An assessment of Nova Scotia L&F’s progress in implementing Ecological Forestry in response to the Lahey Report, Part 3: The Project Muddle 8Sep2020

The Report from the Independent Review of Forest Practices in Nova Scotia (the “Lahey Report”)  was released on Aug 21, 2018.
View L&F: Ecological Forestry Implementation for the report and the L&F response to date.

This is a lengthy post, so I am providing a Table of Contents.

The abbreviated version: Most of the nine Projects currently in place appear to be well behind schedule and there is poor  coordination/integration of the Projects. In the meantime, the status quo of logging on Crown lands has continued pretty well unabated and the good will generated immediately following the Lahey Report has largely dissipated. Three suggestions are offered on how some of that good will might be recuperated: (i) Bring in an independent Team Captain to manage the Projects; (ii) Increase reporting on Projects and overall transparency; and (iii)  In the meantime, put meaningful breaks on the status quo of forestry operations  and introduce precautionary measures to ensure that  biodiversity conservation has priority  over wood supply while we wait for the full implementation of the Lahey recommendations. We are also waiting for Prof Lahey to comment on progress. View  the Postscript for more context.

TABLE OF CONTENTS
Introduction
The initial 7 Projects

1. Forest Management Guide
2. Natural Disturbance Regimes
3. Old Forest
4. High Production Forestry
5. Small-Scale Wood Energy Projects
6. Species at Risk
7. Outcomes Based Forestry

Subsequently added Projects

8. Reporting on the State of the Forest
9. Environmental Assessment

Announced on Feb 19, 2020

– Stakeholder Relations Position
– Minister’s Advisory Committee

Other docs cited on the Ecological Forestry Page

– Evaluation of the Implementation of the Ecological Forestry Model
– Strategy for Improving Openness, Transparency, Collaboration and Accountability at the Department of Lands and Forestry

The Project Muddle
Conclusions
Some related posts on NSFN
Postscript
Some Comments on WWNS


Introduction
In a  CBC interview on Aug 19, 2020, the L&F Minister of Lands & Forestry was asked how he would “evaluate the progress L&F  has made since the Lahey Report was submitted 2 years ago and “what is a reasonable expectation for the public in terms of when they might start seeing some measurable progress on some of the larger goals in this report?”

The Minister responded:

The progress has been significant when you look at the resources that have been put into the project teams and the fact that most recommendations are advancing out of the 45…we are seeing a lot more long-lived shade-tolerant species being left on the ground which is a cost to government and to industry, they have had challenges around that, they not as vocal as the side that wants to see no clearcutting.  (From Abbreviated Transcript)

It’s not much to go on  but it’s pretty all we have heard  from the Department’s perspective for 6+ months.

In a post on Aug 25, 2020, I commented on the second part of the Minister’s response (“we are seeing a lot more long-lived shade-tolerant species being left on the ground which is a cost to government and to industry, they have had challenges around that, they not as vocal as the side that wants to see no clearcutting.”)

In a second post (Aug 25, 2020), I commented on Progress of the two Projects specifically cited by the Minister: the High Production Forestry (HPF) Project, and the Forest Management Guide (FMG) Project.

In this final post on the topic, I comment on  how the other Projects referred to by the Minister are progressing, at least to the extent that can discerned from the outside. It includes a short recap of the HPF and FMG projects.


The initial 7 Projects

On June 25, 2019, the following 7 projects were announced and cited as “foundational priorities” in  L&F’s efforts to implement the recommendations of the Lahey report. The original and currently cited (Aug 28, 2020) timelines are given for each, for some also an update issued by e-mail on Feb 19, 2020, followed by a comment. The numbering is mine, 1-7 are in the order they were listed in the initial posting (June 25, 2019), 8 and 9 are projects added subsequently

Two approaches to forest management in Nova Scotia: LEFT: even aged management/short rotations. RIGHT: Selective harvesting only, high standing volume maintained. The latter but not the former would be eligible for carbon offset credits if we had such a system in place – A Project that isn’t (re: Lahey Recommendation # 32)

1. Forest Management Guide (Link is to the currently posted Overview Document)
June 25, 2019 Timeline: The project team will undertake a stakeholder consultation and product review this summer before finalizing the guide by December 2019.
Feb 19, 2020 Update: A revised forest management guide is on track to be completed by Spring 2020. Targeted consultation sessions on the new guide are scheduled for March 2 and 3, 2020. This will be followed by public consultations later this winter.
Currently cited (Aug 28, 2020) Timeline: Draft guide in Summer/Fall 2020
Comment: There has been no public consultation. Perhaps it’s still deliverable in late 2020, but it could be longer. View previous Post

Do the current maps of the Natural Disturbance Regime need to be revised or re-interpreted? I guess that’s a topic in the second (current) phase of the NDR Project.

