Draft Nova Scotia Forestry EA Process surfaces 21May2021

Can EAs for forestry on Crown lands in NS ensure that planning for biodiversity conservation takes place on a landscape level  scale and put to rest public concern about Crown land forestry practices? Retired Dal Prof Peter Duinker, the major proponent of this EA process (Ind Review Addendum, p 99) and a consultant on its implementation says it will. But it could take 4 more years to get there (see below). The reward: “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.” Image from NSFN post of Jan 8, 2019

It appears Talk and Log will continue for another four years after the Lahey Recommendations are implemented

Full implementation of the Lahey Recommendations, promised by Iain Rankin before the next election, involves several major components, some of which the public has been given some introduction to and opportunity for feedback – notably the Draft  HPF (High Production Forestry) document (released Feb 19, 2020), and the Silvicultural Guide for the Ecological Matrix/Forest Management Guide (draft released for comment Jan 21, 2021). For both it was clear there was a lot of public interest and comment, some of it copied onto NSFN (e.g., for SGEM, view Post Feb 16, 2021; for HPF, view Post Aug 27, 2020).

A major issue in regard to the HPF was/is the proportion of working forest on Crown lands that would be assigned to HPF, also the ongoing clearcutting/even aged forestry in the meantime. Rankin has made it clear that there will be no moratorium while L&F takes whatever time it needs to figure out how to implement the recommendations, the pleas of half of the Advisory Committee and young and old Nova Scotians notwithstanding; they won’t even restrict harvesting during nesting season.

But at least the public knows something about those two components of L&F’s response to the Lahey recommendations, even if what we know is not reassuring.

There remain two major components about which the public knows next to nothing, but which are critical to public support of the whole process: the Old Forest Policy, and the Environmental Assessment;  not to mention the Outcomes-Based Forest Management and the “strategic, long-term wood supply analysis” that was supposed to be part of the HPF project but now seems to have sunk out of sight, at least in the public domain, let alone recommendations that have yet to be addressed at all, e.g. related to riparian buffers.

As we rush to meet Iain Rankin’s deadline for putting a check mark beside his promise to implement the Lahey Recommendations before he calls the next provincial election, the time for for these components to be well vented with the public is becoming ever shorter.

A few days ago I received this diagram, taken from a presentation at a recent meeting of the Forest Advisory Committee* for Port Hawkesbury Paper:

Environmental Assessment (Draft Example)
Click on image for larger, clearer version.

*“The Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) was established in 2000 for the Woodlands Unit at Port Hawkesbury Paper LP (PHP). The committee’s main function is to provide an ongoing and interactive opportunity for meaningful public participation in forest management decisions and two-way flow of information from the public to the company and back again. The FAC includes representatives from a variety of public interest groups including youth, woodlot owner, contractor, small industry, tourism, recreation, Aboriginal, community development, small business, academia, government, environmental, community, and forest education. The views of these public interest groups and individuals are brought to PHP’s Woodlands Unit through the FAC; they assist the company to identify, understand, and prioritize forest related issues. In addition to meeting at least six times per year, FAC members participate in an annual field tour of PHP’s forestry and forestry related operations.” SOURCE

Wow. So once the Lahey Recommendations are implemented (the way L&F chooses to implement them of course) we could be tied up for as much as  0.5 years+3 years+227 days = 4.1 years before a plan is actually OK’d and is implemented. And I suppose we can assume that in the meantime, the status quo prevails, as it has since 2010 (with a little face-lifting).

I guess from that point on, the harvest by harvest approval/public notice & feedback that has been in place since I think 2014 will be no more. Or will it?

I guess someone knows.

And I guess the EA process will not apply to the HPF component.  Or will it? Asked about that in a webinar just under a year ago,  Prof Peter Duinker who is the proponent of this process – view Ind Review Addendum, p 99 –   as well as an “Expert Adviser” for the Independent Review, the one “Expert” for the Old Forest Project, and a Consultant for the  Environmental Assessment project  said this:

“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”

I guess someone knows.

Asked, “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?“, Prof Duinker commented,

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.

I guess someone knows.

Oh, and then of course there is matter of enforcement of EA requirements, hardly an area in which NS excels.* No indication how that would be handled. But then again, it is expected that the EA process “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” (from Lahey, see below).
*e.g. view Atlantic Gold’s imaginary conservation land by Joan Baxter in the Halifax Examiner May 20, 2021; Failure to Enforce, ECELAW, 2014

Lot’s to look forward to folks. Or not.


On EAs, From the Lahey Report, Conclusions (bolding inserted)

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. 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.

View currently posted EA Project Doc
Note: no Timelines. (Document dated Sep 8, 2020)

Timelines given in the first project description posted
(document dated Mar 18, 2020):

• Work on identifying regulatory options is underway.
• Winter 2020: RFP issued in January to hire a consultant to develop a guide for the preparation of 20- year forest stewardship plans
• Spring/Summer 2020: Stakeholder consultations
• Fall/Winter 2020: Target project completion

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