Icel Dobell’s aim is to preserve all 5,000 hectares of North Cowichan’s Municipal Forest Reserve.
Admittedly, her ideal outcome is more stringent than some of the other members of the lose collective of folks from all walks of life that make up the group, Where Do We Stand but the general consensus is there is a lot of value in North Cowichan’s Municipal Forests and that the logging of those forests should be paused until more research and public consultation can be done.
“Many people don’t realize that the municipal forests are owned by the public. Most people think they were owned by private companies and that they have no say,” Dobell said. “We’ve been talking to hundreds of people and people here love the forests. We live in the country for a reason.”
Having organized in opposition to a road on Stoney Hill more than five years ago, it felt natural to reconvene and ask some questions after members of the group came up on a taped route out on Stoney Hill.
“We tried to figure out what they were about and it turned out there was a logging road coming through. It looked like it was an area that didn’t make sense to us but we didn’t know,” Dobell explained.
So they asked.
Members of Where Do We Stand met with senior staff at the municipality this week to talk about the future of the forests and whether the less than $600,000 annual profit made from them was worth the active logging.
Dobell believes it’s just a drop in the bucket of a $64 million annual municipal budget.
And the cost to earn that $600,000 is too high, she added.
“If we do any more clear cutting at all, the cost is going to be exorbitant,” Dobell said. “Invasive species are choking out native plants. Every time you do a little clear-cut you create a little scar and bomb bang, they’re in.”
Plus, Dobell noted, “whatever the cause is, we are in a time of changing climate,” and the native species don’t seem to be growing as well as they once did in this region.
It’s not as easy as just replanting.
“We need to talk about the value of our municipal forests and what they are worth standing alive versus standing as two-by-fours,” she said. “Eco tourism is the next wave and it’s worth a lot of money for future generations and so our forests. If we cut them down, are people going to come to a patchwork forest?”
There’s more to it than that, though, she admitted. It’s extremely complex, she said, and 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.
Dobell said the staff she met with, and it doesn’t matter what their names are because “it’s about the forest not the individuals”, were inviting and receptive.
“They were fantastic,” she said. “They put the logging road on hold for now. We came away feeling very positive.”
What’s more, the Where Do We Stand contingent was invited to present to North Cowichan’s council meeting on Monday, Dec. 19. The meeting begins at 1:30 p.m.
“We’re not protesting, we’re requesting a pause in logging in all of our municipal forests while there’s still time to consider the complexity of climate, environmental, economic and social change occuring,” Dobell explained.
She hopes supporters will join them for Monday’s meeting.