2. Natural Disturbance Regimes
June 25, 2019 Timeline: The assessment will be ready to be submitted for peer review this fall.
Feb 19, 2020 Update: A scientific paper on natural disturbance agents has been submitted to a journal for peer review and publication. Planning for the next phase of research is underway.
Currently cited (Aug 28, 2020): Timeline: Winter/Spring 2020: Next phase research to advance Natural Disturbance Regimes work
Comment:  This project is a response to Lahey’s Recommendation # 7 (p 82). DNR/L&F’s previous interpretation of Natural Disturbance regimes was highly criticized  and a full revision is essential for the application of Ecological Forestry and Ecosystem Based Management (EMB) in NS (see Lahey Conclusion #50 & Recommendation #7)  A scientific paper was submitted as scheduled:

A review of natural disturbances to inform implementation of ecological forestry in Nova Scotia, Canada
by Anthony R. Taylor, David A. MacLean, Peter D. Neily, Bruce Stewart, Eugene Quigley, Sean P. Basquill, Celia K. Boone, Derek Gilby, Mark Pulsifer’ Published on the web in Environmental Reviews Aug. 18, 2020

As reported in a separate post, the paper was posted in pre-publication web form with access to the authors’ manuscript in Environmental Reviews on Aug 18, 2020. (There was no update or other announcement of it on the L&F website.) The two senior authors are A.R.  Taylor and D.R. MacLean. Taylor is with the Canadian Forest Service/Natural Resources Canada where he heads a very active research unit, the Forest Stand Dynamics Laboratory; he is also an Adjunct Professor at UNB Forestry. MacLean is a Prof & Dean Emeritus  (2018) in Forestry and Environmental Management, his area is cited as Forest Ecology; he is  well recognized as a researcher.

In the meantime,  another very relevant paper, appeared in the latest issue of Environmental Reviews. See Borealization of the New England – Acadian Forest: a review of the evidence by Joshua Noseworthy & Thomas Beckley.

There is a lot in both of these papers. Taylor et al., do not cite “borealization” as such and there is a need to bring the two perspectives together. (DNR, when asked in 2017  about borealization of the NS forest indicated it does not accept that perspective – see post Nov 3, 2017)

The paper by Taylor et al. 2020 relies heavily on a 39 page report contracted by DNR/L&F:

Reconnaissance study of Forest Disturbance History In Northeastern Nova Scotia
Interim Report (2015-2017)
Prepared for P. Neily, NS DNR
By Dr. E.V. Ponomarenko
Consulting soil scientist, Ecosystem Archaeology Services
Ottawa 2018

I requested the report from L&F and was directed  to the the Natural Sciences Library; it was not available there but they obtained the paper for me and said it would now be available as a PDF to anyone on request (contact Tracy Lenfesty<tracy.lenfesty@novascotia.ca>). I find it odd that the 2018 paper has not been placed on the L&F website, but then again neither have  the peer-reviewed papers of Keys et al. 2016 and 2018.

EV Ponomarenko is a highly respected soil scientist specializing in “Ecosystem Archaecology” and L&F deserves credit for eliciting her expertise in helping to investigate the history of forest disturbance in NS. Nevertheless, given its significance to the Natural Disturbance Regimes Project and Lahey’s Recommendation 7,  I think Ponomarenko’s results  should also have been submitted  for publication in a recognized, peer-reviewed journal, e.g. in a paper by EV Ponomarenko and P. Neily and others as appropriate.

DNR should
a. transparently acknowledge and address, with peer‐reviewed science, the concerns and  critiques that have been raised with DNR’s mapping of natural disturbance regimes in  Nova Scotia and align its ecosystem‐based management framework for forestry on  Crown lands with its revised and peer‐reviewed mapping of Nova Scotia’s natural  disturbance regimes 

b. align its ecosystem‐ based management framework for forestry on Crown lands with its  revised and peer‐reviewed mapping of Nova Scotia’s natural disturbance regimes  – Lahey Recommendation 7

Regardless, I and likely others with a science or forestry background have or will have many questions/points of discussion related to the two papers and one report cited above. It would certainly  have been nice and I think consistent with the Lahey recommendations for the half dozen people (I was one of them) who  pushed hard for Prof. Lahey to look at DNR’s science related to Natural Disturbance Regimes to have had an opportunity as a “stakeholder group” to discuss the Taylor et al. review before it was finally submitted for publication.  We were asked to participate in the Workshop on Nova Scotia’s Natural Disturbance Regime and Ecological Forestry Framework special workshop on the topic convened by Lahey on Feb of 2018 (see Independent Review Addendum p.9) which clearly led to that review.

Taylor et al. (2020) provide some info on what’s involved in the “Next phase” of the Natural Disturbance Regimes Project:

Although application of natural disturbance regime information to forest management planning (e.g., how to derive harvest rotations and target age structures by ecoregion, and what residual stand structures reflect natural disturbance regimes) is beyond the scope of this review, a follow-up paper on methods of application is currently being prepared that focuses on translating disturbance parameters presented in Table 5 into practical forest management guidelines.

