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Land base officially identified

The land base for the proposed community forest has been officially identified and it includes Chapman and Gray Creek watersheds.

The land base for the proposed community forest has been officially identified and it includes Chapman and Gray Creek watersheds.

The land base being asked for by the District of Sechelt includes a total of 11,807 hectares in Wilson Creek and West Sechelt and is detailed in a map available for viewing at their office on Cowrie Street.

"We were able to negotiate for more area to protect the watershed. We recognize it's important and that the community doesn't want us to go there," said Sechelt mayor Cam Reid.

The district has been under attack by other municipalities and community groups for submitting a community forest proposal to the Ministry of Forests before more public consultation could be done and concerns about the proposal addressed, specifically concerns over possible logging in the watershed.

At a February Sunshine Coast Regional District meeting, directors voiced their displeasure to Reid.

"Its utterly distressing Sechelt would have the nerve to contemplate a logging tenure in the watershed. You'd better sharpen up your conflict resolution skills. You'll need them big time," said Halfmoon Bay director John Marian at the meeting.

However, Reid says his council plans to "earn the trust of this community" during the next 40 days. That's what's left of the 60 days that have been granted to the district by the Ministry of Forests to compile a "more detailed plan" for the proposed community forest.

The draft plan and application were sent to the ministry on March 11, 2005 to meet a March 12 deadline. The ministry agreed to give the district 60 days from that date to garner more public input and address concerns in the community.Reid says his council is prepared to do that.

"This is an opportunity we may never have again, but it brings with it some challenges. We have to gain the public's participation and trust as we develop the long-term plan," said Reid.

The district has planned an information meeting on Sechelt's probationary community forest licence application scheduled for April 19 at the Seaside Centre from 7 to 9 p.m. "On April 19 people can learn more about our application and how the public can be involved in and benefit from a community forest project on the Sunshine Coast," said Reid.

Dan Bouman, executive director for the Sunshine Coast Conservation Association, says he plans to be at the meeting to voice his objection to Sechelt's plan.

He says the transfer of land for logging tenure is a very "complex and intricate process, one that we're not certain the District of Sechelt fully understands."

He says although Sechelt says they don't plan to log in the watershed, their draft proposal guarantees no logging in the watershed for only five years.

"They may say it's safe for 100 or 150 years, but in the plan, in writing, it's only for five years," said Bouman.

The draft plan is available for viewing at the District of Sechelt's website at

Sechelt was invited to apply for a community forest licence from the Ministry of Forests earlier this year. They held their first public meeting on the issue on Jan. 29, where about 40 community members spent a day at the Sechelt Legion finding out about community forests in other areas.

Most of those examples were in communities of similar sizes. Presenters said all of their community's values were able to be represented in their community forests.

"We know it has worked in other areas and we think it can work here too," Reid said.

Since the Jan. 29 meeting, Sechelt has held three follow-up meetings where concerns over public consultation and inclusion of other municipalities were repeatedly raised.

Reid said his staff is continuing to discuss the proposal with the SCRD and the Sechelt Indian Band in an effort to "address any and all concerns."

Reid expects the April 19 meeting to draw a large crowd. He said he is looking forward to hearing from the public.