North Cowichan wants the province to explore the feasibility of adopting a new model of regionally based forest management in B.C.
At its meeting on June 19, council decided to send a letter to the Union of B.C. Municipalities asking for its consideration of taking up the issue with the province at its next meeting.
Council will also ask in the letter for UBCM delegates to consider asking the province for the creation of a Forest Charter that includes an overall vision, sustainability principles, and standards and goals for the province’s forests; and have a Forester General appointed by the province to serve as a new independent officer who would work with the regions on local land-planning processes.
Coun. Rosalie Sawrie said she’d be proud to support the motion to send the letter.
“I think we’ve learned in this municipality just how passionate people are about forestry,” she said.
“I think people will want to have a say in forest practices.”
The decision to send the letter came after Coun. Rob Douglas brought the issue up as a notice of motion at the previous council meeting.
Douglas argued that the moves are needed due to the fact that the forest industry in B.C. has been on a steady decline in recent decades, with regular mill closures, thousands of jobs lost, and once thriving forestry communities experiencing severe economic decline.
He said many communities across B.C. have demonstrated that when local people are empowered to manage their forests, there are significant social, economic and environmental benefits.
Mayor Al Siebring said he was opposed to the motion.
He said one has only to look at all the issues the municipality is facing with the management of its own municipal forest reserve to see how much time and energy it has taken from both staff and council just to manage a forest in which only about 20,000 cubic metres of wood is usually harvested a year.
He said the Chemainus mill processes that amount of wood in less than a week.
“There’s also different attitudes about resources in different parts of the province, so we could end up with a patchwork of regulations all over B.C. I do like the idea of a forest charter though,” Siebring said.
The motion to send the letter passed, with Siebring and Coun. Tek Manhas opposed.