There is a hint as to where that will go under the influence of A.R. Taylor whose research unit has a major focus on the impacts of climate change on our forests;

‘While the preceding sections synthesized our knowledge of contemporary disturbance agents and their behavior in Nova Scotia forests, it is likely that disturbance regimes will continue to change in the future, which may influence how we use natural disturbance emulation to meet ecological forestry targets.

All good. It would just help if  L&F would be much more communicative (open and 2-way) about the whole process (as Lahey recommended); and while they spend the next x months or years* figuring it all out,  introduce some meaningful restrictions on current forestry practices.
______________________
*There is no timeline stated for this “next phase” in the current description of the Natural Disturbance Project.

In the meantime, there is some related research ongoing within L&F, not announced or described anywhere on their website but revealed in a recent  MTRI webinar – Successional Dynamics in Nova Scotia’s Coastal Black Spruce Communities by Emily Woudstra); L&F Forester/landscape ecology specialist Peter Bush is her supervisor. Perhaps there is more going on; we don’t know because L&F does not provide such info routinely.

3. Old Forest
June 25, 2019 Timeline: None given
Currently cited (Aug 28, 2020) Timeline: Stakeholder engagement in 2020; Revisions to Old Forest Policy to be finalized by the end of 2020.
Comment: I have not heard of any stakeholder engagement to date. Dr. Peter Duinker is recently retired as a Professor in the School of Resource  & Environmental Studies at Dalhousie University and  was  also one of the Expert Advisors for the Independent Review. He  is the sole “Expert” for this project and it seems he has been given a free hand to proceed at his own pace. A critical component of this project, in principle at least is to (bolding mine)  “review the Old Forest Policy, and further develop identification criteria that will facilitate more effective land use planning by accelerating assessments of potential old forest and the conservation of old growth“.  As far as I could determine, the Old Forest Project was the only Project of the 8 projects listed before February 2020  that contained reference to anything like “Biodiversity Landscape Planning”. I have recently learned that the Environmental Assessments will incorporate such planning (see 9: Environmental Assessment, below).

4. High Production Forestry
June 25, 2019 Timeline: A framework will be developed for site selection and designation in the second phase of this project, due in 2020
Currently cited (Aug 28, 2020) Timeline: Finalize definition and criteria in Spring 2020
Comment: Clearly delayed from last-stated timeline. See previous Post

5. Small-Scale Wood Energy Projects
June 25, 2019 Timeline: The first phase is to convert some government buildings to wood heat energy for the 2019-20 heating season.
Currently cited (Aug 28, 2020) Timeline: First site to be in place by 2020/21 heating season.
Comment. ‘Appears to be on schedule, view Nova Scotia announces sites for 6 wood energy projects (Michael Gorman for CBC News Feb 3, 2020) and
L&F Press release Feb 3, 2020: Public Buildings Converting to Wood Heat
RFSQ – Wood Heat Service Providers: Award Memo: Wood4heating Canada Inc., ACFOR Energy Inc., SustainDriven Inc., Mira Forestry Development Ltd., Spec Resources Inc.
More comment in this post: In 2020, strict standards and transparency are required for Nova Scotia’s forest chipping/bioenergy projects to be credible as “good for the environment” 11Feb2020

UPDATE Sep 25, 2020: From CBC: Why forest harvests did not decline after Northern Pulp closed
by Michael Gorman Sep 24, 2020

News on district heating coming soon
Meanwhile, Rankin and his department officials remain focused on trying to diversify the industry and help find new markets. He’s confident that by next July, there will be new options for the industry beyond simply renewing access for Northern Pulp

Six district heating projects are almost complete and an update will come within the next two weeks, said Rankin. He and staff continue to have virtual trade missions to explore new export opportunities in places such as Maine, Sweden and Finland, and Rankin said he’s encouraged that 22 applications were recently received for the first round of access to the $50-million forestry innovation transition trust.

“We’ve been looking at ways to drive what is known as the bioeconomy and have more innovation to utilize that byproduct,” he said. “That takes some time, it takes capital investment for the different applicants to make.”

Photo courtesy of CC

6. Species at Risk
June 25, 2019 Timeline: The team will complete outstanding recovery plans (and status reports as needed) for species solely listed in Nova Scotia and organize and convene the first Recovery Action Forums in 2019
Feb 19, 2020 Update: Recovery Plans for species at risk for which the Province is solely responsible have been drafted and are awaiting approval from Recovery Teams. The department, in collaboration with Recovery Teams, are hosting Recovery Action Forums in each region over the coming weeks (Eastern: February 26, Central: March 4, and Western: March 11). The focus of the forums will be to collaborate with practitioners and will include public information sessions in the evenings.
Currently cited (Aug 28, 2020) Timeline: Work on revising policies began in fall 2019; Recovery Action Forums in Winter 2020.
Comment: There is also the Biodiversity Act, which seems to have fallen by the wayside or is otherwise on hold.  The name of this project was changed sometime after Feb 19, 2020 from “Species at Risk” to “Species at Risk Renewal”,  I assume  following the successful lawsuit (May 29, 2020) by the Federation of Nova Scotia Naturalists, the Blomidon Naturalists Society and the Halifax Field Naturalists who joined with Juniper Law to request a “judicial review” of the province’s failure to uphold its 1998 Endangered Species Act.

