Council’s directive threatens success of forestry public engagement
North Cowichan council’s decision to split the forest review into two phases is threatening to derail a successful public engagement process.
The interim (first) phase is designed to shape a 16 month forest management plan covering the period from September 2020 to December 2021 and the second phase is designed to shape the forest management plan from Jan 2022 onward. This is being prepared mainly behind closed doors and will be largely complete by the time it gets to the council, where the community finally gets an opportunity to review and comment on it. Staff have confirmed there is no specific public event scheduled for this in the engagement plan.
What is the purpose of the interim plan other than to continue logging for another 16 months?
Why not do the public engagement in one phase and do it right?
It is inevitable that we are going to end up in a fight over the interim logging plans in the fall and this will overshadow and taint the whole engagement process.
Another problem is the shortened timeline due to COVID-19.
As it stands now, the interim public engagement kicks off on July 13 with the Values Survey, followed by four online forums finishing up on the 25th. Then the results are tabulated, followed by the Working Group and Forest Advisory Committee meetings in August leading to the council presentation and decisions in September.
Thus the general public is only getting a couple of weeks of public engagement (mainly online) before we begin discussions on the interim term logging plans.
And every time we ask municipal staff and Lees & Associates (engagement consultants) why this is happening, they say their hands are tied, this time frame was decided by mayor and council (unanimously).
This deserves another look.