The gallery was packed in North Cowichan council chambers for a major decision regarding options for 2019 forestry operations in the Municipal Forest Reserve.

Council endorsed completing the existing 2018 forestry contracts and harvesting the blowdown that was left in the wake of the vicious December windstorm.

Municipal Forester Shaun Mason explains some of the practices used in the forest reserve.

“We harvest roughly 50 hectares a year, generally it has been less, roughly a percent of the Municipal Forest Reserve,” said Mason. “The tree retention is at least ten plus trees per hectare and those trees are given preference to non-merchantable timber that should stay there. Any older second growth with old growth characteristics, foot-tops, anything that has some sort of wildlife value will remain standing.”

Council’s decision means an expected budget shortfall of $150,000 dollars which will be offset by about $25,000 dollars from the Forestry Reserve Fund and $125,000 through budget savings.

There was a laundry list of speakers from the gallery.

Mason said it’s crucial to get into the reserve and remove the blowdown timber.

“Blowdown timber poses a safety risk to the public and the damaged timber will attract pests, such as ambrosia beetle and douglas fir beetle,” said Mason. “These insects can de-value the timber and has potential to build up local populations. Currently, assessments are underway from professional forest engineers throughout the Municipal Forest Reserve, snow has pumped the brakes on that a little bit, but they did get some areas done.”

Mason continues, “The preliminary estimates are about eight thousand metres of blowdown timber scattered throughout the Municipal Forest Reserve.”

Council has requested a detailed review of North Cowichan’s forestry operations and a budget is required by May 15 to set tax rates.