By Pam Wright
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
An eagerly anticipated municipal report on woodlot preservation in Chatham-Kent has been released.
Slated to come before council Aug. 23, the report recommends continuing a pause on woodlot clearing until the end of 2021, as well as creating a Natural Heritage Advisory Committee of council.
The lengthy report has been released a week early to allow residents to have a look before the issue comes back to council.
Wallaceburg Coun. Aaron Hall said Monday a first glance at the document shows administration has followed the directions, providing a detailed, comprehensive response to council’s motion.
“Staff has done a tremendous amount of work gathering as many views as possible,” Hall said, adding the response covers the “full spectrum of views.
“Now it is our job as a council to take that information, review it and make a decision.”
The public engagement online process, which ran from June 14 to July 9, saw 1,500 residents respond either partially or fully, providing 3,500 individual comments.
There were 100 telephone and 50 e-mail inquires.
A supplementary security analysis was conducted to ensure the authenticity of participants and it flagged 250 of 1,763 as suspicious.
The report shows 71.7 per cent of respondents support the preservation of woodlots in C-K, while 10.3 per cent oppose it. Some 7.9 slightly support preservation, 3.8 per cent slightly oppose the measure while 6.3 per cent were neutral.
Administration is also awaiting an aerial analysis of Chatham-Kent forest cover by the Lower Thames Valley Conservation Authority, which has been delayed due to the pandemic.
The report is a follow up to a motion made by Hall in April to enact a temporary woodlot removal bylaw for 120 days.
Council also directed administration to launch a full public engagement process to see the public’s opinion on how to move forward.
The report also details various incentive programs for woodlot owners.
The report can be found online on the municipality’s webpage.