North Cowichan intends to move forward with its plans for meaningful public engagement on the future of its 5,000-acre municipal forest reserve.
But while council committed to a “deep and broad” public engagement on the issue to determine the “highest and best use” of the forest reserve at its meeting on April 17, it left out sections of a motion that was tabled by Coun. Christopher Justice at its meeting on April 3.
Some of those sections called for emphasizing ecological stewardship and the promotion of biodiversity in the reserve.
Mayor Al Siebring explained that if the municipality decided to focus on biodiversity and the environment in the forest reserve, it would prejudge the outcome of the upcoming public consultations on the future of the reserve.
“There’s a broad section of the community that want a focus on the economic benefits of the forest reserve and to consider the other side of the equation,” he said.
“I’m glad that council decided to back off of those sections of the motion.”
The decision was made after a lengthy discussion and debate on the issue of the forest reserve and public engagement.
At the committee of the whole meeting earlier in the day, council asked staff to organize a presentation from Dr. Stephen Sheppard, a professor of forest resources management at UBC, on his work with other communities in developing sustainable forest management plans.
Before the vote on public engagement on the future of the reserve at the council meeting, CAO Ted Swabey asked if it was council’s intention to move forward with the vote, or wait until after Sheppard made his presentation.
“The professor has experience in how to consult the public on forestry issues,” Swabey said.
“If staff is to do work on proceeding with public engagement on the issue now, we could have to start over again after Sheppard’s presentation, which would cost money and could confuse the public.”