The optics are not good and a sense of deja vu
In a CBC post on Sep 17, 2018 – Nova Scotia ‘serious about reducing’ clear cutting: email, Michael Gorman reported that “Work has started behind the scenes in Nova Scotia to reduce clear cutting on Crown land, a month after a review recommended much stricter ecological management of lands owned by the province.”
Contrary to Lands and Forestry (L&F) Minister Iain Rankin’s comments last week which suggested it would take some time for government to begin to act on recommendations from the Independent Review, Gorman reports that “a department email addressed to major players in the industry* on Sept. 11, which CBC News has obtained, shows steps are already being taken that will see reductions in clear cutting.”
*Cited as Port Hawkesbury Paper, Great Northern Timber, Westfor Management Inc., Taylor Lumber and the Medway Community Forest Cooperative.
Allan Smith, cited by Gorman as the “province’s director of resource management” comments “development of revised forest management guides and prescriptions are a priority but will take time,” but he also says “the department is serious about reducing the amount of clear cutting where possible, and by increasing retention within areas prescribed for clearcut”. Directives to Crown land managers cited in the Sep 17 CBC article:
– For the time being, all forest management keys that direct you to non-clearcut treatments should be followed
– not allowing the clear cutting of trees that can grow and reproduce under a shaded canopy except in “exceptional circumstances,” including salvage
– Unacceptable growing stock is to no longer be a determining factor in prescribing a clearcut
– opportunities for a partial harvest should be considered where possible. When a clearcut is “the only reasonable” option, the department is to receive “a good description of the stand features for justification
– In an effort to increase biodiversity…patches of smaller, or immature wood within a stand should no longer be harvested simply for the sake of convenience and to clean up the site…”We should be looking for ways to increase the post-harvest heterogeneity of harvest areas,” he says.
– there shall be a 100-metre setback (buffer) between any clearcut treatment” and any of the province’s protected areas, candidates for protected designation, national parks and Nature Conservancy lands.
Gorman talked to Alan Eddy, who recently left government to become “director of business development for Port Hawkesbury Paper” (view Post, Aug 15, 2018).
…the changes are “going to add some significant costs to the operation” of the mill. He’s concerned there wasn’t enough consultation ahead of time. Eddy said it’s too soon to know what it will mean for how the mill operates, in part because it’s not clear if the changes are an interim step or intended for the long term. The wide range for how much wood should be left during a cut leaves a lot of room for interpretation, he said.
“It’s very complex and everybody is going to need to understand that better.”
According to Gorman, “The owner of Northern Pulp, Paper Excellence Canada, said it is reviewing the proposed changes and assessing how to implement the recommendations”.
View more in Nova Scotia ‘serious about reducing’ clear cutting: email
Michael Gorman for CBC News Sep 17, 2018
We still have not heard from Forest Nova Scotia on how they view the Recommendations of the Independent Review; FNS conducted a behind the scenes campaign against the recommendations related to forestry in the 2011 Natural Resources Strategy. Favourable feedback on the Review has been expressed by “Twelve organizations representing more than 2,000 small private woodlot owners in Nova Scotia” (CBC Sep 5, 2018). Kingsley Brown, head of the Nova Scotia Landowners and Forest Fibre Producers Association has also expressed support (www.989xfm.ca, Aug 22, 2018). The Medway Community Forest has also expressed that it was encouraged by the Forestry Review (hankfm.ca, Aug 22, 2018)
REVIEW OF THE FOREST MANAGEMENT GUIDE BY ROBERT SEYMOUR
The directives from Allan Smith reflect Recommendations 9 to 12 (pp 62-3 in Lahey’s Report Vol 1). Those in turn derive largely from the thorough review of DNR’s Forest Management Guide (FMG) by Independent Review Advisor Prof. Robert Seymour (Lahey’s Report Vol 2, Ch 14, pp 69-84) in my view, the single most rigorous and most significant document amongst those in the Addendum (most or all are highly credible and pertinent).
