The Municipality of Chatham-Kent will be holding more public consultations to help guide its decision-making process when it comes to preserving woodlots in the future.
The Natural Heritage Committee of the Whole voted Monday night to hold additional public engagement for a period of 30 days to get more public input about a possible tree-cutting bylaw. The information and woodlot preservation options can be found on Let's Talk Chatham-Kent soon. They include education, incentives, and regulation.
Deputations will also be heard at the council meeting on April 11, 2022 and all submissions will be compiled in a report to go before the committee at its July 11, 2022 meeting with recommendations for a new draft woodlot preservation framework.
A committee report will now go before council on Monday to get approval to hire a consultant to help with the process and the recommendations and to determine if an in-person meeting can be held at the John D. Bradley Centre in Chatham. The successful consultant should be known by the end of May or early June.
The Natural Heritage Committee voted for a different approach to dealing with privately-owned woodlots at its meeting on February 14, 2022 and directed that additional community consultations be undertaken.
The additional consultation comes on the heels of the Kent Federation of Agriculture (KFA) demanding more public input on the municipal temporary tree cutting bylaw and starting a petition.
"The KFA has made numerous requests and deputations to this Committee of Council to hear Chatham-Kent resident’s position on this very important issue," said the KFA. "To date, there has been no indication that this body will ensure a formal consultation process will take place, so the KFA is collecting the signatures of Chatham-Kent residents to show to this Committee of Council there is support for this type of consultation."
The KFA said the consultation process needs to be led by a non-biased, third-party mediator who will hold a neutral position on the tree cutting issue and who will contribute towards the Committee of Council finding a solution that works best for Chatham-Kent.
"Such a process will allow all voices in Chatham-Kent to be heard and ensure all information presented during this process is properly documented and presented to the Committee of Council for their careful consideration," KFA said. "Now is the time to ensure all affected parties are heard and their position is clearly recorded.
The KFA said it needs to ensure the concerns of its 1,800 agricultural members and landowners in Chatham-Kent are addressed.
The KFA said the only consultation process to date has been a web-based questionnaire and questions its accuracy and validity.
"It is the view of many in Chatham-Kent that this questionnaire was very biased in its wording and the results therefore unacceptable," said the KFA.
Mayor Darrin Canniff is adamant that the issue will be resolved before the civic election in October.