Zack M on the difference between the forests of Nova Scotia, BC and Scotland

In the midst of Zack’s article bemoaning our loss of spectacular forests, a video-ad appeared extolling the benefits of our current forestry practices

A remnant patch of old growth hardwoods in Nova Scotia

“Why”, asked Zack Metcalfe, “are the wilds of Canada’s West Coast fundamentally more spectacular than those of the Maritimes?”

From foresters to botanists, he could “only get informed theories and stumped expressions”. That was until, over a cold beer, “someone I respect a great deal, with decades of experience behind their answer, leaned forward and shared the big picture:

“Zack, consider the pastures of Scotland. They seem to go on forever, naturally, interrupted by only the occasional tree. But it wasn’t always like that. Scotland was once a forested country, except generations of cutting has left it bare. Now look at Nova Scotia. We still have forests here, but how many times have they been cut over? Four? Five? We impoverish our soils with every clearcut and what grows back is a little less impressive than its original self. So we’re in the middle stage. Out West, their forests have only been cut over once or twice, never in some cases. Harvesting over there is still out of control, but their forests haven’t dealt with it long enough to lose their size or beauty.
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Annapolis Co. continues efforts to realize more control over forestry practices

A lot of Annapolis Co. looked like this in late May, 2017.

Probably no single event/action had more influence on the McNeil Government’s decision to set up an Independent Review of Forest Practices than the letter to Premier McNeil from Annapolis co (in the Premier’s riding) in the spring of 2017 requesting an exclusion from the impending WestFor agreement.

An article by Lawrence Powell in the Yarmouth County Vanguard, Apr 11, 2018 describes the work the Annapolis Co. has been doing since then to make themselves forests and forestry-literate and to develop a vision of the type of forestry they want to see in Annapolis Co., with specific proposals.

The warden [Timothy Habinski] said the first goal of the committee is to produce a plan for a municipally owned forest governed by best practices.
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Mills in Nova Scotia not sharing the good times with woodlot owners


So says Tom Miller of Greenhill commenting on Aaron Beswick’s Cutting in Cumberland County: Even a clearcut can have its place (Chronicle Herald, Apr 7, 2018):

True, clearcuts have a place, but not on 90 per cent of forest areas cut every year. That’s where this province is with our forest “management.”
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Clearcutting by smaller players on private woodlots in Nova Scotia

An article in the Chronicle Herald by Aaron Beswick presents a favourable perspective on at least some clearcutting in Nova Scotia, that conducted on private lots in Cumberland managed by Athol Forestry Cooperative. View Cutting in Cumberland County: Even a clearcut can have its place (Chronicle Herald, Apr 7, 2018).

I can appreciate, alway have, that there are many private woodlot owners and managers who practice responsible forestry with a long term perspective and involving some clearcutting as described in the article. And I am happy to see some positive, optimistic news about smaller scale forestry in Cumberland Co.

Some interesting and I think fairly constructive discussion of the article developed fairly promptly on Woods and Waters Nova Scotia, reproduced below.
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The Mill – crunch time is approaching and works to The Mill’s advantage

So here we are, time has run out and it will literally be a choice between “No Pipe/No Mill” and “Pipe in the Strait/No Mill” which has one logical outcome: No Mill (and a lot of angry people). But don’t expect a logical outcome.

Map with features on a map posted on a Northern Pulp website. “Our proposal is to construct an Effluent Treatment Facility on land at the mill property, and lay a pipeline on the bottom of Pictou Harbour, avoiding constraints as much as possible, that will carry the treated effluent to an outfall and multi-port diffuser in the Pictou Road area of the Northumberland Strait. The proposed location of the diffuser is within the same body of water (Pictou Road) as the discharge point for the existing Boat Harbour facility.”
Click on image to enlarge it

We are in a strange kind of space decision-wise regarding the Pictou Mill with Asia Pulp and Paper/Paper Excellence Canada/Northern Pulp/The Mill strategizing and negotiating in Trump style on two key issues – the type of Effluent Treatment Facility (ETF) that will replace the Boat Harbour treatment facility, and who pays for it – as deadlines for approval and construction of the ETF loom large.

