Clearcutting comes up in Nova Scotia Leaders’ Debate

It’s a sign of the times, I guess, that questions related to environment were not posed by the CBC hosts during the first 70 minutes of the 90 minute Leaders Debate yesterday evening.

They did come up in questions from viewers in the last 20 minutes, initiated by a question about the leaders’ positions on environment. Gary Burrill said the NDP would bring in an Environmental Bill of Rights; Jamie Baillie said the PCs would strengthen EGSPA, and Stephen McNeil said the Liberals are proud of their record on environment, citing the introduction of a cap and trade system that won’t impact Nova Scotian’s wallets as amongst the accomplishments. (I can’t see how how a cap and trade could work except by impacting wallets.)

The Liberals and NDP would maintain the moratorium on fracking; the PC’s would leave it up to communities.

McNeil as the third respondent to the environment question ended “on a final note” by bringing up forestry issues: “We have committed to an independent analysis of the way we are harvesting our Crown land”. In his constituency in SW Nova Scotia he is hearing a lot from private woodlot owners who can’t put their wood in the market place, and at the same time from constituents upset by the level of clearcutting on Crown land…we need to strike the right balance he said and that there will be no long term leases on Crown Land until we get that report.

The other leaders were asked about clearcutting. Baillie said there is far too much in the beautiful Wentworth Valley (in his constituency) and it was affecting winds, snow and runoff into some of our lakes. He said we need a complete review of Crown Land management and to figure out how to get jobs without these types of problems; and we need to look at both private and crown land.

Burrill said that for 25 years he has asked whether forestry in his constituency (the Musquodoboit area) is sustainable and the only yes answers he received came from people paid by others. He is very proud of the NDP government implementing the limit of 50% clearcutting; this was a limit come to by a democratic grass roots process; the abandonment of that limit limit and of whole tree harvesting is one of the singular failures of the McNeil government. I have yet to hear an NDP candidate admit that it was the Dexter government that blew the best opportunity we have had to “change the way forestry is done in Nova Scotia” as the ill-fated NSDNR Minister would say in 2010. The NDP needs to come clean on that front to have credibility when they talk about forestry today.

McNeil threw in a final comment citing Sid Prest as saying that we need to look at our forest resources by species and get the maximum we can from each species, not throw them all into one basket. I guess Mr. Prest was trying to educate Mr. McNeil on the basics. (I assume he was talking about the late Sid Prest, a woodlot owner from Mooseland and an NDP MLA.)

What does McNeil mean when he talks about “striking a balance”, citing private woodlot owners who can’t put their wood in the market place on the one hand and excessive clearcutting on Crown land on the other? Is there some connection?

I wish I had heard some comments on wildlife showing up in town centres (our “clearcut refugees“), the extreme acidification of soils in SW Nova Scotia, the potential of forests to sequester carbon, a bit of realism on the future of the fibre market, and perhaps some enthusiasm about the opportunities and benefits that could follow from more wood construction in Nova Scotia and how that could be stimulated. I hope they all talk to Robert Taylor (“cut less and do more“).

It seems none of these gentlemen had a very good handle on forestry issues, but at least forestry issues came up.

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