North Cowichan’s municipal forest reserve has served as the subject of heated debate for quite some time.

After last December’s notorious windstorm council made a decision to harvest the blowdown, remove the piles of timber in the forest reserve, and finish up existing contracts, but the future of the forest reserve will soon be up for debate.

In the meeting following that storm, the Municipality of North Cowichan issued a pause on logging practices within the forest reserve and then, earlier this month council made a decision to harvest the blowdown from that storm, along with removing the slash piles in the reserve and finishing up existing contracts.

Now, the municipality is going to ask the public for input and Mayor Al Siebring said finding the “highest and best use” for the forest reserve is important.

Siebring said, “Is it as a working forest, is it as a huge carbon sink, is it as recreation for mountain bike trails and that kind of thing? Some people say we could become a world-class destination for mountain biking like Whistler, is that the highest and best use, Is the highest and best use wrapping all those things together and doing a little bit of everything?”

Council has decided to table a decision as to what community engagement will look like relating to the reserve until April 3.

Siebring said there are a few options that may come out of this community consultation.

“We need to do a broad community engagement of what we’re going to do with the municipal forest, in terms of highest and best use,” said Siebring. “Do we keep logging, do we do other uses, do we log and do other uses? Council had quite a discussion about how we’re going to do that community consultation.”

Siebring said there are two streams; the Forest Advisory Committee will look at the technical side of the forest reserve, and the general side, which council is responsible for.