CBC Mainstreet on clearcutting near Gully Lake Wilderness Area

On CBC Mainstreet yesterday afternoon, CBC host Bob Murphy interviewed Raymond Plourde (Wilderness Coordinator for the Ecology Action Centre) and Karen Beazley (Professor in the School of Resource and Environmental Studies at Dalhousie University) about the effects of clearcutting close to protected areas, citing recent concern about clearcuts close to the Gully Lake Wilderness Area (GLWA).

Following is a rough transcript from the CBC audio file, for the record.

What’s the big deal – it’s only 16 ha?
Murphy asked about the value of the GLWA and why cutting only 16 ha on its border, only a small part of it clearcut, should be a big deal.

RP: It’s a big deal because it happens all of the time. Last summer they were doing the same thing with Keji; eventually they backed off on 6 ha. Just today…there are new clearcuts being proposed close to a Nature Reserve in Guysborough Co. When you look at the cumulative effects of these cuts, it’s basically the whole eastern side of this small nature reserve that is being clearcut. (See More cutting near Nova Scotia Protected Areas…now Loon Lake Nature Reserve).

Beazley: Sharp edges and roads associated with clearcuts impact protected areas
Karen Beazley was also asked why clearcutting close to GLWA should be a big deal. Beazley said such cuts are a big deal because of cumulative effects. With cuts here, there and everywhere, we end up with a forest becoming increasing fragmented, small, and isolated. There is a large science on effects of fragmentation. There are the effects related to the introduction of sharp edges and associated with the roads that come along with forestry. Suddenly there is a hard edge between the forest and the open area of a clearcut with windthrow and more light coming in; it’s better for species like deer and coyote, but worse for species like martin and lynx. The more endangered species are getting squeezed out by species more adapted to edges and open areas.

The roads also enable more human access. There are reports that people will go about 1 km into the forest from a road to harvest a moose; they tend not to go further than that because it’s a heavy animal. Roads coming close to a wilderness area facilitate grater human access; you can then get in with ATVs, do hunting, fishing or poaching… it increases the cumulative effects on the protected wilderness area.

Buffer Zones
The interview with RP continued. Is he advocating no cutting or different styles of cutting? RP: Clearcutting is over-used. There is obviously going to be some economic use and if conducted sensitively it can be OK. However, because of the way most harvesting is done, we need a buffer area in which there could be some cutting but not wholesale removal, so that the canopy can be retained. There would necessarily be less wood coming out which is probably why clearcuts are prescribed. But the attitude in the department (NSDNR) is the problem, which is: “if its protected it doesn’t get clearcut, if it isn’t, it gets clearcut”.

Is it possible that when the government sets up a protected area, it includes a buffer zone inside the boundary? RP: No. These were areas that were the core available areas for protection; they did not build in a buffer. That’s what industry/DNR are concerned about, that buffers mean making the Protected Areas effectively bigger; but, no, its about proper management on a landscape level which we are currently just not doing.

Is clearcutting the only approach that is economic? RP: it depends on what you are trying to do with a forest economy. We are pursuing a high volume/low value commodity product model. There are others where you grow bigger better trees and turn them into more valuable products.

What about the clearcutting near Keji last year; critics were concerned about the endangered blanding’s turtle; the government did defer citting on 6 of the 100 ha; did that address the concerns? RP: No…it was just window dressing. It’s a deferral only.

On the Map Viewer as the only venue for community input
RP: The government did similar things with some of the Bowater lands that the province purchased for a lot of money. It was expected that communities would have a say in the management of those lands but they are largely kept out of it. The Harvest Viewer Map is pretty well the only way to see what’s going on and communicate back to the government. It’s a short window given, only 20 days, to comment and you better know what you are doing and you often don’t see the cumulative effect of what occurred in the past. That’s not what the Natural Resources Strategy promised; it said that the old arrangement whereby the government (DNR) and industry were the decision-makers should be broadly opened up to include communities, different geographic communities, communities of interest, environmental groups, academics and so on but they are just not in the mix today. There is no roundtable to make decisions. We learn about proposed cuts through a piece of online software that is difficult to understand and then we are given 20 days to try and give them a reason they will accept to back off.

The election: do urban and rural constituents see things differently?
RP was asked about the election – do you think any meaningful change will come out of the promises? RP: We were supposed to be at 50% clearcutting within 5 years (2016) but we’re closer to 90%. He felt that the McNeil’s promise for an independent review by an outside consultant would just address wood supply.

What about rural areas, do rural people have a different view? Do they say we need the jobs and if clearcutting is the way to do it then the we need to do it that way. RP: Nobody says that; rather the government and industry say it’s all it’s science based… but there is no science that says we need to clearcut on short rotations.

RP said that EAC has done polling and 94% of all Nova Scotians want some form of regulation, either a complete ban (22%) or strict regulations (72%), and it was exactly the same between and rural and urban residents. There is the idea that rural people are all happy with it and it’s the city slickers who don’t like it, but that’s wrong – its the rural people who live with it; they see it, feel it and don’t like it.

Bob Murphy commented after the interview that at some point during the day, NSDNR changed clearcuts on the map to partial cuts. (See post) CBC will get a clarification from Natural Resources and hope to bring that on tomorrow’s (May 25) program.
UPDATE: NSDNR responded to CBC in writing that it was a technical error, they should not have been posted as partial cuts, not clearcuts. NSDNR declined to be intervewed on the topic.
Stay Tuned!

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