Annapolis Co. warden says municipalities should have a say in forestry practices in Nova Scotia

Why not? Ontario passed legislation enabling municipalities to pass Tree Bylaws in 1946!

A lot of Annapolis Co. looked like this in late May, 2017 and there’s more on the way.

In early March, Annapolis County council sent a letter to Premier McNeil (also the MLA for the area) requesting that the county be excluded from the impending WestFor agreement for one year so that council and staff could review the agreement and make recommendations.

That was very likely a factor in the Liberal Government’s pre-election announcement that they would “appoint an independent expert to review our forestry practices to ensure we strike the right balance for our forests. This review will get underway as soon as possible, starting first in the western region.” (In the Budget Address, Apr 27, 2017)

I have seen no word in the public media about any response to this letter, but a CBC post By Emma Smith today (Apr 23, 2017) provided some details:

Lloyd Hines, then the minister in charge of the Department of Natural Resources, responded in April saying that [a 1-year moratorium] wouldn’t happen but that the province was open to meeting with the municipality. 

After another letter from Timothy Habinski [Warden of Annapolis Co.) deputy minister Julie Towers wrote earlier this month that the Forest Utilization License Agreement, the contract between the province and WestFor, is still being developed and cannot be shared until it’s finalized.  

The CBC post cites comments by Timothy Heabisnski, who was interviewed by Louise Renault for Information Morning this a.m. Following is an abbreviated transcript of the 8-minute interview.

Question: How much land is involved?
T.H.: About 14% of Ann Co. is Crown forest.* ‘Don’t know how much or how rapidly they are planning to cut that area.
*That number seems low – see map. I couldn’t locate any figures for the area of Crown land by county for N.S.

Question: Why don’t you know more?
T.H.: We have asked and requested an opportunity to see the contract… the province is reluctant to hand out information to a municipality because forestry is not under municipal jurisdiction… We need to move past our traditional notions of what municipal jurisdiction is supposed to be… this is the level of government closest to the people… we are supposed to be their advocates. It’s an issue of concern to residents of Ann Co. and therefore we need to be concerned.

I understand why they said No… We had asked for a moratorium on clearcutting in Annapolis County for one year to give us an opportunity to become familiar with the terms of the contract and get our heads around the implications of cutting on this scale for the region… When you have a machine as large as the province and a corporation like WestFor that’s moving in a direction, there’s a lot of inertia and to simply say please stop we think is not as persuasive as you might like it to be.

We don’t have staff who are trained and who already experts… so we have to tool up, four councilors are taking it up….learning as much as they possibly can about the history of forestry in Nova Scotia, the state of the legislation right now, some the best practices that are happening elsewhere in the world, and the practices that are common to Atlantic Canada. Rather than just waiving a red flag it would be much better if we had a proposal to say we would rather see this happen rather than that.

We are the people who live on the land being directly affected… very little benefit goes to the county, but we are affected. The impact can be very significant, if you remove a large portion of our forests through clearcuts you drastically reduce the the ability of the area to funtion as a carbon sink; you drastically affect the flow of water, you change the ability of the forests to regrow, with each clearcut, the less biodiversity you have in the forest that regrows. We live here, it’s the air we breathe and the water we drink, there are implications.. we have to assume: if not us then who?

Question: Can you give some examples of areas cut?
T.H.: An area by Keji Park has upset a lot of people. Keji is a unique ecosystem. People who visit Keji and love it and go back each year have been dismayed seeing how extensive the clearcutting is. It’s fairly adjacent to the park and if you turn the park into an island you have an impact on every animal species that migrates….you can’t bash the wall out of a house and expect the rest of the house remains unchanged.

Question: How do you respond to the argument that we need the jobs?
T.H.: Scandinavia from Finland through to Denmark has about the same forestry resources as Canada has yet they reap many times the financial benefit from their forestry industry than we do yet they do virtually no clearcutting. They are better at applying different forestry techniques… They get more jobs and more local benefit from their forestry industries without engaging in the clearcutting that we do here… we need to look for those models and try to find ways to apply those best practices to what we do here.

Question: What’s next?
T.H.: Research. Lots of it and dialogue with the province. We want to find a way forward together.

It’s the first mention I have heard of from an elected official in Nova Scotia of the notion that the municipality should have a say in forestry practices. Just that happens in Ontario, where as Minga O’Brien described “forestry practices in central and southern Ontario are miles ahead of the rest of the country. The bulk of the harvesting is by selection management and they get far more value added per cubic meter of harvested wood than in any other province; next would be Quebec while Nova Scotia is close to the bottom. These practices generate more wealth and do a much better job of maintaining forest ecosystems in the process.” Minga talked about the Tree Bylaws in Ontario which can be implemented by counties, regional governments, cities and towns. Legislation enabling such bylaws has been in place since 1946!

So now we waiting for the Independent Review of Forestry. The CBC post had some new info on that also:

It was expected to wrap up this September, but that deadline is now uncertain. 

“I really don’t have a timeline specifically,” Margaret Miller, the new minister of natural resources, told reporters this week. “Obviously everybody wants it done yesterday … but we want to make sure we’ve got that right person who’s going to bring that right balance.” 

Miller said her department is still developing the terms of reference and has yet to hire the independent expert who will run the review. She said there are few details on what the review will entail, including whether there will be public consultation.

“We’re going to allow that person quite a bit of leeway to determine how he wants to move forward,” she said.

In the meantime, clearcutting continues unabated in Annapolis Co., and in the Wentworth Valley, and on Bowater (now provincial) lands by the Scout Camp and just about everywhere.

I have the feeling, however, that the sands are shifting, kicked off by the open minds, commitment to people and place, and actions of Warden Heabisnski and the whole Annapolis Co. Municipal Council. Thanks, Annapolis Co.

UPDATE July 6, 2017: View also Turned Down — Annapolis County determined to find better way to manage forests
Annapolis Co. Spectator, July 4, 2017. Article by Lawrence Powell


Thanks to PP for directing me to the CBC post.

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