Plans to harvest Crown land around Goldsmith Lake in Annapolis County are now on hold, Citizen Scientists of the Southwest Nova Biosphere announced the news in a press release Tuesday morning.

Through biodiversity surveys, the citizen scientists have identified 16 species at risk in the area, including three Black ash, two Blue felt lichen,and 11 Frosted Glass-whiskers lichen. The group is awaiting confirmation on two more Frosted Glass-whiskers.

The citizen scientists learned of the hold on March 1 from Ryan McIntryre, a resource manager for the Western region, with the Department of Natural Resources and Renewables. The hold applies to all parcels touched by the species at risk the group has identified in the area. The release detailed McIntrye’s response:

He said it would be ‘later this year’ that plans for the area would ‘get revised’ and that the department would look for ‘alternative avenues’ to steward the area. He noted that, where there were multiple rare lichens, they would ‘have to think in a broader sense’ about ‘what is a reasonable response.’ He also observed that some areas had undergone intensive silviculture in the past and could remain available for harvesting.

A group of people dressed in winter clothing and orange vests walk along a snowy path in a forest of snow-covered trees.
The citizen scientists in forests near Goldsmith Lake. Credit: Lisa Proulx

As Joan Baxter reported in November, citizen scientists asked Premier Tim Houston to “freeze harvests and road-building immediately in the forests surrounding Goldsmith Lake in Annapolis County.”

In October, the group discovered a logging road into the area as they headed into the forest for a biodiversity survey. The province had approved harvesting on 1,355 acres of Crown land in the area, part of the 555,000 acres that Nova Scotians bought from Bowater for $117.7 million in 2012.

After the discovery of the logging road, the citizen scientists sent a letter to Houston expressing their concerns about the planning harvesting and detailing the biodiversity at Goldsmith Lake. By that time, the group had already discovered eight species at risk.

A white woman with a ponytail, glasses, and wearing an orange winter coat sits next to a tree and recording details in a notebook of what she finds in the tree. The tree has lichens and moss growing on it and it's surrounded by snow.
Searching for stubble lichen. Credit: Nina Newington

Lisa Proulx, one of the citizen scientists, said the news about the hold on the harvesting comes as a “huge relief.” She added the group is also pleased that the Department of Natural Resources and Renewables is not just applying individual buffers to the area, but are reconsidering how to manage the forests at Goldsmith Lake.

“The lichens we’ve been finding have a story to tell. It’s a story about old forests and what makes them special,” Proulx wrote in the release. “The Frosted Glass-whiskers, for example, is a Species at Risk because it needs a very specific habitat which has become quite rare: it needs old hardwood trees in undisturbed forest. Environment Canada describes it as “an indicator of old-growth forest habitats.” So when you find it, it tells you this patch of forest has been allowed to develop without much human interference for a very long time. That’s called “forest continuity” and it’s rare in Nova Scotia. Any logging activity will destroy it. So far we have found 11 Frosted Glass-whiskers at Goldsmith plus another couple that haven’t been confirmed yet.”

In November, the group asked Minister of Environment and Climate Change Tory Rushton to put the entire area under protection, but they were told they’d have to wait. Rushton said the province would have a process in place to select areas for protection to meet the its 20% target by the end of 2023. The citizen scientists, meanwhile, doubled its efforts to find more species at risk.

A colourful map of green, yellow, brown, purple that shows areas of young forest, mature forest, and old growth forest. Two small red areas show the locations of forest protected by old forest policy. A line drawn around a section of the map shows the area a group wants protected under the old growth restoration opportunity.
Map of the proposed Old Growth Forest Restoration Opportunity. Credit: Citizen Scientists of the Southwest Nova Biosphere

In the release, Citizen Scientists of the Southwest Nova Biosphere said they have written to the Minister of Natural Resources and Renewables requesting that the forest surrounding Goldsmith Lake be granted policy protection as an Old Growth Forest Restoration Opportunity.

“We don’t really know how much old-growth forest is left in Nova Scotia,” wrote Nina Newington in Tuesday’s press release. “Lahey estimated in his report that there is as little as 0.9 per cent outside of protected areas. The Nature Trust of Nova Scotia thinks it’s even less than that. Everyone agrees we need to protect old-growth forest. Last year the province updated its policy. They actually made it harder for shade-tolerant hardwood forests like the one at Goldsmith to qualify but they also have a provision for protecting old forests that might not qualify as old-growth but are well on their way. That makes sense. When you think about it, there’s no other way to rebuild the stock of old-growth than to let old forests mature without any human disturbance.”

There are two patches of land on the west side of Goldsmith Lake that have been classified as old growth. Another area parcel northeast of the lake is under review. Newington said areas around the lake qualify as an “excellent old-growth forest restoration opportunity” based on the species at risk the group has discovered in the last several months. Newington said they are asking Rushton to protect the area under the Old-Growth Forest Policy Layer, which is detailed in the Department of Natural Resources and Renewables’ Old-Growth Forest Policy for Nova Scotia.

Suzanne Rent is a writer, editor, and researcher. You can follow her on Twitter @Suzanne_Rent and on Mastodon

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