I saw this letter from Sandy Martin, a Nova Scotian currently living in the Netherlands, posted on Annapolis Royal & Area – Environment & Ecology (Public Group Facebook Page) and messaged Sandy to ask if I could post it, also as an addendum, her Ode to Activists. She graciously agreed. I have inserted some brown bolding to facilitate reading it on the web. Both docs say a lot that needs to be said. And said A lot.
The Honorable Tory Rushton
The Honorable Tim Halman
The Honorable Tim Houston
January 3, 2022
Re: Harvest Plan AP068499: Beal’s Brook
Dear Mr. Rushton, Mr. Halman and Mr. Houston,
Mr. Rushton, your department has not amended harvest plan AP068499. This plan will allow intensive logging of this valuable piece of forest. Twenty years ago, Bowater recognized its ecological value over its economic value and left this small 24-hectare forest standing. Your staff tell us that stopping this “harvest” is not possible. That is false. You have the authority to retract this license. I implore you to do so.
Mr. Halman, it is your responsibility to protect the wildlife and biodiversity of this province. It is also your responsibility to help move us towards decreasing CO2 levels. Protecting this piece of Crown Land is a small step toward meeting your responsibilities and goals. This small forest is an oasis in the middle of a sea of devastation and a known habitat for species at risk. In addition, protecting all remaining Crown Lands until further research is conducted into whether more of these lands shouldbe harvested, would be a bold statement. A statement that would answer Dr. Lahey’s Recommendation 13 regarding Landscape-level planning and in his words make the health of nature “the overarching priority”. If you took this step, we would know your government is sincere about reaching emissions targets and protecting the environment.
Mr. Houston, as Premier of our province, it is your responsibility to ensure that your government act in the best interest of all Nova Scotians and in accordance with the mandate letters issued to the Provincial Ministers. Yet industrial forestry continues to receive provincial support and subsidies even though they have proven themselves to be extremely poor corporate citizens. The Mandate Letter you issued to the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change and the Minister of Natural Resources and Renewables requires these two ministries to work together to protect at least 20% of the total land and water mass of Nova Scotia. Amending harvest plan AP068499 as outlined above and setting this ecologically valuable forest under protection would be a first step in putting the interests of Nova Scotians ahead of that of industry.
There are so many arguments that could be made in an attempt to persuade you to listen to the voices of concern, raised all over this province. I am sure you have heard many of those arguments put forward by voices more articulate than mine. Still, it behooves me to summarize the most compelling issues:
- The Science iis clear. Forest mismanagement has contributed greatly to this climate crisis. Forty years of peer-reviewed research carried out by Dr. Suzanne Simard has made it abundantly clear that industrial forestry has severely weakened our planet’s ability to restore and heal itself. We are destroying the very ecosystems that are able to protect us from the devastating effects of severe weather systems and increased CO2 levels. We don’t have to look to BC to see the effects of clearcutting and a disregard for the total landscape when issuing “harvest” permits. Cape Breton is now suffering as is South West Nova Scotia. If you have not yet read Dr. Simard’s book “Finding the Mother Tree, Uncovering the Wisdom and Intelligence of the Forest”, I would be happy to gift it to you. It will provide you valuable insight.
- Common Sense. Even to the untrained eye, satellite images make it quite clear that our forests are being destroyed and with them the plants and animals many of us depend upon for our livelihood, medicines and food. This small forest at Beal’s Brook is now not only a wildlife corridor, but a refuge for wildlife displaced by the devastating “harvests” in the area. The wetlands are also being destroyed and water systems disrupted by heavy machinery, impacting well systems and food sources. Just speak with any hunter, trapper, angler, ecotourism operator, small woodlot owner or Mi’kmaq Grandmother, Land Protector or Water Protector and they will tell you that common sense should have put an end to this destruction long ago. No ecosystem can sustain this level of destruction and regenerate and heal itself.
- UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.According to the UNESCO website:
“Biosphere reserves are learning places for sustainable development. They are sites for testing interdisciplinary approaches to understanding and managing changes and interactions between social and ecological systems, including conflict prevention and management of biodiversity. They are places that provide local solutions to global challenges. Biosphere reserves include terrestrial, marine and coastal ecosystems. Each site promotes solutions reconciling the conservation of biodiversity with its sustainable use.”
And according to the Southwest Nova Biosphere Reserve Website, the Association:
“seeks to balance the conservation of nature and cultural heritage with sustainable resource development to support prosperous local economies and healthy communities.”
As you know, most of South West Nova Scotia falls under the UNESCO Southwest Biosphere Reserve. So, I am wondering how the destruction of Crown Land forests, with the resulting destruction of wildlife habitat and therefore the decimation of biodiversity fit within the goals and objectives of the UNESCO organization to manage biodiversity. How does forcing local residents to camp out at the onset of winter, fit with the goals of this organization and conflict prevention? How does completely ignoring the voices of local Mi’kmaq communities and the Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaq Chiefs1fit in with this program of nature and cultural heritage? How does destroying a small wildlife corridor that has been known as the Last Hope Camp since 1920 fit within this same program goal? I would suggest that none do.