7. Outcomes Based Forestry
June 25, 2019 Timeline: The department is designing an outcomes-based approach to Crown forest management. It is anticipated that this will be in place by the end of 2020, with implementation to follow.
Currently cited (Aug 28, 2020) Timeline: Stakeholder engagement on values and indicators in spring/summer 2020.
Comment This is a topic/concept that I find somewhat difficult to grasp. Said Lahey p 5:

As the Review progressed, I heard more from industry about what industry has done and could do to better align forestry activities with ecological considerations. Directly and indirectly, I also heard quite a bit about the benefits of an outcomes‐based approach to the regulation of forest practices. For example, I was asked to consider the outcomes that industry is required to meet under Maine’s outcome‐based forestry policy as an alternative to the rule‐based approach taken by Maine’s Forest Practices Act.

Conclusion #59 High‐production forestry on Crown land should, however, be subject to a more‐robust accountability framework for its effective management than is currently in place – accountability that is responsive to the characteristics of, and rationale for, high‐ production forestry. My conclusion is that those licensed to conduct forestry on Crown land should, in respect of the high‐production elements of their activities, be required by DNR to achieve outcomes – in areas such as soil productivity, water quality and wetlands,
timber supply and quality, aesthetic impacts, biological diversity, public accountability, economic aspects, social consideration, and forest health – such as required under the State of Maine’s Outcome‐Based Forestry Policy. This outcomes‐based regime should be subject to compliance with otherwise applicable laws and regulations, such as the Endangered Species Act and the Wildlife Habitat and Watercourse Protection Regulations.

It is not clear if Outcomes-based forestry would be applied to just the HPF component of the Triad or also to the Ecological Matrix. Conclusions 80 – 82 imply both.  It seems that a major goal is to allow DNR to be “extricated from the operational aspects of forestry operations” (Lahey Conclusion # 81).

Recommendation #15 cites HPF: “DNR should require areas of high‐production forestry on Crown land, including plantations,  to be managed to achieve outcomes such as those required under the State of Maine’s  Outcome‐Based Forestry Policy. ”

However recommendation #21 seems to imply Outcomes-based forestry would be applied more broadly.

Add to that confusion, the more recently listed Environmental Assessment project, discussed below.

Subsequently added Projects

8. Reporting on the State of the Forest
This Project was added to the list on the website in July of 2019
July 2019 Timeline: Summer 2019: Identify external experts to participate on the project team, and opportunities for stakeholder and/or public participation
Currently cited (Aug 28, 2020) Timeline: Revised State of the Forest report to be finalized by the end of 2020.
Comment:  A few days ago, I received an e-mail invitation to “to complete this survey in hopes that we can better understand how to improve our report to meet your needs. This work was also part of the recommendations in the 2018 Independent Review of Forestry Practices.”  So it seems they are well behind and are just starting to put the report together .

9. Environmental Assessment
Added  in the spring of 2020; the current descriptive document for that project, which appears to be Version 1, is dated Mar 18, 2020.
From the Feb 19, 2020 Update: A Request for Proposals was issued in January to hire a consultant to develop a guide for the preparation of 20 year forest stewardship plans which will be subject to the environmental assessment process. Stakeholder consultations are anticipated in the coming months.
Currently cited (Aug 28, 2020) Timeline: Target project completion: Fall/Winter 2020 [presumably meaning Fall 2020/ Winter 2020-2021]

Comment: I am not aware of any stakeholder consultations having yet been held.

An  MCFC webinar shed some light on this project:
The Why and How of Environmental Assessment of Forest Management on Public Land by Peter Duinker*, June 16 2020. View Archived MCFC Video. View NSFN Post, June 16 2020.
__________________
*Peter Duinker, recently retired from the School of Resource and Environmental Management at Dal was one of the Expert Advisors to the Independent Review, and is also the lead for the Old Forest project. 

I was astounded to learn during that webinar that (i) there is yet another plan or guide to be involved in directing logging practices, the Guide to  Preparing [20-year] Forest Stewardship Plans  (ii) the Environmental Assessments, according to PD, will be the main venue for Biodiversity Landscape Planning.

I can find no reference to such a Guide in other Projects or in the Lahey Report or in the Addendum to that report. So I wonder how was the concept developed? In what context?  What was discussed about it with the other Project teams?

