Port Hawkesbury Paper responds to concerns about harvesting in the Loon Lake area

Controversy has arisen over the age/Old Growth status of yellow birch harvested on Crown lands in the Loon Lake area, whether the harvesting methods and follow-up treatments are sufficient to maintain yellow birch, and about the fate of the harvested wood.

I received today PHP’s public response to concerns about harvesting in the Loon Lake area. It is provided below as received (except that the PDF text is converted to WordPress text).

We (the public) and PHP (as cited below) are now awaiting on NSDNR for a report on their assessments of stands said to be Old Growth in the area but not currently classified as such by NSDNR. (At least we are hoping that NSDNR will provide such a report in a timely fashion; there have been no promises.)

View the following posts for background:

Danny George rings the alarm bell (again) on Loon Lake Nova Scotia clearcuts of Old Growth
Posted on February 23, 2018

PHP to issue a public response to concerns about harvesting near Loon Lake Nature Reserve
Posted on March 1, 2018

Nova Scotia Forestry in the News…Sat Mar 3, 2018
Posted on March 3, 2018.Includes Abbreviated Transcript of the Information Morning interview with DNR personnel on Loon Lake area cuts

Loon Lake area harvests: DNR seeks shelter in its Old Forest Policy
Posted on March 4, 2018

Rick Howe talks to Bob Bancroft about Nova Scotia DNR cutting Old Growth forest
Posted on March 6, 2018


March 10, 2018

Port Hawkesbury Paper Response to Public Concerns Regarding Forest Management

Port Hawkesbury Paper (PHP) welcomes the opportunity to contribute to the on-going conversation on how forest management is conducted on Crown land leased to the company by the Province of Nova Scotia, under the Forest Utilization License Agreement. There have been recent newspaper articles and radio interviews conducted about the management we have been doing in the Loon Lake area of Guysborough County, including discussion about old-growth forests, hardwood management, and biomass. PHP would like to join the conversation by providing additional information on these matters.

Old-Growth Forests

Old-growth forests are areas identified by the Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources (NSDNR) and conserved under the Department’s Old Forest Policy. The areas that were managed in the Loon Lake area were not in the NSDNR old-growth spatial data layer that PHP uses during the normal planning process and the pre-treatment assessment field measurements did not identify them as potential old forests. PHP is aware that NSDNR is currently assessing the stands in the Loon Lake area to determine if old-growth forests are present and is looking forward to the results of that assessment.

Hardwood Management

PHP’s forest management area includes a significant proportion of hardwood stands. The hardwood forest includes intolerant hardwood (generally short lived, smaller in size and lower economic value) and tolerant hardwood species (typically longer lived, more abundant in naturally occurring undisturbed forest, and higher value-added opportunities). Hardwood areas are managed with a range of treatments appropriate to the stand conditions, long-term ecosystem health, and improving the hardwood tree quality. In these recent public conversations, concerns were raised about how the stand was treated using the group selection method.

The area consists primarily of yellow birch and red maple, with a scattering of other species, including softwoods and other hardwoods. The group selection treatment prescribed is intended to provide conditions needed for regenerating the tolerant yellow birch species. The NSDNR hardwood management guides and PHP’s forest management experience provide confidence that the treatment will be successful.

Yellow birch, unlike other tolerant long-lived species such as sugar maple that do not regenerate well in partial to full sunlight, responds well to increased light conditions for natural regeneration. PHP’s management objective in this stand was to create openings, where small groups of trees are removed using selection harvest methods. This allows for yellow birch regeneration that can be better tended over time to create a high-quality hardwood stand. Approximately 30% of the stand was harvested with these openings. The size of the forest openings in this area is based on the abundance of yellow birch, with the prescribed intent of regenerating this desired later successional species. By using the group selection treatment, enough light is coming onto the forest floor, which for yellow birch, a prolific seeder, can spread well into and beyond the opening sizes created. As the hardwood regeneration grows and the uneven aged forest develops, future harvesting can remove some of the retained trees and produce hardwood sawlogs for local mills. Excluding these trees from the planned harvest now provides a longer-term benefit related to forest health and sustainable wood supply in the future.

PHP has been doing this treatment in these stand types for considerable time and has a high level of success with regenerating the existing tolerant species.

PHP, and its predecessor owners, have not used herbicides since the late 1990’s. By eliminating herbicides, the company recognizes the ecological, social, and economic contributions hardwood stands provide throughout our forest management area.


Completing a successful forestry treatment leads the decision-making process related to which hardwood trees to cut. Once a tree is felled, the forest products are optimized (processing the higher value veneer and sawlogs as priority) and destined for local sawmills. The remaining lower value portions of the tree are then processed as firewood or fuelwood. Realizing a mix of forest products is normal practice and as with most harvesting operations, the Loon Lake harvest included salvaging these low-grade forest products as well.

Related to fuel for the Nova Scotia Power boiler, PHP’s supply comes mostly from wood bark removed by mills prior to lumber or paper production. The supply of low-grade fuelwood to the boiler (such as those harvested on the Loon Lake site) follows the allocation of higher quality material (sawlogs, studwood, or pulpwood) which is directed to wood processing facilities for primarily lumber and paper production. It would not make economic sense to send higher quality material to the biomass facility because the economic value would not be fully realized. With the available supply of wood bark and low-grade fuelwood, there is no need to allocate higher valued material to the biomass facility.

The mill in Port Hawkesbury has been carrying out forestry in eastern Nova Scotia for 60 years, and PHP is proud of the work we do and the balanced approach to forestry we conduct in the region. Our commitment to long-term forest health and sustainability is forefront in our forest management decisions. PHP often receives feedback from the public and during annual forest certification audits about its forest management practices. This feedback is always welcomed.

PHP continues to maintain certification to the Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC®) Maritime Standard and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative®(SFI®) Standard, which are voluntary, nongovernmental process to independently verify good forest management and provide a reliable and credible mechanism to assess performance.

PHP hopes this communication helps to inform the public related to our approach to forestry. We are happy to answer any questions or provide further clarification.

Main Contact: Marc Dube
Mill Manager

Alternate Contact: Andrea Doucette
Forest Sustainability Specialist

Thanks for the response and willingness to respond further, PHP.

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