Letter: More in-person meetings needed on forest review

It may be the most important decision our fresh council makes

More in-person meetings needed on forest review

Dear Mayor Douglas and council:

I write with disappointment in lacklustre public consultation about our long-awaited municipal forest review.

Council is urged to add more live public consultations — at the very least, stage a well-publicized public hearing before deciding the fate of our precious forests this spring.

Many rightly hope Active Conservation (Option #3) is chosen by council to save what UBC consultant Prof. Peter Arcese basically described as Canada’s most rare and unique municipally-owned forestlands.

All commercial logging must finally be banned in favour biodiversity, cultural and recreational uses, plus large carbon credits: to wit, Mother Nature over money.

Councillors, what is the rush in making your decision affecting the future of our vital Six Mountains’ ecosystems?

It may be the most important decision our fresh council makes.

Many folks believe virtual input sessions — while safe from COVID, vehicle pollution and more — do not replace face-to-face interaction between councillors, citizens and forestry experts.

Months after promised open MFR dialogue (talks with First Nations were private) we were afforded just one live information meeting, Nov. 30 in Maple Bay’s fire hall.

Tragically, it was not a question-and-answer session many wanted and needed with forestry experts to air concerns and opinions about the review’s four options.

Thankfully, that meagre meeting is coupled with online sessions, and a critical MFR survey.

Hopefully the majority of North Cowichanians will complete our simple survey. But given October’s pathetic 30 per cent election turnout, it’s questionable if most residents know or care about council’s critical spring decision.

Insult to injury was Wednesday’s egregious interruption by Coun. Tek Manhas concerning forest-reserve timber revenues.

Sadly, Manhas was not stopped by consultant Lees and Associate’s moderator, nor other councillors present, nor the public.

Revenue figures should have come from municipal forester Shaun Mason, who was present.

Councillors, these and many other questions about our priceless forest lands deserve answers during more well-advertised, constructive Q&A meetings — or we risk lingering doubts about our tepid forest-reserve review.

Yours in ecology,

Peter W. Rusland

North Cowichan