In regard to Biodiversity Landscape Planning, there is no specific project otherwise on Landscape Level Planning for Biodiversity Conservation, and except for the Old Forest Project  (also being directed by PD)  there is no reference to Landscape Level Planning  in the other projects. So in this context I very much welcome seeing it in the EA (view Post June 16, 2020).

As Landscape Level Planning for Biodiversity Conservation is  to be undertaken  as part of the  EA process/20-year Forest Stewardship Guide, I  guess it will incorporate any increases in areas under protection (i.e. increases in no logging areas) associated with the Old Forest Project, the Species-at-Risk Renewal Project, and  Riparian Protection (re: Lahey Conclusion 68), and make use of the  to-date-elusive  “landscape planning pilot project” cited  by Lahey in Aug 2018 as “soon to be completed” (Lahey Conclusion 47).

Remarkably PD said in response to a question I asked in the webinar that he did not know whether the EA process  would apply to HPF.

“That’s unknown to me, however it would seem reasonable that it would be… I don’t know where the province is going with its thinking on the spatial allocation of HPF, but presumably in at least the larger commercially oriented FULA areas, the big licenses, there would be territory allocated to HPF along with the rest of the territory allocated to the ecological matrix, so presumably the FSP for the entire license area would include the HPF and EM areas… and the EA would apply to the whole package”

He was vague in his response to another question, “How do you see the timeline for the EAs unfolding and how does that relate to times for HPF, Ecological Forestry/Matrix and Old Forest projects?“ Said PD:

I can’t be sure… except to say that Lahey’s Recommendation said that before any license is created or renewed that the EA process should be applied… I am not privy to the Government’s intended schedule for implementation of a new EA process other than to say it can’t be started until a regulatory framework is in place and the Guide to preparing Forest Stewardship Plans is in place and approved, then it could proceed, whether that’s ahead of or behind some of the other initiatives like the settling of the HPF thing, the Outcomes-based Forestry thing, the Old Forest Policy, the Silvicultural Guide for the Ecological Matrix..I am not sure if those are all supposed to dovetail into some sort of grand plan over the next couple of years.

These responses do not inspire confidence that implementation of the Lahey Recommendations via the Projects at L&F is a well coordinated, well integrated process. Rather it leaves the impression that each Project is being conducted pretty well independently of the others…although the final implementation of the FMG and HPF Projects is clearly dependent on completion of Projects 3(Old Forest), 7(Outcomes Based Forestry) 9 (Environmental Assessment), and certainly in principle on 2(Natural Disturbance Regime) and 6(Species at Risk Renewal). To that should be added a Project that isn’t – Riparian Protection (Lahey Conclusion #68, Recommendation # 25).

The Project description for the Environmental Assessment was and still is pretty thin on info, and there was not time  to ask more questions, so after the webinar  I wrote Tom Soehl, the L&F Team leader for the EA Project with a couple of questions. His responses and some followup on the reply revealed that PD/his private company is involved in the EA as a member of the Consulting Group NorthWinds that were awarded the contract  “to develop a 20-Year Forest Stewardship Planning Guide” . Another member of the NorthWinds group is Laird Van Damme, also an Expert Advisor to the Independent Review – view Post June 16, 2020; presumably PD and LVD are also functioning as Experts for the whole EA Project – on the current document describing that project, it says under Experts Involved: “To be determined (Request for Proposals to develop a 20-Year Forest Stewardship Planning Guide underway)”.

I also requested the RFP for the project, which has now been posted on the Information Access site under  the date on which I requested it (July 16, 2020), view document 2020-01032-DLF Some extracts are posted here.

Pages 11-13 pertain to the purpose & timeframe. On the timeframe:

Time frames for completion of the Guide
1. Draft table of contents outlining the direction and approach to be ready for stakeholder engagement within one month;
2. First draft of the Guide for review to be delivered
within three months of awarding of contract;
3. Completed Guide to be delivered within six
months of awarding of contract.

Re#3: that’s about now.

I then attempted (July 29, 2020) to obtain a copy of the winning proposal and some details of the RFP process;  I was not told  until Sep 2, 2020  that these details cannot be released “because the RFP is still being negotiated”!  Ouch. The RFP was issued on January 27, 2020,  and the contract was awarded on April 22, 2020.   From what Prof. Duinker told us in his webinar on June 16, 2020, his group was then well into the process of developing the EA and the associated 20-year Forest Stewardship Guide. Project Manager  Tom Soehl told me on June 16 that The goal is still to have the project completed this year. At this point, it is looking like stakeholder consultations would probably happen August/September.

Yet the RFP is still being negotiated! I am a bit skeptical about the process. Nevertheless, as the EA Project/20-year Forest Stewardship Guide appears to be the only point at which explicit Landscape Level Planning for Biodiversity Conservation is being integrated into the whole L&F Response to the Lahey Recommendations to date, I hope it achieves the results PD says it will.

