I hope all the candidates will support finishing the Forest Review in 2022.
The difficult work has been completed and the municipality now needs a little more time to present the forest management options to the community and decide on a new forest management plan.
We have come too far to stop now and go back to “business as usual.”
For those who haven’t followed the review, here is a brief history.
In 2018 – A group of citizens visited North Cowichan CAO Ted Swabey concerned about plans for a new clear cut on Stoney Hill.
He told them Stoney Hill was part of the North Cowichan Forest Reserve and the planned clearcutting was to be done by the North Cowichan forestry department.
He said they should take their concerns to council and make a delegation presentation.
In 2019 – The group collected over 1,500 signatures and they, along with hundreds of other citizens, packed a council meeting.
Their request was for a “pause in logging” for public consultation on the future of the forest reserve.
The mayor and council responded with directions to Ted Swabey and his staff to pause the logging and do a “broad and deep” review of forest management options.
In response, Swabey and his staff reached out to the UBC Forestry Department, 3GreenTree Ecosystems, Coastal Douglas-fir Conservation Partnership, Lees & Associates and assembled a world class project team.
The municipality also reached out to the Cowichan Nation for their input.
According to the press release there was a signed Memorandum Of Understanding and a plan for a parallel government-to-government consultation. (The Cowichan Nation is comprised of Cowichan Tribes, Halalt First Nation, Stz’uminus First Nation, Penelakut Tribe and Lyackson First Nation).
All the pieces were in place for an in-depth review of the forestry operations.
The forestry department was overseen at the time by the Forestry Advisory Committee (FAC), a group of five – all with commercial forestry backgrounds under the direction of an appointed committee chairman (an elected councillor).
The first step in the review process was to bring more transparency to the operations of the FAC.
The committee was expanded to include representatives from Cowichan Nation, a plant ecologist and a professional agrologist and landscape architect.
Then, policy changes were made to bring the forestry department more in line with the other North Cowichan departments.
To start, all logging cut plans now had to be approved by council and all logging contracts put to tender.
Next step was to ask the community what they valued about the community forest.
The municipality contracted Lees & Associates to create a working group comprised of local volunteers that worked with staff to design and conduct a survey and series of workshops.
That work was completed in 2021.
The results were passed on to UBC Forestry who were tasked with mapping the forest inventory and preparing possible management scenarios.
That work has been completed and they are now working with staff to fine-tune the scenarios for presentation to the public.
Next step is to take the forest management options to the public through a series of public meetings and workshops and then to ask the community for their feedback through online and phone surveys.
We are almost there – the hard work is done. It is time to go to the public and have an open and transparent discussion.
There is no reason this cannot be completed by the end of 2022 or early 2023.
I hope the current council and the election candidates will support CAO Ted Swabey, staff, consultants and volunteers who dedicated countless hours to get us to this point.
Vote for candidates that support finishing the Forest Review.