Panel member criticizes Nova Scotia’s clear cutting approach

via The Chronicle Herald

A panel member who helped the province update their natural resources strategy years ago says the government continues to ignore some of the recommendations.

A recent update of the strategy shows the province moving away from reducing clear cutting and whole-tree harvesting, said former panel member Allan Shaw.

Last week marked the fifth anniversary of the province’s 10-year Natural Resources Strategy, the province’s plan that was to change the “status-quo” treatment of its forests and wildlife. Drafted in 2011, the policy framework originally committed to limit clear cutting, implement rules for whole-tree harvesting, evaluate the benefits of an annual allowable cut that would cap the provincial harvest levels, and eliminate public support for herbicide spraying.

But many of these commitments seem to have disappeared or been removed, said Shaw, who is also chair of the community developer, the Shaw Group.

“It makes one wonder how often you can get people to take on these roles if they don’t see any progress.”

Shaw was a volunteer member of the steering panel that oversaw Phase 2 of the strategy development and published a report called A Natural Balance.

With two other experts, they charted a path for what they believed was a road to a more sustainable, long-term future.

“But when you see that path no longer being followed, or not very much of it, you can’t be anything but disappointed,” said Shaw Wednesday.

The update said the province is moving away from determining the amount that could be clear cut and mentioned no rules on whole-tree harvesting.

Department of Natural Resources Minister Lloyd Hines told the Chronicle Herald Thursday that big “game changers” led to some adjustments being made.

When the strategy was first released, there was a newspaper mill and major paper company in Nova Scotia. Now they’re closed, which limits the need for clear cutting.

“The strategy is a living document. It needs to be looked at periodically and adjusted,” Hines said.

He admitted that five years may have been too long to wait for adjutsments.

Over that time period, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has created a forest biodiversity science advisory committee, introduced a new Mineral Resources Act and secured the province’s park system.

Hines said they aren’t moving away from reducing clear cutting altogether, but are “moving toward a more workable solution.”

The 30,000 private landowners in the province are another barrier to reducing clear cutting. Hines said the province doesn’t have the right to tell them what to do on private land.

He said the province values all the expert opinions received over the years.

He said it’s their job to take those opinions, boil them down and consult with staff to figure out what works best.

This strategy began in 2009 with a public consultation that concluded the status quo couldn’t sustain forest biodiversity.

In 2010, a steering panel was formed to guide experts in the areas of parks, minerals, forests and biodiversity but panelists were spilt and couldn’t produce one report.

Two thought Nova Scotia forests had far surpassed sustainable forest harvesting and were now faced with restoring many forest species.

But the third panelist, Jonathan Porter, a senior executive with the now-defunct Bowater-Mersey Paper company, disagreed. He called for a milder range of management practises and better education on forestry issues.

In May 2014, he was hired as the executive director of the renewable resources branch of DNR.

Shaw can’t say for certain why most of the recommendations fell flat, but he can hazard a guess.

“The Department of Natural Resources has a long history of many . . . decades of being promoters and supporters of the pulp, paper and wood industry,” he said.

He said the recommendations he and his co-authors put forward didn’t deny those were important, but he said they weren’t the only important part of the larger picture.

Original publish date: Aug. 25, 2016

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