- The economic question is complicated. According to WestFor and Forest NS, this province needs industrial forestry to maintain economic growth. Yet the only discernable growth can be found in the pocketbooks of the large mills and logging companies. Mills receive large subsidies and support from the Province in many forms. However, the financial business risks are passed along to their contractors, forcing them to invest in extremely expensive machinery, while the mortgage on these investments are held by the mills. The numbers of people employed in our forests has plummeted dramatically under this system that serves only the big mills and their owners. Serfdom is indeed alive and well in Nova Scotia. Industrial forestry not only erodes our forests, but the health and well-being of rural communities as well!
My requests to you Mr. Halman, Mr Rushton and Mr. Houston are simple:
- Immediately amend the harvest plan AP068499 for Beal’s Brook and stop the “harvest”.
- Protect this 24-hectare forest permanently.
- Stop all harvesting on Crown Land until such time as can be ascertained what land should notbe harvested. This must be achieved through consultation with holders of local, traditional and scientific knowledge.
- The responsibility for our Crown Lands should be placed under the Department of Environment and Climate Change. The Department of Natural Resources and Renewables has been compromised by industry.
- Disband WestFor and remove all its rights to manage public land, which the citizens of Nova Scotia paid to buy from Bowater. This is a failed Liberal experiment.
Tens of thousands of Nova Scotians are willing to fight for a healthy future for our children and grandchildren. A future in which they can flourish in a province that is itself healthy with clean water and air, diverse in wildlife and sustainable. A province in which forests are not prized for the amount of fiber that can be extracted, but the extent to which its ecosystem can sustain all life. And you, gentlemen, should be leading the charge. The healthy future of your children and grandchildren will depend on that.
Wishing you wisdom, strength and good health in 2022.
Sandy Martin (Ms)
Presently in Den Helder, The Netherlands
1The Assembly of Mi’kmaq Chiefs demanded a stop to clearcutting at Rocky Point Lake in Digby County. This was in October 2020 and again in October 2021.
Ode to Activists
I am a retired educator and grandmother who deeply cares for my province and the future of our grandchildren. I would love nothing better than to spend my well-earned retirement with family and friends enjoying our beautiful province. Yet I find myself writing letters to the government, signing petitions, collecting signatures for more petitions, researching issues and reading countless government documents (albeit heavily redacted), scientific papers and reports. I am an activist.
That said, I am just a concerned citizen who can no longer sit by and digest the stories spun by communications departments or the disregard politicians and corporate CEOs have for the intelligent and rational voice of the people. Activists are looked upon with contempt. We are dismissed as a small group of tree-hugging environmentalists. A group of (at best) well-meaning yet somehow misguided individuals and (at worst) meddling, uninformed idiots. We are swept aside like irritating black flies. But don’t underestimate the power of black flies. A swarm can easily drive the hardiest of big mammals to distraction and shelter. We are the ones trying to catch the canaries as they fall like flies- in the coal mine that is our province. We are the ones who must take our own government to court, on a regular basis. We are not a small group. Nor are we just one group. We come from all walks of life, we are of all ages and live anywhere from Sydney to Yarmouth, from Amherst to Halifax and everyplace in between. We discuss scientific reports, share information and opinions and work hard to right obvious wrongs. We share a common goal and that is to restore the balance in our province so that our children and grandchildren can be assured a future that is healthy and based on a flourishing community. Unfortunately that is an uncomfortable goal for many in power who equate well-being with wealth based on corporate greed. I am an activist. Not by choice.
“Why did we choose to go on camping during a major snow storm? One answer is that you can’t walk away from a bunch of tents with 40 cm of snow in the forecast and expect to find them still standing when you return. As it was, one tent did collapse in the night but it popped back up at 5am when the occupant shovelled it off. Then there was a spot of stove pipe repair. But all in all we came through just fine.
The bigger answer of course is that we can’t go on treating the natural world as we have and expect it to pop back up over and over again. We have to recognize the danger we are in, all of us, human and non-human.
“Clearcut forests in the area we are protecting are simply not regrowing. The poor, acidic soil loses more fertility each time it is over cut. Wildlife dwindles as more and more habitat is destroyed. Climate change is compounding biodiversity loss and vice versa. Natural systems are collapsing under the sustained pressure of greedy resource extraction.
“It is time to save what we can. Remnants of natural forest like the Last Hope Wildlife Corridor need to be protected. Promises don’t cut it any more. We need action. That is why we are camped out here, to say no, you don’t. Enough is enough. Protect and restore nature. All of our lives depend on it.”