More confusion in the woodlot

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Editor: As a consequence of halfway to boiling point temperatures: 300-plus wildfires are raging in B.C., hundreds of humans have died, poultry and livestock are dying from heat exhaustion, cattle are being marketed in order to avoid dying of thirst and multiple municipalities in Manitoba have been declared agriculture disaster areas. And this is just in Canada!

Here in C-K this year, we have already had severe weather anomalies with a drought and a recent deluge, resulting in significant crop damage.

At the same time, based on recent media releases and appeals to councillors, we have those who claim to be agriculture leaders promoting climate change denial rhetoric. For the leadership of the KFA and the OLA to suggest at the same time that they are in support of agricultural sustainability is simply bizarre. One does not have to believe the scientists or the agriculturalists with OMAFRA, the OFA, the University of Guelph, or the more astute landowners within C-K. All one has to do is watch the news in order to conclude that pretending we are on another planet is myopic and irresponsible.

We must enact immediate collective measures in order to protect our valuable agricultural industry and our community as a whole. This is not complicated, as one only needs to implement the directives from areas such as OMAFRA, and the University of Guelph.

These required measures certainly do not include the failed Natural Heritage Strategy, which has cost us hundreds of acres of mature woodlot within C-K.

Although the LTVCA lived up to its commitment in this initiative, the other two critical participants failed miserably. The municipality agreed to approximately 30 commitments, with few fulfilled.

The document was basically put on a shelf.

It was common sense that without a bylaw some form of encouragement/enforcement would obviously have to be in place so that the blatant clear cutters would at least be discouraged from destroying and burning their woodlots. Otherwise, the strategy would be useless.

It was my understanding that it was agreed that the KFA leadership would assume this necessary role. The argument that peer pressure was the best approach certainly seemed logical and may have been effective if it had actually been done.

A comment that is obviously intended for the gullible is that C-K already has many landowners who are good stewards of the land. This is obviously correct, as I know many of them. This point is all smoke and mirrors and has never been disputed. It is simply intended to be a distraction from the basic factual intent of the proposed bylaw, which is to prevent the uncontrolled clear cutting and the burning of woodlots by the irresponsible. This would be the same as found in the bylaws of neighbouring jurisdictions.

At the same time, responsible landowners would have absolutely no restrictions on their woodlots other than being required to follow best management practices, which is obviously in their own best interest.

In addition to already not paying property tax on their woodlot, it is possible, and I believe reasonable, that a financial incentive can be negotiated for woodlot maintenance. That would be a win-win for our community.

Also, how many retired responsible landowners have sold their land, only to be devastated when, without a bylaw, the first activity of the new owner is to destroy and burn the woodlot that they valued.

Perhaps the bylaw opponents should think beyond themselves.

It is abundantly obvious that the tide of climate change is fast approaching and that the most susceptible area is agriculture. The best soil in the world is useless against adverse weather.

Out of date emotion and rhetoric is naive and no longer in the best interest of our community and sustainable agriculture in particular.

It is also critical that the municipality must commit to setting an example. How can we ask landowners to step up when the municipality has been so deficient for decades in adhering to their own multiple strategic planning environmental commitments.

The obvious first step is to pass the Woodlot Protection Bylaw with the inclusion of an incentive for woodlot owners. We should also publicly recognize local landowners who demonstrate exceptional stewardship. These conscientious citizens continue to demonstrate in a tangible manner the well-known fact that any successful community is not built on selfish rights, but on common responsibilities.

Gary Eagleson

Ridgetown

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