand group, which is also advocating for a pause in logging in the forest reserve until more research and consultations are carried out, was successful in having the construction of a logging road in the Stoney Hill area put on hold after discussions with senior officials in North Cowichan.
Justice agrees with the group’s contention that the issue needs to be looked at seriously, not just by the public and loggers, but by experts in biology and arborists and others with special knowledge of the ecosystem and changing climate.
He said managing the forest reserve now also has to consider climate change, and the fact that many parts of the reserve, including the Stoney Hill area, are becoming more popular for recreational uses.
“We had a near disastrous forest fire on Maple Mountain last summer, so we have to recognize that the reserve is at greater risk of forest fires as our summers heat up, and management has to prepare its future plans with this in mind,” he said.
“There’s also the massive growth of recreational use, particularly mountain biking and hiking, in the forest reserve, so we’re seeing a big change from having a working forest with just a few recreational users, that also must be taken into consideration.”