Announced on Feb 19, 2020

Stakeholder Relations Position: Naomi Arron is now in the newly created role of Senior Strategist, Stakeholder Relations and Issues Management. The focus of this position is to enhance the department’s communications and engagement with our stakeholders. Naomi can be reached at Naomi.Arron@novascotia.ca.

Minister’s Advisory Committee: The Minister’s Advisory Committee met yesterday for the first time to ensure a shared understanding of its mandate, roles and responsibilities, and the skills, knowledge, and abilities each member brings to the table. This committee includes 14 individuals that represent diverse perspectives and areas of expertise and is tasked with providing advice to the Minister on strategic decisions, policy and priorities relevant to implementing ecological forestry. Subsequent meetings will provide an opportunity for committee members to learn about and provide feedback on specific project work.

Comment: It would help if these items were listed and some details provided on the Ecological Forestry page – The Feb 19th announcement was by e-mail and in a Press Release. I can’t find a list of who is on the Advisory Committee anywhere.

Other docs cited on the Ecological Forestry Page

Evaluation of the Implementation of the Ecological Forestry Model
Document dated Dec 12, 2019.

At the department’s request Professor Lahey has agreed to lead an evaluation of the Province’s implementation efforts.The evaluation will have two components:
1) A one-year assessment of the Province’s progress;
2) A longer-term framework to guide the preparation of on-going evaluations to assess progress towards achieving the ecological model of forestry management in Nova Scotia as envisioned in the Review.

…For the one-year assessment, Professor Lahey and his team will review a progress report prepared by the Department of Lands and Forestry for activities completed and underway up to December 2019 and seek the input of the recently created Ministerial Advisory Committee on Natural Resources.

Comment: From the CBC Interview with Minister Aug 19, 2020 :

CBC: Before we were dealing with the pandemic, the schedule for all of this had said that Prof Lahey would be doing what amounted to a check-in review on progress by your department by the end of the fiscal year. Did that happen and if it did what can you tell me about the Professor’s findings?

IR: He has not completed that, we have been sending him our tracking sheet to show where we have made progress..we thought we would have had it by now, I guess it’s a question that should be posed to him but I expect we will be getting it soon.

Strategy for Improving Openness, Transparency, Collaboration and Accountability at the Department of Lands and Forestry
by DG Communications for the Department of Lands and Forestry, June 20, 2019
Comment: ‘Hard to detect any fundamental changes related to this strategy. I guess the Stakeholder Relations Position is one outcome.

The Project Muddle

Here is what I am having a hard time getting my heard around: how will the application of the Lahey Recommendations actually unfold once the Projects are completed?

Currently, proposed harvests for Crown lands are posted on the Harvest Plan Map Viewer and people have a 40-day window to comment. Then the Government/harvest proponents consider the comments, and respond to individuals posting them (at least some  of the time).

The system has many issues, but once people who haad been concerned about forests and forestry in NS tuned into it and kept an eye on it, notably in the year following the release of the Lahey Report,  it  resulted  in at least a  few instances in some changes in harvesting decisions; in some cases, errors on the part of DNR/L&F were identified as a result of the feedback. People complained that the HPMV did not show previous harvests, and DNR inserted a layer in the Map Viewer showing those harvests, so there was some responsiveness to issues raised by users. View these NSFN posts for records of some of the back and forth.

A few of the of the outstanding (frustrating) issues from a user perspective:

  • Harvest plans are posted only 40 days ahead, and the Landscape Level Plans for longer intervals are not made available.
  • The Updates/Summaries sent out to subscribers are not archived anywhere, at least not in the public domain.
  • There are no public records of the Comments and Responses related to proposed harvests or of any changes that were made in response to comments.

In Conclusion # 79, Lahey cited a number of reasons that led him to conclude “that the current system under which DNR approves each and every  harvest conducted on Crown land is problematic“: (bolding is mine)

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.

He then proposes several fixes (see Conclusions 80-83):

  • An alternative outcomes‐focused system.
  •  “DNR, the industry, and forestry professionals [must] demonstrate commitment to an approach to forestry on Crown lands that is consistent with modern principles of ecological forestry”.
  • DNR must introduce comprehensive and rigorous monitoring, oversight, and accountability system
  • EGSPA should specify a goal or goals relative to the implementation on Crown lands of the triad model of ecological forestry “.

I am still left asking:

(i) How will this all unfold?
(ii) How long will it take to launch?
(iii) What precautionary measures will be introduced in the meantime to reduce the negative impacts of status-quo forestry that led to the Independent Review, and the Natural Resources Strategy before it?

In regard to (ii) it seems pretty clear that it will be a year or more for all of the pieces to be put together as most stakeholder and public sessions are now well behind schedule and given, evidently, poor coordination and integration of the projects currently.