Based on data/observations from the PTAs (pre-treatment assessments), the FMG provides keys (decision trees) directing the users to the most appropriate type of harvest at the stand level. This process was set up by NSDNR following the Natural Resources Strategy of 2011 as a means to implement “ecosystems-based forest management”. Four separate guides produced 2011 to 2016 were revised and put together in one document – Nova Scotia’s Forest Management Guide by Tim McGrath – in Feb, 2018. According to the 2018 document, the FMG
• Prescribes uneven-aged management and non-clearcut harvesting methods when appropriate as a first choice.
• Favours natural regeneration harvest methods where possible within stand and site limitations.
The FMGs allowed NSDNR and the Minister in charge to claim that “We have now developed tools that ensure that all harvest treatments are aligned with the nature-based requirements of Nova Scotia’s lands.” – Statement under Goal 13 in the Five-year Progress Report on the 2011-2020 Natural Resources Strategy released Aug 16, 2016 by NSDNR.
The forest management guides are highly technical and few could question them or readily explain to the public what was wrong with them and when critics did so*, DNR stood firm in defending its science – but without any independent review.
*also I and others much more knowledgable about forestry than I questioned the science in submissions to The Review and questions about the Management Guides were in the forefront of an Independent Review workshop on Natural Disturbance Regimes and Ecological Forestry framework held in Feb 2018 (see page 9 in Lahey’s Report Vol 2).
Prof Robert Seymour of School of Forest Resources at the University of Maine (retired) is a well published and recognized expert in such matters. Bancroft and Crossland had quoted and consulted him extensively in their contribution to the Natural Resource Strategy of 2011. It is much to the credit of the Independent Review that it also engaged Prof Seymour as an Advisor, as well his colleague and collaborator Prof Malcolm Hunter of the Department of Wildlife Ecology, University of Maine, likewise well published and recognized.
In Document 14 of the Independent Review Addendum – Ecological‐based Silviculture on Crown Lands: Review of DNR’s Forest Management Guide, Seymour gives credit where credit is due to related scientific work within NSDNR, but is unequivocal in pointing out the inherent biases in the FMG:
14.3 How the Forest Management Guide Limits Multi‐aged Prescriptions
A thorough review of the current Forest Management Guide by the Review team and other foresters experienced in practising multi‐aged silviculture suggests that the fundamental problem with the Forest Management Guide is that it seemingly preordains an even‐aged (single‐cohort) forest management paradigm in virtually all forest types. Alternatives are often mentioned but are never required and must meet overly stringent criteria even to be attempted. As long as foresters follow this guide religiously, clearcutting (complete overstory removal) will likely remain the dominant regeneration practice in Nova Scotia. In general, the decision trees use questionable criteria for stand maturity, appear too eager to establish and release regeneration at the expense of retaining growing stock, and do not mandate any sort of structural or compositional retention during final harvests.
This over‐reliance on single‐cohort silviculture would not necessary be seen as a deficiency if the goal of the guide were primarily efficient timber production. Most Acadian tree species can, and do, grow productively in single‐aged stands. Rather, this criticism is about the lack of agreement with natural disturbance regimes, arguably the key tenet in the application of ecological forestry.
Seymour goes on to cite some some specifics to illustrate those issues and to list suggested improvements (p 72), also in regard to retention of wildlife clumps.
So it is based largely on this critique and suggestions that L&F apparently acted quickly with its directives to managers of Crown lands (Sep 11, 2018) which has to be applauded.
DIRECTIVES A TRIAL BALLOON?
Having said that, however, I have to wonder why it took a CBC investigation (Sep 17, 2018) to reveal that such steps had already being taken, when on Sep 14, 2018, Minister Rankin gave no indication to Gorman (Minister still weighing recommendations of forestry report, CBC, Sep 14) that such actions had been taken:
Rankin has yet to provide an in-depth response to the recommendations the president of University of King’s College delivered last month, and that didn’t change during an interview Wednesday.
The minister said his department is still going through the report and considering the recommendations, which include a drastic reduction in the amount of clear cutting on Crown land. Rankin said he accepts “the premise that we could do more for ecological-based forestry.”
“We’re not really prepared to say which recommendations we will fully accept but in general we do accept the spirit of the report.”
The reticence of Minister Rankin to talk about the clear directives to Industrial Forestry (and Medway Community Forest Cooperative) is worrisome to those of us who went through the experience of seeing the recommendations related to forestry in the Natural Resources Strategy of 2011 at first enthusiastically embraced by the NDP government of the day, and then effectively disemboweled by the NDP and followed by the Liberal government with a huge hand from DNR in the form first of a highly dubious definition of clearcutting, and then in the heavily biased procedures of the FMGs.
