Saturday Forestry, continued… Feb 3, 2018: how much displacement of our natural world is acceptable?

Saturday’s Chronicle Herald again carries several items on the forestry/resources front.

First in clear contrast to PC leadership hopeful John Lohr, Pictou County Conservative MLA Tim Houston “is calling for an increased level of ministerial scrutiny of a proposed wastewater treatment facility at the Northern Pulp mill.”

View MLA Houston says Northern Pulp wastewater standards too low
By Francis Campbell in the Chronicle Herald, Feb 2(online), 2018

Second, Joan Baxter comments on the choices we make when we put gold over environment:

Stretching from Cumberland County’s Cape Chignecto to Pictou County, the Cobequids are endowed with many above-ground riches that are increasingly scarce and valuable on this planet. There are clear, bubbling brooks, important watersheds, magnificent waterfalls and stunning landscapes much frequented by hikers, bikers, hunters and anglers, among others. There is Wentworth Valley, with its potential as a four-season eco-tourism destination. Rivers run through valuable agricultural land and empty into the Northumberland Strait with its lucrative fishery, and a shoreline much prized by cottagers, tourists and tourism operators…

At the rate DNR is pushing for large-scale mining throughout eastern Nova Scotia, along the Parrsboro shore and in the Cobequids, I fear the government is setting the stage for more environmental disasters that we, our children and grandchildren will have to pay for — and very, very dearly at that.

View OPINION: For rural residents, all that glitters is not gold
By Joan Baxter in Chronicle Herald, Feb 3, 2018

Finally in a lenghty op-ed, might-have-been-premier and regular Chronicle Herald contributor Bill Black responds to EAC Wilderness Committee Co-ordinator Raymond Plourde’s response to Bill’s take-no-prisoners blast against critics of unfettered resource development. The sequence:

–BLACK Jan 20, 2018
BLACK: Let’s stop hugging trees, start embracing industry
CH, Jan 20, 2018

–PLOURDE Jan 27, 2018
COUNTERPOINT: Industry is handout-free? Who is Bill Black kidding?
CH, Jan 27, 2018

–BLACK Feb 3, 2018
BLACK: How can rural N.S. prosper without resource extraction?

In this most recent piece, Black looks for areas of agreement and disagreement with Plourde, first on “facts” and second on “opinions”.

He chooses to place sustainability of forest harvesting under opinions, expressing his own that “harvesting at the current rate is sustainable, and that government should not instruct tree farmers on how to manage their land any more than they do for farmers growing grapes or corn.” He joins other learned company including the Independent Review’s Peter Duinker who expressed a similar opinion before a Senate Committee in Oct, 2017 (see Red Flags, Nov 29, 2017) and of course DNR in their latest State of the Forest report.

That very issue is one of the raisons d’être of this website as I set out on my quest to understand forestry in Nova Scotia. I have concluded that it is simply not true that “harvesting at the current rate is sustainable”, when considered either at the ecosystem level, or looking at forests only as industrial wood production systems. (View, for example What’s wrong with clearcutting?).

If I had one hope for the Independent Review, it is that they objectively examine the evidence on this issue, Prof Duinker’s opinion notwithstanding.

Even if the Independent Review came to the conclusion I have, we would still be left with the choice Black cites under his opinion # 4. Says Black:

We [Black and Plourde] agree that clearing land for human economic activity displaces habitat for other species, whether it be for developing subdivisions, installing wind turbines and associated transmission infrastructure, building a container terminal or airport, growing fruits and vegetables, creating a golf course, or harvesting trees for their fibre. In all but the last case, the displacement is permanent.

Where we appear to differ is on how much displacement is acceptable.

Black goes on to cast Plourde’s stance as against rural people. Leaving that ploy aside, Black raises a key question: how much displacement of our natural world is acceptable? And at what real cost… cost to tourism, hunting and fishing, trapping, attractiveness of NS as a place to live, ecosystem services, our share in planetary responsibilities…

AS Joan Baxter noted above, few places in the world today have the luxury of the choices we still have, with a lot of our natural world still largely natural and accessible to the citizenry at large.

My answer to Black: we need and can benefit from less displacement of our natural world than we have now; we can heal a lot of the landscape we have wounded and still grow economically and even in numbers through “smart growth“.

C’mon, Bill Black, you are a smart guy…

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