In the works: EAs for Forestry in Nova Scotia 30Mar2019

Just how the Forestry EA process materializes and works could have a huge impact on the politics of forestry in NS. It’s definitely an item to keep an eye on.

EAs for Forestry are a key recommendation of the Lahey Report

It’s encouraging to see the EA (Environmental Assessment) process do at least some of what it is supposed to do (re: recent decision on The Pipe EA). Premier McNeil has been very consistent in his position on closing Boat Harbour come Hell or High Water, and I am sure that helped.

Regardless, The Pipe EA shows that even  Class 1 EAs, which account for most Nova Scotia EAs, have a lot of internal rigour* and can be used effectively to ‘protect the environment’, if the political will is also there. In this age of Extinction Rebellion and the urgency to slow climate change, EAs are an existing tool we need to make work for us more broadly.
*The published EAs involve field and literature surveys by people who really know their stuff and provide a lot of documentation on the geology, ecology, species etc; independently of the EA process and any politics involved, they are valuable sources of info on the natural history of the areas investigated.

Hence one item I looked for when L&F released its Mar 26, 2019 progress report  on their work to implement recommendations of the “Lahey Report” was anything related to EAs  for forestry. It was reported on as one of two items listed under ‘Other:

Environmental Assessments
Work has started on Professor Lahey’s recommendations regarding environmental assessments. The department [is] looking at all potential options, including considering what is happening in other jurisdictions, and how an environmental assessment process could fit within the forest management planning system.

EAs are a key component of Prof. Lahey’s recommendations for changing the way industrial forestry/L&F operate on Crown lands.

As I understand the recommendations, a comprehensive EA process akin to a Type II EA – which I will call a “Forestry EA” – would be required for new FULAs (Forest Utilisation License Agreements) – those 10-year deals L&F makes with big companies such as PHP or consortia such as WestFor for logging and management of Crown lands*
* Currently, a 10-year FULA is in place with Port Hawkesbury Paper. A 10 year agreement being negotiated with WestFor was put on hold once the Independent Review was announced and has yet to be introduced; in the meantime, Interim Agreements were put in place with WestFor, the latest, a 1-year agreement beginning on Oct 1, 2018 – that was unannounced and revealed only by CBC and later FOIPOPed.

Also, as I understand Lahey’s recommendations, Forestry EAs would largely replace the stand-by-stand pubic notification/decision process that is currently so controversial.

Under a Forestry EA, the proponents, e.g., WestFor, would presumably be required to present their now elusive longer term harvest plans and be required to show how those plans  protect landscape level ecological processes, minimize impacts on fish habitat, conserve nutrients etc.  and there would be extensive consultation with all “stakeholders”, i.e. all of us.

A few questions I have:

– Will a full EA-process of the sort envisaged by Prof. Lahey be required before any new WestFor Agreement is signed? (The current one-year agreement expires on Oct 1, 2020).

-Alternatively, if a “Forestry EA” is not in place by that time, will a new agreement be limited to one-year (or less)?  Would such an agreement be subject to any new provisions and more transparency than the current agreement?

– Will an EA process be required for Forest Bioenergy schemes?

– What is the time-frame to develop a Forestry EA?

– When will L&F start to engage the public in the development of a Forestry EA?

Many more questions come to mind when I start thinking about it all.  Just how the Forestry EA process materializes and works could have a huge impact on the politics of forestry in NS.

It’s definitely an item to keep an eye on.


Prof Lahey’s key Conclusions & Recommendations related to a Forestry EA
(From: An Independent Review of Forest Practices in Nova Scotia, Executive Summary, Conclusions and Recommendations, August 2018)

From Section 3 Independent Reviewer’s Conclusions

77. The rationale for requiring FULA holders to complete a legislatively mandated forest management plan through a Class II environmental assessment or a process akin to that kind of environmental assessment is multi faceted. It is explained in greater detail in the paper on environmental assessment and forestry by Professor Peter Duinker, found in the Addendum to this report.[Actually, very little detail is provided by Prof Duinker, pages 99-100 in the Addendum.] Such a process will fill a gap in the management system for forestry on Crown land with a process like the one followed in some other provinces. It will ensure that the public has an opportunity to have input at a level and scale where the decisions are made that will guide many harvesting decisions over a wide landscape and over multiple years. It will bring important elements of independence, transparency, and participation to a process that is now seen to be compromised by the double mandate of DNR, the self-interest of forestry companies, and a high level of opaqueness. Further, it will help to ensure that ecological forestry principles, concepts, and methods are incorporated into the plans that guide licensees in their harvesting planning and activities and in their operational decision making at the stand level.

