Community dialogue looks at use of forest lands

The mid-Island community's vision for forest lands and how to improve long-term, sustainable management of these lands is the topic of a public dialogue session at Vancouver Island University Thursday.

The mid-Island community’s vision for forest lands and how to improve long-term, sustainable management of these lands is the topic of a public dialogue session at Vancouver Island University Thursday.

Healthy Forests – Healthy Communities: A conversation on B.C. forests, aims to capture the concerns and recommendations of experts and community members on how forest lands are managed.

The non-partisan, volunteer-supported initiative is being led by the Canadian Institute of Forestry, in partnership with nearly a dozen post-secondary institutions and organizations across B.C.

Regional community dialogue sessions are being held in two dozen communities and the first took place in Williams Lake June 20.

Only about five per cent of the provincial land base is privately owned, said Michel Vallee, a Forestry Department professor at VIU, and some feel the public should have a larger say in what happens with Crown lands.

“There are a great many forest professionals in B.C. that feel in large extent that the government is not listening to the people in regard to forest management practices,” he said. “If the forestry community doesn’t speak out, we lose our credibility.”

Anyone with an interest in local forests and forest management practices is invited to come to the community dialogue session on Thursday evening, which will be held in building 356, room 111 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

The Nanaimo session is jointly sponsored by the Canadian Institute of Forestry, Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Reserve and VIU and is for mid-Island residents from Ladysmith to Qualicum.

Vallee, who is also second vice-president of the national institute, said the information gathered at the sessions will be given to the provincial government.

The hope is that these public sessions will kickstart a more detailed investigation of the issue, perhaps through a royal commission, he said. A commission is an official inquiry into a matter of public concern.

Some concerns Vallee expects to hear Thursday include public access to private land in the area, as much of the forest land around Nanaimo and area is privately owned, and provincial policies that stop landowners from developing their properties as they feel they should.

Provincial legislation stipulates that lands must be managed sustainably for timber production, he said.

“A large portion of us feel maybe timber management is not the best approach in all cases,” said Vallee.