Nova Scotia L&F announces Ministerial Committee to advise on implementation of Lahey recommendations 18Oct2019

Modified Oct 19, 2019 a.m.

The composition of The Committee is good news; Significant changes in the L&F website for the Lahey Report/Ecological Forestry; and Landscape Level Planning for Biodiversity Conservation still under the radar.

The Press Release:

Moving Nova Scotia toward an ecological forestry management approach will consider the best available science and perspectives from people and organizations from across the province.

Lands and Forestry Minister, Iain Rankin, has appointed a new advisory committee with 14 members from environmental non-government organizations, industry, the Mi’kmaq and academia.

“Nova Scotians are deeply connected to the natural environment and should understand how and why decisions are being made related to the stewardship of our forests,” said Mr. Rankin. “I look forward to working with this group as we adopt an ecological forestry approach in Nova Scotia.”

The committee will advise the minister on the policies and priorities related to implementing the model recommended in Prof. Lahey’s independent review of forestry practices.

“I’m happy to be part of the advisory committee to ensure the science of forestry is what future decision-making is based on. All forest industry players are interested in having a promising future in forestry in Nova Scotia and decisions that our government makes today will either enable or inhibit that from happening. As a third-generation family member in the wood business, I understand the importance of this proces”s – Cassie Turple, communications coordinator, Ledwidge Lumber

“Implementing the Lahey Report is critically important to ensuring Nova Scotia’s forests are managed in a more sustainable and ecologically responsible manner for all users and values. Engaging stakeholders from the various sectors in an advisory capacity is an important component of successfully implementing the report and fulfills a key commitment of the Natural Resources Strategy. We applaud the government on taking this important step and stand ready to roll up our sleeves and to work in good faith with all the members of the new committee towards full implementation of the report and the needed shift to ecological forestry.” – Raymond Plourde, senior wilderness coordinator, Ecology Action Centre

Quick Facts:
– members will be appointed for a minimum of two years and can serve a maximum of two terms
– the first meeting of the committee will be scheduled in November and will include finalizing terms of reference
– the committee will meet four times a year, or as needed to meet their mandate

Additional Resources:
For more information on ecological forestry, visit

Media Contact:
Lisa Jarrett

Advisory committee members:

  • Karen Beazley, Dalhousie University
  • Donna Crossland
  • Angie Gillis, Mi’kmaw Conservation Group & Confederacy of Mainland Mi’kmaq
  • Andy Kekacs, Nova Scotia Woodlot Owners and Operators Association
  • Jason Limongelli, J.D. Irving Ltd.
  • Bevan Lock, Port Hawkesbury Paper
  • Raymond Plourde, Ecology Action Centre
  • Paul Orser, Paper Excellence Canada
  • Debbie Reeves, Murray A. Reeves Forestry
  • Mary Jane Rodger, Medway Community Forest Co-op
  • Mary Tulle, Tourism Nova Scotia
  • Cassie Turple, Ledwidge Lumber
  • Greg Watson, North Nova Forestry
  • Marcus Zwicker, WestFor

Thanks to all of these members for agreeing to sit on The Committee.

It won’t be easy. But as the late Bill Freedman, Chair of my Department some years ago, would say when I would express some frustration:  “It’s OK, you are doing God’s Work.”

Changes in the L&F Website on The Independent Review/Ecological Forestry

Following up on this announcement, I  discovered that L&F has totally changed the website that provided documents related to the Independent Review. Actually you get a re-direct from the previous site – at to a new site at

The new site, at least right now*, provides a link to An Independent Review of Forest Practices in Nova Scotia (the Executive Summary by Bill Lahey) but does not provide a link to the Addendum to the Independent Review which contains many informative and very pertinent documents. It can still be found here. *Note Nov 18, 2019: A link to the document is now posted on the main page.

The new page does not cite the “Government Response”, instead saying “work is now underway (PDF 78 KB) to change how we think about our forests, while maintaining a sustainable forestry industry”; that link is to the Government Response document. It was offered previously with the Interim Retention Guidelines which now is not listed, but is still available here.

It seems there is some re-writing of The Message going on.

Landscape Level Planning for Biodiversity Conservation still under the radar

The New Message appears to be embodied in a “Research paper on the triad ecological forestry model” cited on the new page under the heading Related information.