78. A legislated forestry management process conducted as a Class II environmental assessment or in a comparable process under an independent third party (or panel) has the potential to accomplish a range of objectives:
a. It will bring transparency to the management of Crown land for forestry production and provide the public with a meaningful opportunity to contribute to Crown land management at a strategic level of decision making.
b. It will help to ensure that forestry is conducted on Crown lands in ways that are compatible with the full range of values applicable to the management of public lands, with the activities of other users of Crown lands, and with activities taking place on neighbouring lands.
c. It will help to embed the principles and values of ecosystem based forestry (or of ecological forestry) into the plans that will then inform operational planning and harvesting decisions.
d. It will bring a significant measure of institutional independence from DNR to the planning of forestry on Crown land.
e. It will create opportunities for stronger and continuing relationships between operators and their stakeholders and mechanisms for ongoing dialogue with those stakeholders through the process of a plan s ongoing implementation.
f. It will facilitate and enable customized application of the principles of ecosystem based forestry to account for relevant regional differences.
g. If done properly, with openness and transparency and based on strong science, it will reduce the pressure for intense scrutiny by DNR or the public of individualized harvesting decisions.

79. My conclusion is that the current system under which DNR approves each and every harvest conducted on Crown land is problematic for the following reasons:
a. It means that the limited resources of the department are disproportionally invested in operational work instead of in developing the policy framework for ecological forestry, analyzing and conducting research on policy and scientific questions, conducting oversight of forestry operations on Crown lands, and supporting the forestry management activities of forestry businesses and landowners.
b. It compromises the ability of DNR to hold licensees accountable by implicating the department in the industry decisions and actions that warrant accountability. c. It diminishes the responsibility of licensees, and of their professional advisers, for stewardship of the public resources they are authorized to manage, develop, and utilize.
d. It creates a relationship of partnership between DNR and licensees (operators), which is contrary to DNR s accountability to ensure that Crown lands are managed in the public interest for multiple values and objectives, thereby contributing to the perception that DNR manages Crown land and is managed for the benefit of the forestry industry.
e. It causes understandable confusion and uncertainty on the part of the public, DNR, and industry about who is responsible for what in decision making and operational activity on Crown lands.
f. It politicizes the management of DNR, the management of Crown lands, and the conduct of forestry business in Nova Scotia.
g. It increases the cost of doing business in forestry in Nova Scotia and otherwise detracts from the attractiveness of Nova Scotia as location for investment in forestry.
h. It is not working in addressing public concerns about how forestry is managed and conducted on Crown lands, or in improving how forestry is conducted on Crown lands.

80. An alternative outcomes focused system under which DNR’ s responsibility for the forestry aspect of its management of Crown lands is focused on policy, science, licensing, the approval of land use management plans, regulation, and enforcement should be developed and implemented. This system should include measures to ensure full and effective implementation of the Endangered Species Act on Crown lands; adoption and implementation of amendments to the Crown Lands Act designed to ensure that the conduct of forestry on Crown lands is compatible with the full range of values and objectives that should apply to the management of all Crown lands; and legislative establishment of a forestry planning process conducted as or like a Class II environmental assessment under the control of an independent third party as a condition of obtaining permission to conduct forestry on Crown lands.

From the Recommendations:

20. The forestry management planning process for Crown lands should be conducted under a legislated environmental assessment process, either as a Class II environmental
assessment under the Environment Act or in a process that emulates the Class II process
under the supervision of an independent third party (or panel) under the authority of the
Minister of Natural Resources or the Ministers of Natural Resources and Environment. This process should be required before the issuing or renewal of forest utilization agreements. One of the objectives of this assessment will be to ensure that forestry on Crown land will adhere to the principles of, and contribute to the objectives of, ecological forestry, as embodied in the strengthened framework for ecosystem‐based forestry and the outcome‐based accountability to be applicable to areas of Crown land managed for high‐production forestry.

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