In regard to (iii), we have the answer from the experience to date, post-Lahey: Variable Retention and not much else; individual and organized public protests continue to grow.

It is (i) that seems particularly hazy or muddled. Here are some of my questions pertaining to how the various Projects will come together:

Once the proposed HPF sites are identified, what opportunities will there be for consideration of public comment? Will there be one big EA for the HPF sites to cover the next 5 years? The next 20 years (re: 20-year Forest Stewardship Guide)? Once that EA is concluded, is that the end of opportunities for public comment?

At this point we don’t even know whether EAs will apply to HPF (re Peter Duinker’s comments June 26, 2020); if they do not, how does Landscape Level Planning come into  the HPF Project?

–  We know that EAs will apply to the Ecological Matrix. So the same question applies: Once the proposed EM sites are identified, what opportunities will there be for consideration of public comment? Will there be one big EA for the EM sites to cover the next 5 years? The next 20 years (re: 20-year Forest Stewardship Guide)? Once that EA is concluded, is that the end of opportunities for public comment?

How does Outcomes-Based-Management come into these processes? Will it be applied only to the HPF sites?  Will the Guide to practices for HPF sites incorporate Outcomes-Based-Management processes?

What goes on the HPMV once these procedures are set in place and what function does it serve in future?

Conclusions

It seems that, except for the Natural Disturbance Project and the Small-Scale Wood Energy Projects, most of these priority projects are well behind the schedules envisaged on June 25, 2019.

The responses  to my questions about whether  EAs will  apply to HPF,  and about the timeline for the EAs  in relation to other Projects, do not inspire confidence that the implementation of the Lahey Recommendations via the Projects at L&F is a well coordinated/integrated process.

Rather they create the impression that each Project is being conducted pretty well independently of the others. Regardless, the final implementation of the core FMG and HPF Projects  is clearly dependent on completion of Projects 3 (Old Forest), 7 (Outcomes Based Forestry) 9 (Environmental Assessment), and at least  in principle on 2 (Natural Disturbance Regime) and 6 (Species at Risk Renewal). 

Thus it’s hard to see how at the current pace, the Triad could be in place in less than one year from now, and perhaps it would take longer. The FMG and possibly the HPF components will be subject to an EA as well, so the time to conduct the  EAs needs to be added to the time it takes to complete the FMG and HPF Projects.

Protestors camp out at an Old Forest site slated for logging in Annapolis Co. in June 2019. Public concern about forest practices in NS has increased, not decreased, subsequent to the completion of the Lahey Report.

I can understand how L&F may be  over-whelmed, that they simply do not have the structure and staff to respond in timely manner.  OK,  but then why were/are meaningful precautionary restrictions on the status quo not put in place in the meantime?     By not doing so, most of the good will generated when the Lahey Report was released has dissipated, and the ill- effects of status quo forestry on forest life and Nova Scotia’s connections to our Crown land forest have continued.

Following  are some suggestions on how some of that good will might be recovered.

(i) Bring in a Team Manager/Director with credentials in dealing with complex public issues   and with no direct connections to L&F or to the forest industry in NS and give him/her (or a consulting group) authority to reorganize and redirect projects and reset timelines as necessary to move them forward in an integrated manner; he/she should report to Prof. Lahey, not to The Minister of Lands and Forestry. Or something like this, i.e., bring in an independent Team Captain for implementation of the Lahey Recommendations.

(ii) Take immediate steps to

increase reporting on the progress of projects and on the activities of the Forestry and Wildlife staff more generally within L&F. Such reporting could include for example, a requirement to update the descriptions of project at 3-month intervals, a monthly or bi-monthly newsletter with articles by members of the project teams; webinars of the sort offered by MTRI and MCFC this past summer (with some involvement of L&F) but with more extended Q&As and announced more broadly or with Q&As for different audiences*
__________
*After the first presentation, subsequent presentations could consist only of Q&As, and might be handled by different personnel according to the audience.

increase overall transparency of operations within L&F, including details of  who does what and of its expenditures related to its support of forestry and to implementation of the Lahey Recommendations. All submissions made in relation to L&F Discussion Papers and the like should be made public.

(iii) In the meantime, put meaningful breaks on the status quo of forestry operations and introduce precautionary measures to ensure that  biodiversity conservation has priority  over wood supply while we wait for the full implementation of the Lahey recommendations.  E.g., restrict any Variable Retention/clearcutting to already-existing plantations; introduce precautionary Landscape Level Planning measures.

“In other words, I have concluded that protecting ecosystems and biodiversity should not be balanced against other objectives and values as if they were of equal weight or importance to those other objectives or values. Instead, protecting and enhancing ecosystems should be the objective (the outcome) of how we balance environmental, social, and economic objectives and values in practising forestry in Nova Scotia. – Bill Lahey, paragraph 2 of the Executive Summary, p iii

In the meantime also,  we are still waiting for Prof. Lahey’s one-year Evaluation of Progress of L&F in its efforts to implement the Ecological Forestry Model. Prof Lahey has also been asked to prepare “A longer-term framework to guide the preparation of on-going evaluations to assess progress towards achieving the ecological model of forestry management in Nova Scotia as envisioned in the Review.”