The “Research paper” has no date on it. It was written by Dr. Graham Forbes;  a brief bio for Dr. Forbes is given at the end of the paper. Dr. Forbes is a member of the Biodiversity Council at L&F and is one of their Expert Advisors on High Production Forestry.

The Research Paper includes a section on “The Role of Landscape Planning” which describes how L&F currently does it’s longer term planning which I have not seen otherwise described in public documents, so that is helpful.

Like many jurisdictions, Nova Scotia uses a hierarchical forest planning system at three levels: Strategic, Tactical, and Operational. Strategic level forest planning uses a longterm planning horizon (typically 100 years) and applies to a region or province in order to balance economic, social and environmental values…

Tactical level forest planning is a medium-term planning horizon (typically 20 years) that applies to the landscape scale and is the link between strategic goals and operational application because it ensures enough area of forest is identified and available. For example, strategic level planning sets the amount of wood potentially available whereas tactical planning identifies proposed activities and forest conditions over the medium term…

Operational level forest planning is undertaken at the individual site scale, such as forest stands, within 1-5-year periods. Operational plans include details on the method of harvest, treatment prescriptions, locations of harvest (including stream buffers and biodiversity features), seasonal concerns, and roads.

However, there is no mention in that section of Landscape Level Planning for Biodiversity Conservation, re my discussion of this issue at an L&F workshop on the Forest Management Guide, summarized in a post on NSFN on Sep 26, 2019. (Also View search results for  Landscape Level Planning on this website.)

That is worrisome, and somewhat disappointing; given Dr. Forbes credentials, (also he is well aware of the concept, e.g as expressed in this FAO document), I would have expected some discussion of this aspect of “Landscape Planning”, so obviously deficient in L&F planning (re: the Lahey Report).

Anyway, that’s one reason I am pleased with the composition of The Committee. There is more than one member who is well aware of the dire need for Landscape Level Planning for Biodiversity Conservation in Nova Scotia.

Also worth having a look at:  Dr. Forbes’ description of the Ecological Matrix, p. 7:

(3) an Ecological matrix… will be managed for both timber production and biodiversity, through application of ecological forestry practices that create forests with older-lived forest species.

The ecological matrix will produce more biodiversity and eventually more forest products than it presently does. Some of these trees will become valuable sawlogs as the forest progresses from single-aged, short rotation forests to multi-aged, long rotation forests. Biodiversity will be increased because the creation of multi-aged forests containing longer-lived species will be more similar to forest conditions created from natural disturbance regimes typical to the province. A major tenet of the maintenance of biodiversity is that species are adapted to forest conditions resulting from the interaction of enduring features (e.g. soil, drainage, climate) and natural disturbance (Thom and Seidl 2016). Nova Scotia experiences a range of natural disturbance that vary in intensity and extent, from individual tree-fall gaps, to large stand-replacing hurricane wind events (Seymour et al. 2002; Taylor et al. 2017, 2019). The amount of clearcut in the ecological matrix will be considerably reduced from recent levels, coupled with an increase in various partial harvests to better reflect the frequency of different types of naturally occurring disturbance. Some clearcutting will be conducted only in accordance with the area and type of stands typically experiencing naturally occurring, stand-replacing disturbance events. Harvest prescriptions in the ecological matrix will be designed with a key focus on the number, type, and condition of trees retained after harvest. This deviates from the frequent current practice of basing prescriptions on what is to be removed, not necessarily what is retained.

It seems that the Ecological Matrix is still being viewed primarily through the lens of production forestry.

So they will go gangbusters in the High Production Forest (HPF) zone  and still plan to get as much as they have in the past – and more – from the Ecological Matrix.

Which would explain this:

…while Lahey predicted less clear cutting would lead to a reduction of Crown land wood supply of 10 to 20 per cent, Rankin disagreed.

“We believe that we can sustainably grow this industry.”

CBC Report on the Government Response to the Independent Review
Dec 3, 2018


Unfortunately, Prof Lahey gave L&F a way out of being very explicit on how adopting his recommendations would affect the forest industry, with two choices under Recommendation 23:

DNR should either

a. through an open and transparent process, conduct a study of the costs to the forest industry, including the transition costs, and of the socio‐economic and ecological costs and benefits of accepting and implementing the recommendations of this Review and a study of the socio‐economic and ecological costs and benefits of current forest practices (i.e., the status quo), particularly on Crown land; or

b. dedicate the resources required to complete these studies to the implementation of the recommendations contained in this report, including by identifying, designing, and testing options for making the change to ecological forestry that is right for Nova Scotia.

