The issue of woodlot protection will return to council in two weeks, following months of study and untold acres of clear cutting.
What began as a request by Wallaceburg Coun. Sheldon Parsons turned into a firestorm, exposing as much anger as almost any issue in the last 15 years.
Parsons asked council to consider a moratorium on clear cutting, allowing time to study the idea of a woodlot bylaw.
That request turned into Chatham-Kent’s shame, not because we didn’t adopt a bylaw – but because we didn’t even to show the courage to protect the resource while we looked into it.
Council acted through its inaction.
Those voting against the moratorium (including the mayor) had to know it would mean the destruction of thousands of trees.
Bullying might be too strong a word, but there’s no doubt anti-bylaw forces scared council into voting against a moratorium that would have done absolutely nothing to harm landowners’ rights.
If council had approved the moratorium in March, the only thing that would have changed today is that we’d still have those trees.
We now know for sure that there are a group of landowners who will cut down anything in their path to make a dollar. You can find them hiding among the responsible landowners and farmers who value the land.
Waiting for a compromise wouldn’t have harmed anyone – except those who had no interest in any form of compromise.
Whether it was councilors who in effect said they would listen to whoever yells the loudest or the mayor’s intent in getting the rural vote next time around, votes were bought and paid for with political currency.
Our elected officials couldn’t convince their constituents that they would protect their interests.
Almost every municipality in southern Ontario has a bylaw. Almost every municipality has a higher degree of forest cover.
We don’t need a bylaw for people who obey the law. Laws are made to rein in those who don’t respect anything but their own needs and will do whatever they want to get what they want.
Except in Chatham-Kent.