North Cowichan forestry debate goes off the rails

Suddenly, we learn that council is going to vote on the forestry budget this week

North Cowichan forestry debate goes off the rails

Up till now the municipality [of North Cowichan] was doing a really good job at managing the PAUSE forestry debate.

Both sides of the debate were being treated fairly and it looked like there was going to be orderly democratic process.

For some reason, this week everything went off the rails.

After the last council meeting we were told that the mayor and councilors needed time to review the forestry operations before making any decisions.

They were going to tour the forest, review detailed staff reports and consult further with the community.

This seemed like a reasonable course of action given the complexity of the issue and the financial and environmental concerns.

Suddenly, we learn that council is going to vote on the forestry budget this week (before tours, report and consultation).

Instead of going with a neutral budget, one that does not predetermine the 2019 outcome, they have put the mayor and councillors in an impossible situation.

The budget options (as presented in the Feb. 4 council meeting) vary from a complete pause in logging operations to doubling the 2017 clear-cutting.

There are dire warnings of a huge tax increases if they don’t vote for doubling the 2017 clear-cutting.

How did we get to this point? Why are we discussing budgets before a plan is finalized?

If we must decide this week, we want to emphasize that the Pause initiative is supportive of a low impact removal of the hundreds of fallen trees from the December storm.

And we know that there will be substantial 2019 income coming from the trees that have been cut in 2018 and are still in the clear-cuts.

2019 offers a unique opportunity to PAUSE, develop a community forest plan and still generate logging revenue.

Hopefully we can get this debate back on track.

Rob Fullerton

Duncan

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