One might wonder if these apparently secret directives are a trial balloon, giving industry a chance to say “we can’t possibly do it” (except for the Medway Community Forest Cooperative which has been asking for these types of changes in regard to their management of Crown lands).
WHO IS ALLAN SMITH?
The Company Men are still at it, Alan Eddy now at Port Hawkesbury Paper (view post on NSFN Aug 15, 2018), and, I thought, Jonathan Porter as Executive Director of the Renewable Resources Branch at L&F… but then who is Allan Smith, cited in Gorman’s article as “the province’s director of resource management”? As I have commented before, it’s hard to find who does what at NSDNR/L&F or anything about the backgrounds and qualifications of staff and Allan Smith does not show up on searches of the NSDNR/L&F website. However a separate Google search brought up a FOI document dated July 27, 2018 which has this organizational chart on it:
So there you go. Porter is still the top guy for Renewable Resources at L&F, while Alan Eddy, once deputy Minister of NSDNR, is now a top guy at PHP. Allan Smith is the Resources Management Officer and answers to Jonathan Porter, the Renewable Resources Executive Director. The Forestry Director in the scheme above is listed as Gerald Post, but on the Forest Staff Directory, the position is listed as “vacant” (as it has been following the premature passing of Jonathan Kierstead in July of 2017).
BACKTRACKING AND CONFUSION AT L&F
As I was completing this post for NSFN this a.m., a newer CBC post by Michael Gorman came across my news feed:
Forestry minister, premier downplay email about clear-cutting reductions
Michael Gorman · CBC News · Posted: Sep 18, 2018
Premier Stephen McNeil and his forestry minister are distancing the government from an email a senior official sent to major mills in Nova Scotia about changes to clear-cutting practices. Allan Smith, director of resource management for the Department of Lands and Forestry, sent the email on Sept. 11.
The letter, which CBC News has obtained, says “all forest management keys that direct you to non-clearcut treatments should be followed,” and that “the department is serious about reducing the amount of clear cutting where possible.” But on Tuesday, Lands and Forestry Minister Iain Rankin called the email “friendly advice.” A department spokesperson said the intention was to give guidance to licence holders and the people who review harvest plans for Crown land as the department works toward a more ecological approach to forestry.
It all seems rather deja vu**.
At least I have figured out which level of the bureaucracy Allan Smith resides in and that he answers to Jonathan Porter, a Company Man still firmly in place as the top level director of the Renewable Resources Branch at NSDNR/L&F. With Company Man Alan Eddy, a former Associate Deputy Director Deputy at NSDNR, now back in industry at Port Hawkesbury Paper, the optics are not good.
Stay tuned, but adjust the dial to reduce static.
**Restoring the Health of Nova Scotia’s Forests
A panel of expertise report on forests by Bob Bancroft and Donna Crossland to the steering panel for the Nova Scotia Natural Resources Strategy 2010 process. This report was widely applauded, the Steering Panel adopted most of their recommendations, and then NDP Minister of Natural Resources John MacDonell promised fundamental change. He released a set of “strategic directions which included a commitment to “Reduce the proportion of wood harvested by the clear cut method to no more than 50% of all forested lands over a five-year period”. Within months, however, Premier Dexter shifted MacDonell to another Dept. and the Bancroft/Crossland Report was tacitly shelved in favour of an alternative, industrial forestry-oriented Report by Jon Porter. The province was still committed to the 50% target for clearcutting but introduced a definition of clearcutting that effectively allowed a lot of what is functionally a clearcut not to be counted as a clearcut. Four years later the new Liberal government hired Jon Porter as the executive director of the NSDNR’s renewable resources branch. In August of 2016 (the year clearcutting was to have been reduced to 50% of all cuts), the province issued a five-year Progress Report on the 2011-2020 Natural Resources Strategy in which they announced that the 50% target was irrelevant because “We have now developed tools that ensure that all harvest treatments are aligned with the nature-based requirements of Nova Scotia’s lands.” The return to same old same old was complete.