Neal Livingston: We need good public policy to drive the transition to better forestry in Nova Scotia

Specifics are given in an 8-stage plan to transition from clearcutting to a selection cutting forest economy

How can we make the transition from clearcutting to selection management in Nova Scotia? The same way we transitioned to recycling, with defined stages and absolute deadlines, says Neal Livingston.

Margaree Environmental Association activist, woodlot owner, power producer and filmmaker Neal Livingston, interviewed about forestry on the Sheldon Macleod show the day after the Leader’s Debate, said that he has been looking at what’s happening in other jurisdictions, Ontario and Quebec in particular. There, large scale clearcutting is largely restricted to the boreal forest in the north and there is much more selection management in the mixed forests and hardwoods in the south.

Macleod had worked in the woods and on blueberry fields 30 years ago. Then the mantra was economies of scale, and the use of big machinery to get costs down. It hasn’t worked…Livingston said satellite images illustrate the massive cutting that has occurred and that now nobody really makes any money. The contractors with the million dollar machines can barely make their payments and wood prices have been down for the last 20 years. Nova Scotia government policy over the last 40 plus years has driven down pricing, making wood into a cheaply priced fibre instead of valuable materials. Woodlot owners are getting 30-40% less than they got 15 years ago.

We need to look into selection cutting as Quebec and Ontario are doing, and to stop pretending we live in a different world than the best jurisdictions on forest policy. Livingston found that a private woodlot owner in Quebec gets 1000 dollars more per truckload at the mill gate than he gets. That’s simply government policy, says Livingston. We need to think about how we make the transition to better forestry, and he has concluded we should do it the same way we transitioned to recycling, with specific stages and absolute deadlines. This will create more employment and people would feel better about it. So would the birds with about 80,000 nests a year currently being lost to clearcutting.

Livingston said it is not a matter of big versus small, you can do selection management with large machinery or small, you can even do it with the same equipment and skilled operators involved in clearcutting. Rather it is a matter of government policy. In eastern Nova Scotia two high value businesses have closed, one producing fine wood flooring that exported millions of dollars a years products, and another which closed in Antigonish, both because of government policies.

It’s important for Nova Scotians to look at other jurisdictions that have made the transition to better forestry; we can too, says Livingston.

To listen to the full interview, see The Sheldon MacLeod Show – 1 pm; select the segment for May 19, 2017, 02:40 PM

In a media advisory (May 17, 2017), The Margaree Environmental Association provides more specifics on how this transition could be programmed:

The Margaree Environmental Association releases plan for Nova Scotia to transition from clearcutting to a selection cutting forest economy. The MEA calls on all political parties to embrace this transition with set time lines for action, similar to how Nova Scotia adopted recycling.
The Forest Economy Post-Clearcutting:
For decades the Margaree Environmental Association has been challenging government forestry policies and proposing alternatives to the current practices. MEA has opposed the use of herbicides, and promoted manual weeding; challenged the widespread use of clearcutting, and proposed small scale, site-specific harvesting methods; protested against the “dumbing-down” of our industry in its dependence on pulp and biomass, and called for government support to diverse value-added industries. MEA has conducted its campaigns through public education, government lobbying, industry collaboration, litigation, NGO cooperation, and media releases. Out of these activities has emerged a vision for the future of our forest industry, with systemic change that translates into a wide range of business and employment opportunities aimed at adding value to our forests and protecting the forest environment. Below is an outline of MEA’s proposal for change:

1) December 1, 2017: Implement an End to Clearcutting in Nova Scotia:
– Define timelines to phase out clearcutting, and replace with alternative harvesting methods.
– A new Department of Sustainable Forestry should be formed coming out of the 2017 N.S. election; new jobs, new descriptions, new people.
– An immediate halt and ban to all hardwood and mixed wood clear cutting.

2) December 2017 – March 2018: Training and Retraining for The Forest Economy Post-Clearcutting:
– Train tree markers. The Canadian or Ontario Tree Markers Association has offered to run training courses in N.S. (contact Kari Easthouse- he can co-ordinate these courses).
– Retrain harvester machine operators for selection cutting, species optimizing, working with machines and tree marking. (This is all very doable, as these are highly skilled operators.)
– Establish a team of monitors and inspectors to work with and coordinate tree markers with the harvester machine operators. (The whole process should be one of co-operation to build successful relationships among harvesters, tree markers, and government services people.

3) March 2018: Eliminate Exemptions:
– End the practice of clearcutting forests, without guidelines, under the pretense of establishing farmland such as blueberries. To proceed with site conversion to agriculture, the farmer must demonstrate the funds are available, and must be bonded.
– Employ inspectors, and establish policy and guidelines.

4) March – July 2018: Develop Non-Clear cut Strategies for all Forest Types:
– Softwoods, mixed woods and hardwoods, all subject to non-clear cut prescription.
– Softwoods extended to 100 year rotation in which no more than 10% of a softwood forest can be clear cut in any ten year period.
– Mixed woods – no clearcutting
– Hardwoods – no clear cutting

5) May 2018: Ban the Use of Herbicides on all N.S. Forests
– Where appropriate, utilize manual weeding to eliminate competition to high value stands.
– Develop training programs and introduce subsidies.

6) June – September 2018: Develop a Viable Forest Economy for Private Woodlot Owners:
– Prices to private woodlot owners should match prices paid in other provinces under their marketing boards for private woodlots. (Currently in Quebec this price is approximately $1,000.00 more per tandem truck load at the mill gate.)
– Large industrial landowners such as Wagner and Northern Pulp do not get this pricing, nor should they have access to government funds to supplement their forest operations.
– The additional money paid to private woodlot owners will be paid through higher Crown Land stumpage rates. (This will create a more level playing field in the N.S. forest industry.)
– Review, reduce and possibly end subsidies for reforestation and roads. (These subsidies have driven the clear cut economy.)

7) June – December 2018: Develop a Sustainable Hardwood Management and Utilization Strategy:
– Create strategies appropriate for a diverse hardwood industry to support the development of private businesses, co-operatives, and allocation and marketing structures. (Consult with experts such as Tom Webb, St Mary’s University Co-operative Department, and current and former business owners in the hardwood industry.)
– Add value to currently underutilized and low priced species. (To note: clear Spruce and Larch flooring commands a price comparable to hardwood flooring, indicating a high end market for softwoods.)

8) December 2018: Implement Policies and Regulations to Increase the use of N.S. Wood Products in Local Buildings:
– Define and establish appropriate regulations, such as amendments to the Building Code that will ensure that Nova Scotia homes and buildings are built out of Nova Scotia wood. (The current trend toward imported composite structural components should be critically reviewed, with the intention of promoting quality local wood solids for building structures.)

Source: Neal Livingston

‘Sounds like a plan that most Nova Scotian would support. Thanks N.L.

Also view Tree Marking – why not in Nova Scotia? (Post. Nov 10, 2016) for more good sense from C.B. and about regulations in Ontario.

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