The NS government  didn’t help its bargaining position by imposing a deadline for shutting down Boat Harbour with no parameters on the alternatives, and it seems, no deadline for The Mill to have its plan ready for an EA. (View Boat Harbour Act – Bill 89)
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An optimistic perspective about the future of Nova Scotia forests and forestry from “The Boot”

Geoff offers four reasons to be optimistic

The Boot (left) ponders the location during a training session in old forest assessment on the St. Margaret’s Bay Bowater-Mersey lands, Nov 24, 2016. Photo by John Himmelman
Click to enlarge

“The Boot” as I like to call Geoff LeBoutilier, has had successes and setbacks in his decades long efforts to foster healthy communities and healthy lands in his beloved St. Margaret’s Bay area, and beyond. He was the driver behind formation of the St. Margaret’s Bay Stewardship Association in 2003, which subsequently campaigned for protection of Micou’s and Troop islands and today sponsors a highly successful Eyes On Islands: St. Margaret’s Bay Island Community Stewardship Program amongst many other activities. Geoff was highly active in the ultimately successful, community based efforts to protect the Five Bridge Lakes Wilderness Area.
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Harold Alexander defends Nova Scotia’s Forest Biomass projects, promotes Finnish model

But it is far from clear that Finland has figured it all out

In a blistering op-ed a few days ago, somewhat contradicting opinions expressed earlier, Harold Alexander goes after the “steady stream of similarly negative articles and opinions in The Chronicle Herald about the biomass power plant at Port Hawkesbury Paper” and provides “another opinion that is based on facts rather than hearsay and innuendo”, citing his own experience and information gained on visits to Finland.

View COMMENTARY: In Finland, biomass is not a dirty word
by Harold Alexander in the Chronicle Herald, Mar 30, 2018
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Nature Conservancy of Canada proposes innovative approach to accessing wilderness area: underground parking and elevator

“In September HRM [Halifax Regional Municipality] announced that the tentative agreement for the Urban Wilderness Park on the Purcell’s Cove Backlands would include a parking lot and main entrance.

“Since then some questions have been raised about the concept and possible scale of parking adjacent to a wilderness area.

“Nature Conservancy Canada in partnership with urban parking specialists UrbanMobility has arrived at a solution that will provide for those who visit by car while meeting the concerns of conservationists.
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Lessons from New Hampshire: clearcutting on acidified soil reduces sugar maple regeneration, favours beech

And in Nova Scotia, after the feller bunchers have gone, and with them, the sugar maple and the birds nests and the salamander habitat, silence reigns supreme, especially the silence from NSDNR on the subject of forest soil nutrient deficits

“Clearcut on Crown land in the Oak Lake area west of Lake Paul, fall 2017. It was a hardwood hill (predominantly sugar maple/red maple) overlooking the lake. A local maple syrup producer would have leased the Crown property for a sugar bush.” – Bob Bancroft.
Click on photo for a larger version

I have commented before on losses of nutrients, especially calcium, in forest soils over a large portion of the Nova Scotia landscape due to acid rain combined with the the inherently poor buffering capacity of forest soils developed on slates, granites and felsic bedrock on about 60% of our landscape. Clearcutting increases the losses through direct removal in harvested biomass and through increased leaching and loss of topsoil.

The loss of calcium in particular has been recognized as a major ecological issue for forests in northeastern North America affected by acid rain. Declines in calcium under forests are having diverse adverse effects either through calcium deficiency directly or indirectly through enhanced aluminum mobilization and mercury toxicity, effects being observed on zooplankton, forest herbs, invertebrates, song birds, cold tolerance of red spruce , sugar maple decline, loon reproduction.
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New Ecological Land Classification doc released by Nova Scotia DNR

Fortunately, one doesn’t really have to understand all of the nuances of hierarchical landscape classification or of the debates about natural disturbance regimes to appreciate most of this work as a guide to the landscapes of Nova Scotia.

An article in the March 2018 issue of Atlantic Forestry Review* alerted me that the latest version of DNR’s Ecological Land Classification (ELC) is now available online as a PDF document:

Ecological Land Classification for Nova Scotia, by Peter Neily, Sean Basquill, Eugene Quigley and Kevin Keys. Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources Renewable Resources Branch Report FOR 2017-13.

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