Three companies have been charged for illegally clear cutting at Long Lake Provincial Park in the Halifax area.
The province alleges 3.8 hectares or about 10 acres of trees were cut last November.
Nearby resident and retired environmental studies professor, Martin Willison, was among the first to discover the incident and says it “hurt in the pit of my stomach.”
“A local person told me about it and he showed me. He was really shocked and I was shocked when I saw it,” Willison said. “So we went to the MLA and we basically sat in his office and said, ‘We’re not leaving until something gets done about this.'”
That prompted an investigation by provincial conservation officers.
On Monday, the province announced Dexter Construction Company Ltd., Resourcetec Inc. and Scott and Stewart Forestry Consultants Ltd. Had all been charged with violating the Crown Lands Act and summons had been served on May 13.
Penalties can include fines, land remediation and recovery of double the market value of any wood cut, which was $4,000 in this case.
“I think this is very important to know that we aren’t going to tolerate this as a province,” said Margaret Miller, Nova Scotia’s environment minister.
“I can’t speak for exactly how this happened, or why it happened or anything else. That will all come out in the court proceedings, no doubt. But certainly, it should make people more aware that if they’re cutting in woods near crown land, they need to pay attention.”
Statement from companies charged
In a statement, Scott and Stewart Forestry Consultants Ltd. and its subsidiary, Resourcetec Inc., said they have fully cooperated with the investigation and are “looking forward to a prompt and fair resolution of these issues.”
The statement from president Shaun Scott goes on to say, “We are proud of our companies and the work we do in Nova Scotia’s forests. We respect Crown lands and are committed to advancing this common natural inheritance now, and in the future.”
Dexter Construction Company Ltd. declined to comment at time of publishing.
Remediation could take decades
While the court process continues, attention is now being turned to the future of the park and possible remediation of the site.
Minister Miller says there is no doubt she would like to see remediation take place.
“The site will be remediated one way or another. We’ve actually seen people come forward like the boy scouts who say that they want to plant trees,” she said. “Nova Scotians want to see the site remediated.”
However, Willison says he thinks the best option for the site would not involve re-planting. Rather, he believes the site should be left alone to recover on its own, which could take decades.
“If it’s left alone, the natural forest will eventually come back up again and it will be the same rich mix of trees that were there before they were cut down,” Willison said.
“If what happens is that big machines go in and removes the wood that is knocked down, that will do even more damage to the site.”
He says the the site is a boreal forest that was popular with local birders and the trees that were cut down ranged in age from 40 to over 100 years old.