In the meantime also, in the relatively short span of time since the Lahey Report was released, a lot has changed in the Nova Scotia  (e.g. the appearance of  Hemlock Wooly Adelgid in SW Nova Scotia,  closure of the NP Mill, Covid19 and its impact on demand for timber). Further, the world at large has become much more aware of and concerned about, the dual crises of climate change and biodiversity loss and many now regard the Lahey recommendations as simply too little and too late.

We are well over the initial shock of Covid19,  NS has handled that file pretty well overall and, I assume, no one was laid off at L&F on account of it.

Surely it is time to get on with it all.

In 2020, is this 200+ year old stand better left standing or harvested? The answer lies at the landscape level.

Some related posts on NSFN
Aug 27, 2020: Nova Scotia Lands & Forests progress in implementing Ecological Forestry since the Lahey Report, Part 2: The HPF and FMG projects 27Aug2020

Aug 25, 2020: Nova Scotia Lands & Forestry’s progress in implementing Ecological Forestry since the Lahey Report, Part 1: what do we see ‘on the ground’? 25Aug2020

Aug 22, 2020: I rented a cottage for a month in the wilds of Nova Scotia, just south of Kejimkujik Park… it seemed that everywhere I went I witnessed extreme devastation to our land…clear cutting everywhere

Aug 20, 2020: Two years after Lahey Report, L&F Minister Rankin again confirms that L&F’s priority for our Crown lands is logging 20Aug2020

Aug 14, 2020: Nova Scotia L&F’s response to the Lahey recommendations has been to “Talk and Log, Study and Log, Research and Consider Policy Changes but Continue to Log” 14Aug2020

Aug 13, 2020: Two years after the Lahey Report, Nova Scotians are increasingly “saddened, frustrated and angry at what they see in the woods” 13Aug2020

June 16, 2020: Biodiversity Landscape Planning for Nova Scotia is being developed as part of the L&F Environmental Assessment Project 16Jun2020

June 14, 2020: Upcoming MCFC webinars should shed some light on L&F responses to Lahey recommendations 14June2020

Postscript
Sep 9, 2020.

I wrote this post mostly as a record of where we are in Lahey process. I have no expectation that my suggestions to recuperate some of the good will generated following the release of the Lahey report will be pursued.

I, like many others, didn’t like the Triad concept for NS but accepted it as a compromise. L&F/Big Forestry have demonstrated they do not accept the compromise part. If L&F  implements  High Production Forestry as currently proposed (re: HPF Discussion Paper; view post Aug 27, 2020) we will be worse off ecologically than we were pre-Lahey.

So basically we are where we were a few years after the Natural Resources Strategy process (2010) with lip service but no real change and continued degradation of our forests supposedly  for the sake of rural employment but with most of the profits going to urban folks in NS and elsewhere and with lots of subsidies, direct and indirect, by NS taxpayers. As well, Big Forestry’s near exclusive access to Crown land forests is hurting the small private woodlot owners. Prof. Lahey concluded that wasn’t happening in Western NS (Lahey report: 3.6 Conclusions on Market Access Issues), but we are still hearing complaints from the small private woodlot owners and contractors to the effect that access to Crown lands given to Big Forestry is hurting the smaller players on private lands, e.g. see comment below.

I do believe there are alternatives that could work in the interest of our forests as natural ecosystems AND rural employment and there are people out there doing it now, although many are struggling. Unfortunately, in 2020, Big Forestry, aided by Nova Scotia Lands and Forestry,  rules the day but,  hopefully, not tomorrow. In that latter regard, I am very encouraged by the perspectives and activities of the Mi’kmaq peoples, by movements such as Extinction Rebellion, by local protests about spraying and cutting of Old Forests,  by activities of organizations such as the Healthy Forest Coalition,   NSWOOA, the Nature Conservancy of Canada , NS Nature Trust, and by the ecologically sensitive management of forested lands  by many private land owners in NS.

Some Comments on WWNS

AF: no raise for treeplanters in 20 years dnr dragging ass on that but rushing ahead to give are wood to the mills why cant the public know the $$$$ coming in to the public purse for the sale of are wood ? some one should make them open the books.

dnr can take all there forestry reviews and studys and set them on fire for the good they have done and will do. ns needs to have a free market forestry industry run on privet wood and privet money where mills can sink or swim on there own or use the crown wood to build a industry for the public good government run for the good of NS . i dont care witch but this for profit industry running on tax payer wood and money is sick.

i can find all kinds of advice on how they log in the state of Main i want to know more about how the bid the public land being cut insted of handing it to industry



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