Sir: This letter is addressed to the mayor and council of Chatham-Kent.
It is amazing that during an election campaign, those running for mayor and council can convince voters that they know what they are doing, and they are doing what is in the best interest of the needs and health of the majority of the community and its citizens. Then once they get into office, all of that goes out the door.
The situation of the C-K woodlots is a prime example. This is not a new issue; it has been smoldering in C-K for decades.
During the current term, one council member realized the need for something to protect what little remaining woodland that C-K has, and brought the issue to council. A few other members agreed and supported a moratorium on tree cutting until a bylaw could be put in place, but not enough councillors supported it.
I do applaud those on council who have tried to move forward with a forest conservation bylaw.
However, the dithering continued. Council’s eventual action was to delay and defer any decision until it could be studied. Initially the result was the destruction of many hundreds of acres of woodland and the myriad species of associated wildlife. But the public and scientific input was clear and relentless.
There is overwhelming support by those who have voiced an opinion, both rural/farmer and urban residents, to have a tree-cutting/forest conservation bylaw.
There is overwhelming scientific evidence that more forest cover is essential for the health of the human and wildlife community in many ways.
Much of this has been stated repeatedly via deputations to council, e-mails to council members, letters to the editor of the local media as well as the findings presented at the public open houses.
To date, the numbers opposed to a forest conservation bylaw expressed in the media or by the deputations made to council appear to be relatively few, and any rationale for opposition seems weak at best. For example some opponents have said that they may need to cut trees. There seems to be a lot of misunderstanding about what a forest conservation bylaw actually is.
Such a bylaw is intended to minimize the wholesale clear cutting and conversion to non-forested land and is not opposed to cutting trees for firewood or timber harvest.
Why does council continue to avoid entering the 21st century when more progressive municipalities have had tree-cutting bylaws for decades? Why does council continue to ignore the expectations, wishes and health needs of the majority of the community?
Apparently council is going to keep a finger on the situation and deal with it if there are any red flags. Doesn’t the concern by numerous citizens over the last several months, as well as the loss of upwards of at least 1,500 acres of woodland, constitute a red flag?
I firmly believe that if the protection of our woodlands and other natural areas is for the good of society, then society should help pay for it. I am not in favour of the landowner bearing the entire cost of any such natural area protection.
It is long past time to put this issue behind us by creating a forest conservation by-law, so council and C-K citizens can get on with other meaningful discussions and actions regarding the future of C-K. Surely you don’t want to spend more time on this and continue to raise the ire of so many C-K residents, especially with an election less than a year away?
P. Allen Woodliffe