North Cowichan’s council has endorsed the recommendations of the municipality’s forest advisory committee to harvest trees that blew down or were heavily damaged during the recent windstorm in parts of the municipal forest reserve.
The recommendations are specific to Stoney Hill, Mount Tzouhalem and Maple Mountain.
Blowdown assessments on Mount Richards, Mount Sicker, and Mount Prevost are delayed due to the recent snowfall and will continue as the snow melts.
But Icel Dobell, a member of the Where do We Stand group that was formed to promote a cessation of logging in the forest reserve’s 5,000 hectares, said council’s decision on the blow down was rushed and more professional input is required.
“Council was advised that some of the blow down areas won’t be accessible without major road-building and other work — those areas will be left alone,” said North Cowichan Mayor Al Siebring.
“However, it’s important to clear out the blow downs where we can to keep the forest reserve as safe as possible for public use, and to reduce wildfire risk.”
Siebring said salvage methods will incorporate mitigations to protect various environmental and biophysical values, including soil conservation, biological diversity, recreation, and forest health.
At a special meeting on Feb. 15, council considered options for forestry operations within the municipal forest reserve in 2019, and endorsed just the completion of existing 2018 forestry contracts and harvesting of blow downs from the windstorm in December.
Siebring said at the time that council decided to minimize logging in the forest reserve 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.
But Dobell said the WDWS has sent a letter to council expressing concerns by citizens writing in to WDWS about a number of issues.
She said that one of them is that many felt there was inadequate time for the public and council to be made aware of the blow-down item on the council agenda, therefore there was no public participation.
Dobell said there was also not enough time for council to assimilate the 25-page report from the forest advisory council.
“Furthermore, the report did not reflect the broad range of ecological concerns presented by two new FAC members appointed to balance the conventional/commercial logging perspective,” she said.
“The public and council must be given the opportunity to hear from experts from an ecological and ecosystem-based forestry background about the need for an ecological assessment of the harvest. Council has demonstrated its commitment to public participation. We are pausing to hear where they stand.”