From the Conclusions:

85. On wood supply, the Review team conducted a preliminary analysis of the impact that proposed changes for DNR’s ecosystem-based system of management would have on wood supply. That analysis suggests a short term reduction in wood harvest from Crown land of between 10 and 20 per cent. It also suggests that the reduction cannot be addressed in the short term by shifting production either to high-production sites on Crown land, including plantations, or to plantations on private land. More broadly, the analysis indicates that the reduction can be addressed by increased harvesting on other private lands, given that the sustainable harvest level (as estimated by DNR) is currently above actual harvest levels. The issue will be its economic availability and the cost of procurement and of harvesting. Further scenarios should be run, particularly to determine the impact on wood supply from Crown land of different levels of required retention on Crown land; that is, within the proposed 5-30 per cent range.

86. Otherwise, the Review team did not have the opportunity to complete the kind of analysis of my recommendations that industry urged me to complete. If such an analysis is part of the consideration of my recommendations, it should look at benefits as well as costs and it should look at both broadly, including ecological and social considerations as well as economic ones and consider all three in the long as well as the short term. These should be compared to the costs and benefits of current forest practices, again taking ecological and social as well as economic outcomes into account for both the short and the longer term. The analysis should be completed openly and transparently. This will not only ensure its credibility but help to avoid a flawed analysis. It will, for example, prevent the kind of discrepancy that occurred in the past when DNR commissioned a review of the cost to industry of the goal of reducing clearcutting to 50 per cent or less of harvesting in five years; instead of analyzing the impact of a reduction in the percentage of harvesting done by clearcutting, it analyzed the impact of a 50 per cent reduction in the volume of harvesting, a very different thing. Openness and transparency will also help to ensure that the analysis is conducted on the basis of fair, defensible, known, and openly stated assumptions.

87. Specifically, if there is to be a cost analysis of recommendations that limit or reduce clearcutting on Crown land outside of plantations, there should be a parallel analysis of the socio economic and ecological costs of current harvesting practices on those Crown lands. For the reasons given in the preceding paragraph, this analysis should be conducted openly and transparently. This will ensure that there is clarity and accountability for the tradeoffs being made among economic, social, and environmental factors in decisions based on a costs/benefits analysis of my recommendations.

88. An acceptable alternative would be to simply get on with the implementation of the recommendations contained in this report, dedicating the analytical capacity that would otherwise go to this kind of cost/benefit analysis to the work of identifying, designing, and testing options for making the change to ecological forestry that is right for Nova Scotia. On this approach, one of the areas of focus should be options for mitigating the impact on the forest industry of implementing changes in how forestry is practised in Nova Scotia, particularly on Crown lands, other than delaying the implementation of those changes.

So it seems L&F has chosen option B. What we are NOT learning from L&F are their assumptions/results-of-modelling regarding wood supply –  the Strategic, Tactical, and Operational level planning  that was the basis of Minister Rankin discounting the view of the Independent Review that adopting the recommendations would result in a 10-20% reduction in wood supply.*
*It seems that L&F initially took Option B very seriously, issuing a directive on Sep 11, 2018 to entities harvesting wood on Crown Land to immediately make fundamental changes in harvesting, however within a week it was withdrawn (view Post, Sep 19, 2018) It wasn’t until Dec. 3, 2018 that L&F issued a formal response to the Independent review, one that was much more muted than their initial directive. (The Report of the Independent Review (“the Lahey report”) was received on Aug 21, 2018). Presumably in the interval between Sep 11, 2018 and Dec 3, 2018, L&F as well as the Forest Industry were working the spreadsheets, enabling Minister Rankin on Dec 3, 2018 to discount the view of the Independent Review that adopting the recommendations would result in a 10-20% reduction in wood supply.

If considerations of wood supply are driving decisions about the selection of  lands for High Production Forestry/Ecological Matrix, and surely they are, they need to be made explicit, like the elusive maps showing where harvests are planned over intervals longer (e.g. 5 years) than those provided on the Harvest Plan Map Viewer (the next 40 days).

What are the assumptions about the wood supply from  the High Production Forestry zone, from the Ecological Matrix  and from Private Lands  and how were they developed?  Show us the Science.

As Prof Lahey said “The analysis should be completed openly and transparently. This will not only ensure its credibility but help to avoid a flawed analysis.”



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