Big Forestry has managed to get a taboo on regulating just about anything on private lands in Nova Scotia and to continue to get what it wants from our Crown (public) lands while degrading their ecological and social value. It illustrates Big Forestry’s remarkable clout, given that Forest Products-related GDP amounted to only 0.9% of Nova Scotia GDP in 2018. The rest of us, and the natural world in Nova Scotia, are paying for it.
Victory #1 A taboo on any regulation of clearcutting on private land
2010: Natural Resources Strategy Recommends 50% reduction in clearcutting on Crown and Private lands; DNR Minister Macdonell promises to follow through.
2011: Big Forestry’s first Big Win of the decade with NDP Premier Dexter’s transfer of Minister MacDonell out of DNR (to Agriculture) in early 2011.
2018: Taboo reasserted by Lahey 2018
(Credit Dexter & McNeil Governments).
Victory #2 Clearcutting continues on Crown lands
– 2011-2016: Won with NDP Premier Dexter’s transfer of Minister MacDonell out of DNR in 2011 (no 50% reduction in clearcutting); helped by
- FPANS (ForestNS)’s successful behind-closed-doors* discrediting of the Bancroft and Crossland Report while praising the Jon Porter Report in 2010;
and followed by:
- the Government sponsored Woodbridge Report (2011);
- Dalhousie Prof. Peter Duinker’s put-down of the Natural Resources Strategy process (the Bancroft & Crossland Report in particular) in 2012;
- the new Liberal Government hiring Jon Porter in April of 2014 as executive director of DNR’s renewable resources branch followed by DNR setting up of a consortium of mills in the fall of 2014 – to become WestFor in 2016 – to harvest the Western Crown Lands;
- the 2016 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.”
– 2018: Won again with Lahey Report’s promotion of High Production Forestry
(Credit Dexter & McNeil Governments).
* Dr. Robert G. Wagner. July 7, 2010. Review of Reports and Recommendations Relating to Forests/Forestry as Part of Phase II of Nova Scotia’s Natural Resources Strategy Development Process for The Forest Products Association of Nova Scotia. 23 pp. Never publicly released. View My Comments on Wagner’s review. Also view EAC Response to Forest Industry Campaign against Steering Panel Report (July 11, 2010)
Victory #3 No moratorium on clearcutting/even-aged management while L&F figures out how to apply recommendations
2011: Won, post-Natural Resources Strategy recommendation, no moratorium imposed by DNR as they figured out how to apply the recommendations they liked and not the others.
2018: Won again post-Lahey Report, no moratorium imposed by L&F except for a secretive initial trial which was quickly dropped
2021: Won again under Rankin
(Credit Dexter & McNeil &Rankin Governments).
Victory #4 No Government response to legally successful efforts to increase protection of mainland moose or to moose protestors
2020/2021 Won with lack of action by L&F in regard to mainland moose in response to successful lawsuit, refusal to talk to moose protestors followed by their eviction; and continuing silence.
(Credit McNeil & Rankin Governments).
Victory #5 No regulation beyond existing existing regulations for biodiversity conservation on private lands
2021 Big Win: “Nova Scotia plans changes to Biodiversity Act less than 2 weeks after bill tabled” (CBC Mar 23, 2021)
(Credit Rankin Government).
“…the changes will: 1) remove biodiversity emergency orders, which would grant the province the right to intervene on private land in emergency situations where the act was being contravened; 2) remove offences and fines; and, 3) apply to Crown land unless a private landowner wants to be included in developing a biodiversity management zone on their land. These changes represent significant weakening of the act. Crown land comprises less than 30% of the province. Biodiversity cannot be retained and recovered by provisions that apply only to 30% of the land. These three elements represent provisions that are crucial to achieving the objectives of the act…” Karen Beazley & Colleagues in the Nova Scotia Advocate Mar 27,2021
Evidently, when IR said in his first comments as Premier that he would bring about “transformational change and we need to do it the right way”, he meant Big Forestry’s way.
Pending Victory #6 No ecologically meaningful reduction in Crown land wood supply
Dec 3, 2018: Tentative victory Re: comments by Minister Rankin (contradicting Lahey) and actual harvests;
Final Big Win pending adoption of the Lahey recommendations, promised by Rankin in 2021 – Will there be an ecologically meaningful reduction in in Crown land wood supply? Rankin will decide.
(Credit Rankin Government)
The Big Losses of Big Forestry
– 2019/2020: Boat Harbour (McNeil Government).
Impact on Biodiversity Conservation: Nil (no reduction in logging on Crown lands).
Impact on Big Forestry: essentially nil with more government grants, alternative uses including biomass energy for low value wood & sharply increased lumber prices.; targeting of old forests with big trees for the sawmills is having a huge negative impact on biodiversity).
– 2020/2021: Public Empathy for Big Forestry in Nova Scotia is probably the lowest ever.
Some Small Losses for Big Forestry
– Some minimal restrictions placed on Westfor while the Lahey Report was in progress (loss). New one year contract signed (secretly) on Oct 1, 2018 removed the restrictions (win).
– An attempt to apply some significant restrictions on harvesting, promptly, post-Lahey (loss) was retracted within less than 10 days (win).
Gains for the Biodiversity Lobby
Protected Lands in NS
2007: 8.5% of all land
These are significant gains. However these gains in Protected Areas mostly slow biodiversity losses, they do not reverse them. During the same period net loss of Old Forest habitat, connectivity and carbon storage due to logging has continued.
The Big Winners Overall: Some fraction of the NS forest industry, & its stockholders (Forest Products-related GDP amounted to 0.9% of Nova Scotia GDP in 2018); some invasive species likely also very happy.
The Big Losers Overall: The rest of us (re: ecosystem services) & most native species in Nova Scotia.
Internationally and federally, there is a goal of reaching 30% protection by 2030.
What are the chances NS will do its part? (View responses to this question posed to candidates for Liberal leadership in 2021, and leaders of other parties.)
I came up with this depressing list yesterday as I was brooding over the Nova Scotia L&F minister ducking the meeting with hunger striker Jacob Fillmore and the news that the government had backed off on key components of its Biodiversity Act
Rankin & Co. “showed their resolve” (to who?) in not talking to Jacob Fillmore, but apparently had talked to and readily caved to the Big Forestry lobby.
By noontime, I had to take to the woods. I am fortunate that within a 10-20 min drive I can be in any one of a half dozen or so parks/protected areas. Within minutes of walking I no longer brooded and indeed observed many things to celebrate: no Hemlock Wooly Adelgid on the hemlocks, Hobble Bush getting ready to bloom; a Sharp Shinned Hawk overhead, beautiful old hardwoods, a Pileated Woodpecker on an old hardwood snag amongst them. Driving back home, CBC Mainstreet’s Jeff Douglas talked to a “Forest Therapist”.. she said we need at least 2 hours a week outdoors, best in the forest.
She was so right. An intact forest.