From the bleachers — the six mountain forest debate

Authentic dialogue means different perspectives are allowed to present.

From the bleachers — the six mountain forest debate

Last Wednesday, at a heated council meeting about the community forests, during the break, the mayor and I discussed how great the debate was. And it was. After the meeting, I felt elated, kicked in the gut, confused and conflicted. I wasn’t the only one. It was a great meeting, another full house. If you weren’t there, you should have been. The forest debates are that heated and exciting. Here’s my take on last week’s:

Authentic dialogue means different perspectives are allowed to present. Transparency means all perspectives are on the table. Between council and staff, in this last meeting, there was dialogue, dispute, agreement and transparency. In the bleachers, the public watched, applauded, (were reprimanded), groaned, cheered quietly, could throw in their two bits, beginning and end of meeting, but weren’t part of the dialogue.

The majority on council are saying public consultation must begin. Some said no decisions about salvaging more blowdown should happen before consultation. They had previously voted for salvaging from a sense of emergency, not realizing removing blowdown would mean logging mostly live trees. A debate ensued. It was riveting. Councillor Sawrie held out for public consultation before more salvage contracts. The majority voted for a reduced cut. We weren’t all happy with the compromise but the debate continues.

There was a discussion between staff and council about the nature of a forest. It, too, was riveting. One staff member called trees “crops” to be harvested. The public sighed.

In contrast, several councillors have been educating themselves on forest ecosystems, watersheds, fire prevention through deciduous trees, the importance of healthy soil, mycorrhizal networks connecting trees to share nutrients, water, information, and more, and were able to speak intelligently about healthy forests.

The minutes from the Forestry Advisory Committee meetings were another hot topic. Some councillors were concerned the minutes don’t represent alternative forest values added to the committee — in particular, one member’s lengthly reports that council aren’t privy to as they aren’t in the minutes. A small cheer went out when council said this must change.

The big news is council will ask UBC forest experts to collaborate with our community to facilitate transition from the old to the new. Council again committed to public dialogue as the first priority. The question is how will citizens be given access to necessary information about the forest issues, including changing ecological, economic and social values?

Icel Dobell

North Cowichan

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