NSLFFPA blasts NDP support of 50% clearcutting goal

The Nova Scotia Landowners and Forest Fibre products Association (NSLFFPA) has placed an ad in the CH under the banner ATTENTION POLITICIANS (see page A5 of the print ed for May 23, 2017).

It begins with “Don’t mess up Nova Scotia’s private woodlots program”, goes through NSLFFPA’s history and adoption of FSC certification (“Eastern woodlot owners now comprise the fastest-growing FSC group certificate in Canada”), and then takes a blast at the “NDP promise to return to imposition of its previously discredited and repudiated notion of a 50% percent clearcut regulation…[which is] arbitrary and meaningless.”

The NSLFFPA clearly believes that its adherence to FSC standards ensures that its members are practicing good forestry. That could well be the case. However the oft-repeated statement that the 50% percent clearcut regulation is “arbitrary and meaningless” is simply not correct.

Following receipt of the Natural Resources Strategy reports in 2010, the NDP government of the day formulated a set of “strategic directions” one of which was the following:

Reduce the proportion of wood harvested by the clear cut method to no more than 50% of all forested lands over a five-year period. Commercial harvests will be registered with the Department of Natural Resources and progress will be reported annually. Existing ecosystem-based forest management analysis of Nova Scotia’s forests identifies approximately 50% of the land is appropriate for uneven-aged management. The Code of Forest Practice will provide consistent principles and standards of ecosystem-based science to support the goal.

That’s where the “50%” figure came from; it is not “an arbitrary number, with no solid supporting data” as one writer to the CH suggested or as the NSLFFPA suggests. Rather it corresponds to NSDNR’s estimate that “Frequent Disturbance Regimes [maintained on working forest land by even-aged management] are dominant on 43% of the landbase.” Thus the “50%” directive is actually higher than it should be; it should, according to NSDNR, be 43%.

This story gets more complicated, however, because the NSDNR estimates are considered by most, perhaps all, scientists outside of NSDNR to greatly overestimate the occurrence of Frequent Disturbance Regimes (and hence the appropriateness of clearcutting) on the Nova Scotian landscapes. (View NSDNR’s nature-based forestry.) Regardless, even NSDNR does not follow it’s own estimate of this number, practicing even-aged management on close to 90% of working forests on Crown lands (where it should be approximately 43%), and uneven-aged management on barely 10% of Crown land (where it should be approximately 51%.) View How much forestry in Nova Scotia maintains mixed, multi-aged Acadian forest?

Further complications arise from NSDNR’s definition of clearcutting (view: What’s a clearcut and what’s not a clearcut in Nova Scotia?).

The NSLFFPA ad states:

Approximately 50% of the private wood supply under forest management in eastern Nova Scotia is currently prescribed as non-clearcut. Why aren’t more non-clearcut treatments carried out? The problem is not intent, it is economic feasibility. And that will not be changed through legislation.

This statement leaves me more than a little confused about the purpose of the ad. It seems they are already at the 50% level to which they are objecting. I appreciate their frankness about economic realities.

‘Tip of the hat to MP for letting me know about the ad in the CH.

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For reference, the FSC Maritime standards state:

In order to reduce the threat to the Acadian Forest, the Forest Stewardship Council’s Maritime Region Standard requires that certified forest management operations work towards restoration of the natural features of the Acadian Forest. Two fundamental aspects of the restoration approach are ensuring a diverse and site-appropriate mixture of native species is maintained or restored, and that natural disturbance regimes are followed…

Uneven aged stand management is consistent with the natural disturbance pattern of most of the Acadian Forest; however, clear-cutting or other aspects of even-aged management may be appropriate when they are used as the best tools to restore the natural forest type, (including non-timber forest values), appropriate to the site (see the references provided in the Glossary definition of “eco-site”). This would apply to natural forest types such as jack pine, black spruce or black spruce/balsam fir and in scenarios such as over-mature white spruce fields, catastrophic insect infestation, or catastrophic wind-throw. If clear-cutting is used it is intended to restore natural forest types to natural configurations on the landscape rather than being intended to mimic catastrophic disturbances.

UPDATE: Some discussion followed this post:

COMMENT (May 24): In my view, a 50% rule, if not meaningless, is ineffective public policy, for 2 reasons:
(1) 50% of what? If harvests were to double again (which they won’t), a 50% rule would not reduce clear-cutting — only absolute volumes matter; and
(2) it is not workable in any event, because of these externalities:
— it would only apply to Crown lands, shifting commodity log supply to clear-cut private woodlots and out-of -province suppliers; and
— what would be the market for the selectively-cut 50% (at higher cost, not pulp or large saw mills). Do Nova Scotians really want to stockpile green wood to meet a 50% target? (Smacks of the NSP boiler ‘contributing’ to 20% renewables).
And who will pay for no-buyer selective cuts? The taxpayer, of course.
Reducing clear-cutting on shallow Acadian soils and near watercourses is a legitimate forest stewardship objective, but promoting unmanageable policies and instruments will not get there.

MY REPLY (May 24): Do you think these conditions [citing the for reference items above; i.e. In order to reduce the threat to the Acadian Forest…] are in fact being applied to lands under FSC stewardship? Or are they also unmanageable policies?

COMMENT (May 25): I think you are raising a much broader question about the legitimacy of FSC compliance audits… that is a topic well beyond my ken….so let’s ask one who knows more about the application of the maritime standard…do you have any sense that the FSC Maritime standard is unmanageable, or that certification of harvesting practices is fudged?

MY REPLY : I don’t really want to pursue the efficacy of FSC certification, my point was simply to correct the statement that the 50% goal had no basis, but I guess the question could be raised: are most clearcuts under FSC maritime standard viewed as one time cuts as an initial step in the transition to uneven-aged management as seems to be suggested should be the case by the standards:

Uneven aged stand management is consistent with the natural disturbance pattern of most of the Acadian Forest; however, clear-cutting or other aspects of even-aged management may be appropriate when they are used as the best tools to restore the natural forest type, (including non-timber forest values), appropriate to the site (see the references provided in the Glossary definition of “eco-site”). This would apply to natural forest types such as jack pine, black spruce or black spruce/balsam fir and in scenarios such as over-mature white spruce fields, catastrophic insect infestation, or catastrophic wind-throw. If clear-cutting is used it is intended to restore natural forest types to natural configurations on the landscape rather than being intended to mimic catastrophic disturbances.”

COMMENT FROM ANOTHER (Extracts, May 25): My understanding of this situation is that basically the case has been made by DNR that a fixed number target is arbitrary and we should be focusing on ecosystem based decision making. To that effect they are right, and I would say that this is also consistent with how FSC standards would be evaluated.

The part of this that is disingenuous, is that everyone knows far more clearcutting occurs than could ever be justified by interpreting the natural ecosystem. In fact it is so out of whack that perhaps a “target” of some kind provided a useful reference point to see if our policies were having the desired effect of bringing us closer to the natural disturbance patterns and forest structure.

What I also find very misleading about this whole debate is that both sides only talk about harvest methods in a single moment of that forest’s lifecycle. What management practices, or lack there of, led to the point where a clearcut was the appropriate choice? …There is a logic to clearcutting as a silvicultural method, but it goes along with 2 to 3 follow on treatments over the next 30 years that are required to actually achieve the renewal of healthy forest structure.

The other trap that everyone is still stuck in is that we continue to focus on the Crown land story. It is so much easier to point the finger at few people down at Founders Square, than it is to figure out how to work with 30,000 individual landowners. If we have any hope of affecting forest conservation goals we really need to take this challenge on.

MY THOUGHT: Agreed!



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