1. Cowichan Tribes purchase of Genoa Bay Farm raises development, logging questions
  2. North Cowichan to forge new path for the Six Mountains beginning in early 2020
These articles are reprinted from Larry Pynn's blog Larry Pynn is a veteran environmental journalist, Explorers Club member, and author of two non-fiction books, including Last Stands: A Journey Through North America's Vanishing Ancient Rainforests. He lives in Maple Bay.

1. Cowichan Tribes purchase of Genoa Bay Farm raises development, logging questions

Cowichan Tribes has purchased Genoa Bay Farm and plans to develop a residential community on the lands, says Chief William Seymour.

Logging may also be in the future, although Seymour said in an interview with that the extent and nature of any cutting has yet to be determined. The farm has some of the last best Douglas firs in the Municipality of North Cowichan.

“We might have some selective logging. Nothing huge.”

So no clearcutting? “No.” 

Seymour, who was re-elected to a fourth two-year term earlier this month, described the farm as about 130 hectares and the purchase from a numbered company in the ballpark of $10 million — all made possible by a loan, although he did not provide specifics.

“It’s huge,” he said of the purchase. “You’ve got farmland, timberlands and waterfront.”

Seymour said the farm used to be reserve land, but that the federal government “sold it from under us” around the late 1800s and that “it was a matter of getting it back for us.”

He said Cowichan Tribes is now working with the federal government to have the farm put back into reserve — and away from oversight by North Cowichan — although the process could take some time.

While it’s understandable that the First Nation wants to advance its economic position, there’s undoubtably going to be planning concerns related to a residential subdivision suddenly popping up in the absence of a comprehensive area plan.

While Cowichan Tribes has not yet made any decisions about the future of the farm, Seymour noted “we’re probably looking at a small subdivision, maybe 40 homes” somewhere on the lands.

North Cowichan is about to launch a public consultation into management of the 5,000-hectare Municipal Forest Reserve, also known as the Six Mountains — Tzouhalem, Stoney, Maple, Richards, Sicker, and Prevost.

The municipality is bending over backwards to accommodate Cowichan Tribes on the forestry file, giving the First Nation representation on the Forest Advisory Committee and authorizing a parallel consultation during the Municipal Forest Reserve review.

Asked if Cowichan Tribes will extend the same courtesy to North Cowichan on the future of Genoa Bay Farm, Seymour remained non-committal. “Maybe, I don’t know,” he said. “I haven’t discussed it with my staff or even with North Cowichan, yet.” 

Larry Pynn, Dec. 23, 2019

2. North Cowichan to forge new path for the Six Mountains beginning in early 2020

In a few weeks, North Cowichan residents will get their first peek at plans for a public consultation process into the future of the Six Mountains/Municipal Forest Reserve.

Megan Jordan, North Cowichan’s communications and public engagement manager, says she is awaiting a draft plan from Lees and Associates, the Vancouver company that received the municipal contract to lead the public consultation process.

Jordan said the draft plan will tentatively be discussed at council’s Jan. 29 meeting. Actual engagement work would likely begin in February. “We don’t know what that will look like because we don’t have a plan yet,” she said.

Lees' project manager assigned to the contract is Megan Turnock. The company was selected from eight bids for the contract in November.

A Duncan-based company, Indigenuity Consulting Group, will be working with Lees, handling a separate engagement process with Cowichan Tribes. “That’s a huge aspect, really important to the project,” Jordan says.

The president of Indigenuity is Cheryl Brooks, a Sto:lo from the upper Fraser Valley and a former associate deputy minister in the provincial energy and mines ministry.

If the fiasco over the Vancouver Island Motorsport Circuit expansion bid is any indication, this public consultation process will be anything but straight forward. Residents favouring a progressive, long-term future for the Six Mountains that rates viewscapes, ecology, and recreation over the short-term benefits of logging will have to be forceful in expressing their views and not allow the process to be hijacked.

North Cowichan is also working with the University of British Columbia on management options for the Six Mountains, including the potential to earn carbon-credit cash for leaving the trees standing.

In 2013, TimberWest and the Crown corporation, Pacific Carbon Trust, finalized an agreement that paid the timber company $6 million for a carbon-sequestration project, the largest of its kind on the BC coast. The company agreed not to log more than 1,000 hectares of its old-growth forests at dozens of sites on Vancouver Island for 100 years, including 50-hectare Koksilah Grove in the upper Koksilah River, which flows into the Cowichan River estuary.

If big business can do it, why can’t North Cowichan?

Larry Pynn

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