Ecological Forestry Forum updates stakeholders on changes to forestry industry

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WATCH: Nova Scotia's forestry minister held a meeting in Truro to talk to industry about the changes his government is making. Alicia Draus has the details – Jun 25, 2019

Nova Scotia’s Department of Lands and Forestry held a forum for stakeholders on Ecological Forestry Tuesday at Dalhousie University’s Agricultural Campus in Truro.

Lands and Forestry Minister Iain Rankin and Deputy Minister Julie Towers were present to update stakeholders on current projects supporting the government’s response to the independent review of forest practices that was released by Bill Lahey last year.

READ MORE: Nova Scotia review recommends ‘fundamental’ changes to forestry industry

Rankin said their goal was to show people what they’ve been working on.

“But also more importunately to get feedback from interested Nova Scotians on the things we are working on,” said Rankin.

The forum focused on eight projects;

  1. Forest Management Guide
  2. High Production Forestry
  3. Natural Disturbance Regimes
  4. Old Forest
  5. Outcomes-based Forest Management
  6. Reporting on the State of the Forest
  7. Small Scale Wood Energy Initiative
  8. Species at Risk Program Renewal

“Today is about an opportunity to tell you about some of the work we’ve been doing,” Towers told those in attendance. “We’re not saying, ‘Here’s all the answers,’ we’re saying, ‘Here’s the directions we’re heading, what do you think?'”

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Of the projects discussed, the Forest Management Guide is one of the few to be completed by the end of the year. The objective is to review and update the current pre-treatment assessment (PTA) process and the Forest Management Guide to focus on long-lived, uneven-aged management species in support of the conservation and sustainable use of Nova Scotia’s natural resources.

The revised PTA process will be expanded to include biodiversity values.

“What we’re hearing a lot from the public is they want to see more multi-age type of management of the forest, with a greater emphasis on the mixed species and wildlife and biodiversity,” said Rankin.

“I think that’s where we’re going to be able to get tangible progress on the operational decisions.”

READ MORE: Nova Scotia to lower clear-cutting on Crown lands, minister says

Also set to get underway this year is the Small Scale Wood Energy Initiatve, which aims to replace fossil fuel heating systems with wood chip heating systems in select public buildings. The minister says that six buildings have already been identified to make the switch, with a list of about one hundred other facilities to be considered for further expansion of the project.

“We’re following a model in Prince Edward island which had basically an opportunity for woodland owners to sell the lower value type of products,” said Rankin. “So the things that wouldn’t make it to the saw mill for timber of saw logs.

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Raymond Plourde with the Ecology Action Centre says he is supportive of the directions the government is looking to go in response to the Lahey report, but says he takes some issue with this initiative.

“Using saw mill residuals or silviculture thinnings may be worth considering, but not as long as the big wasteful biomass electricity generators that NS Power and Emera are running in this province,” he said.

Plourde says he’d like to see both biomass plants in the province shut down before more efforts to convert wood to energy take effect.

“We think the forest has already been pounded pretty heavily for pulp and paper and lumber and other things and adding damage upon damage by burning trees particularly  for electricity is foolish in this age of climate change,” he said.

“It’s wasteful of our already beleaguered forests.”

Other stakeholders had questions about how the forestry report could impact private land owners. The government is currently focusing its efforts and regulations on Crown land. Andy Kekacs with the Nova Scotia Woodlot Owners and Operators Association says the government is introducing sweeping changes to the industry, which could impact private land owners.

“These people, in many cases, don’t understand very much about forestry, or were told that only a particular kind of forestry was reasonable on their land who now have to be explained what did Lahey say, why is it important, what does it mean for me,” he said.

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The association has since voted to start a family forest centre to address some of the concerns.

“If the government is going to work on Crown land first, there are still things that need to happen on private lands and we need to help them begin to understand what these recommendations mean for their own personal holdings,” he said.

The department will be compiling comments from the forum and including them in a summary report to be posted online in two weeks. Towers said they plan to have additional opportunities to consult and get feedback from stakeholders as they move forward with the various projects.

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