Rick Howe talks to Scott Leslie about his birds-eye views

Birds-eye views of clearcuts in Cape Breton. Click on image for more

On January 5, 2018, Rick Howe interviewed Naturalist/Photographer Scott about his new book and some of his views, literal and opinion-wise, on forestry in Nova Scotia. An abbreviated transcript of the interview is given below.

Rick Howe: There is a new book out, Untamed Atlantic Canada, it explores the region’s biodiversity havens. Nature photographer and naturalist Scott Leslie is the author. He’s got some real concerns as well about clearcutting and mining damage being done to NS’s forests… he joins me from his home in Bear River, NS.
[Your book] Untamed Atlantic Canada… amazing photos covering a wide range of species…

Scott Leslie:
It involves a lot more than pushing a shutter, you have to gain the confidence of the wildlife and get very close to them to get those shots..

Rick Howe: What is the problem with clearcutting and mining?

Scott Leslie: It has been a big concern over the last few years especially. NS made a lot of progress up until a few years ago with regard to protecting important natural areas of the province, and we were also on track in terms of having a sustainable forestry policy for the rest of the province outside of the protected areas. But in the last few years there has been rampant clearcutting on both Crown and private lands.

I have done quite a bit of drone photography to document the magnitude of some of the damage that’s being done to the forests.

Rick Howe: Well tell me the extent of the damage because I am told that if you flew over NS, your mind would be blown by the empty spaces…once we get past the perimeter along the road if you get into the air you would see a lot of the bald patches that dot this province.

Scott Leslie: It’s absolutely astounding. In June I was in the Cape Breton highlands north of Margaree in the vicinity of the watershed for the famed Margaree salmon river and the size of the cuts is mind-blowing.

… to see them using a small drone from some height you get a real perspective of justs how unsustainable this practice must be.. there are swaths that must be 2-3 km square, every single tree is being cut to the ground… As a wildlife photographer and somebody who loves nature, I really fear for our migratory birds. Just think of a warbler returning in the springtime to its nesting area and there is nothing there. What do these species do? The magnitude of it is pretty incredible.

Rick Howe: We have had many conversations with Bob Bancroft about the state of our forests and it’s his belief that right now the forest industry is basically running government policy down at DNR, would you agree with that?

Scott Leslie: That’s what it looks like to me. I just watched an interview the Chronicle Herald had with the premier just before Christmas regarding different subjects and one of the ones they talked about most at length was clearcutting… it sounds to me that he is saying what people want to hear…

I have heard from many people that the technocrats and bureaucrats in DNR are pretty much dictating… That department used to have three purposes, one to protect our land base, another to provide parks for the public, and the third to have a sustainable forestry industry for the province. Buts it’s like those first two priorities have completely gone by the wayside, and now everything.. not to be euphemistic about it.. it’s basically raping what’s left of NS’s forests and what’s going to happen in 10-15 years there will be no more forest industry left? If the argument is always about jobs, for the sake of a few short term jobs and most of the money possibly going to the bigwigs in industry, in the future I can’t see much being left for the rural forest contractor, truck drivers and so on as there will be nothing left for them.

Recent aerial photos by Scott Leslie of the East Kemptville mine near Yarmouth, across the 203 highway from the Tobeatic Wilderness Area. “Although it closed in 1992 and it’s been 25 years, it’s hard to see any evidence of remediation.”
Click on photo for larger version

Rick Howe: Mining as well, there was a recent rally up in Kelly’s Mt to protest plans to quarry part of that area..

Scott Leslie: Mining is potentially a huge issue. The Mining Associatoon of NS is trying to gain access into NS’s protected areas, areas set up to protect the ecosystems for wildlife and for people to enjoy..

If anybody thinks mining is fairly limited in terms of size, I went to the old tin mine in east Kemptville a few weeks ago and flew above it with the drone and I was blown away.

That site is 2 or 3 km on each side and it looks exactly as it did 25 years ago when they shut the mine down. So right now, one of the priority areas apparently for MANS it so get into the Tobeatic Wilderness which is literally just across the highway from the East Kemptville mine.

So I am very concerned about that… a real challenge for people who care about nature and sustainability in the future. The mining industry is a minor industry in NS.. they are trying to salvage what they can of a dying industry.

Rick Howe: ‘Appreciate your thoughts… you speak well and we should all be quite cocnerned about the state of our forest.

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