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To be sitting at this table

a potter/educator/gardener/mother enquires into her involvement with the LRUP process

by Patty Daniels

I have had a lot of thinking time lately. The reason being is that I have chosen to sit at the Local Resource Use Plan (LRUP) table for the Tlell Watershed. This table was formed late last year when the Ministry of Forests reacted to their obligations stated in the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU with ICSI). The obligation was to develop interim development plans through a participatory process for the Tlell and Government Creek Watersheds and to present these plans to ICSI or the Islands Forest Council (IFC) with in six months of the signing the agreement. After much soul searching and debating if my family-time could afford this sort of commitment I decided that I would sit at the table. So, once every two weeks I spend an entire day of my weekend or a long evening driving to some location for meetings. The drive gives me time to enjoy the beach line scenery, visit with those I carpool with....and think.

After the table had been established and we had met a few times one member suggested that it would be helpful for all of us to write a short biography of ourselves - just a couple of lines explaining who we are and why we have chosen to sit at the table. The task seemed easy enough on the outset but when I drove home that night I found it difficult to put my finger on the reason why I was at that table. I am not a landowner in the Tlell area so "to log or not to log" would not directly affect my backyard. I am not a logger, nor is my husband, so my job is not directly threatened whether logging - to whatever degree - occurs in this watershed. My family enjoys the Tlell area and uses it regularly for recreational purposes but does this merit spending hundreds of hours sitting at a table? What was my interest? What was at stake for me with this whole issue? I pondered the question.

It took awhile for the answer to become clear to me. Forestry is not my background. I am a teacher, a potter, a gardener and I'm a mother. I am not a forester. Acronyms like LRUP, TSA, LRMP and IAMC meant nothing to me a few years ago and they still confuse me most of the time. But I am becoming more familiar with the issues. I attend meetings, I read the public documents and I engage in discussion with other community members.

It is not that I am enthralled reading documents such as "Towards Sustainability" or "Bella Coola Local Resource Use Plan" (I have many fiction books sitting on by my bed collecting dust and overdue fines) but it is that I look around and I don't like what I see. I don't like the fact that our old growth forests are being liquidated. I don't like the fact that our communities are looking at an unstable and unhealthy future. I don't like the fact that my two year old daughter may never have the opportunity to share her feelings on if and where cut blocks should appear in old growth stands. There were too many things that I was feeling uncomfortable with - too many things that weren't sitting right. And that, I concluded was the reason I was at the table.

I have been told by the Ministry of Forests and by "industry" that if I don't like a decision that is being made I should "get involved". I should attend the open houses and make my views known. Well, I have done that. I have viewed logging plans, tried to make heads or tails out of the maps and proposals, ate their doughnuts and received some patronizing pats on the head. But I don't feel that I was listened to. So how could I pass up a chance to sit at the LRUP table? Here was my opportunity to have some meaningful input. With a touch of scepticism and a prayer that I hadn't got in over my head on this venture, I joined the table.

I was nervous attending the first few meetings. I wasn't sure if a potter/educator/gardener/mother was supposed to be sitting at this table. I made it clear from the outset that I was not representing a group or organization rather I was a community member representing myself - and in an indirect, hopeful sort of way, my daughter. The meetings were pretty slow and frustrating to begin with. There was a lot of uncertainty as to how we would approach such concepts such as consensus and even more uncertainty on how we were going to reach our March 23 obligation as stated in the MOU. Before we broke for Christmas break we had hardly touched upon the Terms of Reference. The workload ahead of us, to me, seemed immense. It became clear to some members at this time if we were to continue in a productive and successful process we would require professional facilitation skills. MoF came through with the request and a facilitator arrived to work with our group in February. As the meetings progressed I began to feel a bit more comfortable with those sitting with me. I began to express my opinions, even if they were contrary to the "professionals" sitting around the table. Slowly my insecurities were shed and I realized that I would be able to contribute to this process and knew more about the issues than I had originally given myself credit for. In my mind I did have a place at this table. There was room here for a potter\educator\gardener\mother.

So I will continue my pilgrimages to meetings on sunny Saturdays. I will continue ensuring that I am aware of the issues. Hopefully I will still find time to pot and pursue my career. Motherhood will always be a priority. This experience is teaching me that all of us, as community members, have meaningful input, we all have opinions that government must consider-they are the governing body that represents our voice-and that if there isn't a seat at "the table" in some shape or form - no matter what your title is, then the process is flawed. It frustrates me that these government processes appear so intimidating because there should also be an obligation - a genuine obligation - on government's part to truly engage the public in its decision making processes. I have had many frustrating moments at the birth of the Tlell LRUP and I know the frustration level will escalate as we deal with bigger issues than the Terms of Reference. But I am also optimistic - cautiously optimistic - that perhaps my voice will be heard... perhaps my input will result in more than a pat on the head. In the meantime I will try to enjoy my commutes, the scenery, the socializing and the time to think.

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