Westfor clearcut from 2018, inside the Tobeatic Wildlife Management Area. Photo: Linda Pannozzo

Two full years after the release of the Lahey Independent Review on Forestry, Lands and Forestry Minister Iain Rankin acknowledges it will be some time yet before the reports’ 45 recommendations toward a more ecological approach to forestry will be implemented. 

Essentially, University of King’s College president Bill Lahey proposed a three-zone approach that would ban cutting in parks and wilderness areas, set aside 18% of Crown land for high-intensity forest production composed of softwood plantations, and create a third mixed or “ecological matrix” zone to protect old-growth Acadian forest and allow some commercial harvesting on the majority of Crown land. 

The recommendations are designed to reduce clearcutting on Crown land, which makes up 30% of the province’s forest, although Lahey predicted that would also lead to increased clearcutting on private woodlots until and unless new legislation gets passed. 

Progress has been slow, as representatives of environmental groups and the forestry industry on the Minister’s Advisory Committee meet with Lands and Forestry (LAF) officials to thrash out “how to” execute these large-scale changes. What land will be included in the high production forestry zone must soon be identified, says Rankin.

A document called the Forest Management Guide which will prescribe where and how harvesting is carried out in the future remains a work-in-progress. Rankin says more than 100 changes are being made to the original Guide after feedback from the Advisory Committee and an evaluation from experts Lahey consulted. The second version of the Forest Management Guide will go out “soon,” said Rankin, followed by a period for public comment before the final version of he Guide is implemented. 

Rankin is conscious of criticism from environmental groups such as the Ecology Action Centre and Healthy Forest Coalition that are concerned the bureaucratic process is moving so slowly there won’t be much forest left by the time the new rules are implemented. 

“I know folks want to see change happening quickly and that’s why we have the interim guidelines in place, so that we are starting the shift toward more multi-aged management practices,” Rankin tells the Halifax Examiner. “But for me, I want the Guide to be as strong as it possibly can be rather than having something that’s not quite hitting the mark as proposed in the Lahey report.”

One interim guideline requires companies harvesting wood on Crown land to leave between 10 and 30% of the trees. This is an improvement to previous regulations governing clearcuts. The Lahey Review estimated about 80 % of Nova Scotia woodlands had been harvested by clearcut — 65% on Crown land and 90% on privately owned woodlands. 

Meanwhile, Rankin says he is preparing to introduce a new interim management guideline that will require a soil analysis on Crowns lands before determining which lands will be eligible for harvesting. Repeated clearcuts over the same area combined with acidic conditions linked to acid rain and dryness from the loss of ground cover means some Nova Scotia soil is in poor shape. 

“Essentially it involves an analysis on the nutrients in the soil,” says Rankin. “A lot of our technical staff have been looking at that and there are people concerned about the state of our soils and how acidic they can be. There could be incidences where the model shows that a particular type of harvest would not be ecologically acceptable or it shouldn’t be harvested at all. That will be an added component to the pre-treatment assessment of Crown lands.”

This could affect areas that have been repeatedly harvested in southwestern Nova Scotia. Rankin says no long-term lease will be signed with WestFor Management, a consortium representing 13 sawmills and forestry companies allocated wood from Crown land previously managed by Bowater, until the Forest Management Guide is completed. The consortium had its allocation reduced from 312,600 tonnes to 244,405 tonnes in 2017 while Lahey was doing his review . The 244,405 tonnes will be extended for another year when the lease comes up for renewal next month. 

Jennifer Henderson is a freelance journalist and retired CBC News reporter.

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  1. A quick look at Google Maps shows just how much of NS has been/ is being clear cut, looks to me like the plan is to delay delay delay until there’s nothing left. Criminal, and I mean that literally.

  2. I’ve always been bemused by how rapidly school boards were dismantled, without any public consultation, after a single report suggested they be done away with. And yet for years the forestry industry has lumbered on in its accustomed fashion continuing to destroy our forest inheritance. It puts me in mind of the attitude towards fossil fuels and pipelines as expressed by successive Ottawa governments. We need time to transition. Well, we’ve had decades to transition. Time is up. We have to stop dead in our tracks and take another path. True for Alberta tarsands, true for Nova Scotia forests.

  3. What about Northern Pulp’s fibre allocation? They are a part of WesetFor. Who is getting that? Irving? Is Northern Pulp allowing Irving to cut their allocation? We’ve heard that…

    No mention of the herbicide, Glyphosate being used – this will be sprayed on potentially 800,000 acres of Crown land. Yes – that is the active ingredient in Roundup.

    And while we have been waiting for any significant changes – in the past two years – the Department has approved 46,510 acres of clearcuts – even-aged logging on Public land. We’re they suppose to check the soils prior to approval? What about wildlife and species at risk of extinction not being included in the Pre-Treatment Assessments?