It still has to be determined exactly how many species-at-risk there are in North Cowichan’s municipal forest reserve, according to Shaun Mason.
Mason, North Cowichan’s municipal forester, said a consultant’s draft report written in 2018 that states there are an estimated 141 species-at-risk in the 5,000-hectare MFR is not based on solid information.
He said the information in the report, titled “A Strategy for Managing Species At Risk” in the MFR, comes from provincial sources that based the numbers on the types of ecosystems that exist in the reserve, and what species could possibly live in them, rather than from on-the-ground specific studies within the MFR itself.
“Just because the draft report states the number of these species that could be there doesn’t mean that they are there,” Mason said.
“I expect that will be determined during the ongoing review of the forest reserve.”
A press release from sixmountains.ca, a website dedicated to providing information about logging in the MFR which had a link to the draft report, said the 141 species listed in the report include 21 birds, 10 mammals, 16 insects and a variety of plant and other species.
The report also acknowledged that North Cowichan’s forestry program does not currently have a formal system in place to manage species at risk.
The draft report was presented in 2018 to North Cowichan’s forestry advisory committee, which recommended it be further reviewed.
After hearing that an updated version had been submitted to the University of BC’s forestry faculty, that is working with North Cowichan on a management plan for the forest reserve, sixmountains.ca filed a freedom-of-information request for a copy of the updated version.
Sixmountains.ca is run by Larry Pynn, a veteran environmental journalist and author who lives in Maple Bay.
Other community members, including Bruce Coates, co-chair of Cowichan Naturalists and a member of the citizens’ working group that is helping guide public consultation during the review of the forest reserve, urged North Cowichan’s council to release the updated report into the public domain as soon as possible.
But Mason said he’s unaware of the updated version that is being referred to.
He said there might be some confusion with some assessments of sensitive ecosystems within the MFR that were recently conducted as part of the ongoing forestry review.
“This was merely an overview that was looking for basic information on areas of interest within the MFR,” Mason said.
“The assessment didn’t look into every corner of the MFR. It looked at just a few hot spots to determine what could be there. A lot will be determined by the outcome of the forestry review.”
A recent complaint by sixmountains.ca alleging there is too much secrecy in North Cowichan’s public consultation process into the future of the MFR has led to an investigation by the provincial Office of the Ombudsperson.