On logging of Crown land parcel AP068499 Beals Meadow, Nova Scotia: 1. Google Earth and Global Forest Watch images reveal extent of clearcutting in the vicinity 23Jan2022

Global Forest Watch image of tree cover gain (blue) and loss (pink)  in the area of AP068499 Beals Meadow

Exploration of the circumstances surrounding the decision to log AP068499 Beals Meadow raises more questions than answers. NRR could provide at least some of the answers.

Currently there is a stand-off between the Nova Scotia Government/NS Dept of Natural Resources and Renewables (NSNRR or NRR) and citizens who are taking direct action to block government-approved logging on Crown land parcel AP068499 Beals Meadow by the WestFor consortium.

The government maintains that their prescribed Uniform Shelterwood harvest of 30-35% of trees “aligns with the new Silviculture Guide [SGEM] for the Ecological Matrix and Lahey recommendations” and therefore (by implication) should be acceptable to all. They do not recognize the area as a wildlife corridor, as contended by Randy Neily, a long time hunter/fisher and observer of the area.

Other opponents of the  logging say that while the approved harvest is or may be in conformity with the SGEM, it overlooks other aspects of the Lahey recommendations,  most notably those related to landscape level issues (which are not addressed by the SGEM which is a stand-level decisio-making process); they say it  is critical to address landscape level issues because of the intensity of harvesting over the broader area. For more details view Current Issues/AP068499 Beals Meadow and NRR’s Line in the Sand (both on this website).

In this and a few subsequent posts on NSFN, I will explore these positions  and  related evidence.  This first post looks at extent of clearcutting in the vicinity of Beal’s Meadow.

Says Nina Newington on Dec 3, 2021:

The heart of the issue is how the decision was made that this forest was available for harvesting. The Lahey report and review point to the necessity for landscape level planning. In other words, before you decide if one particular parcel should be approved, there needs to be a planning process to decide which areas must be protected because they are important to the ecological health of the whole.

Says wildlife biologist Bob Bancroft:

“They didn’t approve this harvest within the bigger picture of the surrounding cuts and habitat, there are a sea of clear cuts in Annapolis County…I think they’ve been doing too much damage all around that 24 hectares…I don’t know how many animals are going to be able to survive on that small amount. But the solution is not to turn around and cut more. –  Bob Bancroft cited in the Halifax Examiner, Dec 8, 2022

So what is the extent of logging in the vicinity of AP068499 Beals Meadow in 2022?

I look to Google Earth and Global Forest Watch images  to provide some answer to this question.   These are user-friendly tools in the public domain. (NSNRR has much better, more specialized tools and skilled personnel to use them and can undoubtedly provide a better answer. )

Google Earth Images

This a  Google Earth Image taken in 2018. ‘Sure looks like a lot of clearcutting has occurred recently.

Google Earth Map for July 11, 2018. The Yellow X marks the location of Beal’s Meadow. The Big lake is Paradise Lake 
Click on image for larger version 

The next three Google Earth Images zoom in a bit on the Beal’s Meadow area, images taken in 2006, 2010, and 2018.  We can see more detail in the clearcuts.

Google Earth Image Aug 5, 2006

Google Earth Image May 28, 2010

Google Earth Image July 11, 2018

We can see that a major logging road cutting diagonally across the landscape from SW (at bottom of  image near the centre) to NE was present in 2006 and that some logging had been conducted mostly towards the NE, mostly on the western side of the road. By 2010 there were more cuts towaards the SW, all on the west side of the road, and this continued into 2018.

So the question can be asked: what’s the plan for the future? After Beal’s Meadow, what’s next? Are new roads planned?

Zero in on some of the cuts visible in 2010, and we see that there are islands and occasional corridors around streams of uncut forest. Are they  sufficient to provide connectivity across the clearcut areas? Are they sufficient area-wise to provide habitat for wildlife displaced by clearcutting in a “sea of clearcuts”?

Probably not. Writes Prof Lahey in his report of 2018, pp 5-6

Clearcutting, both in many of its specific applications and in its cumulative impact on a landscape level, is having a wide range of unacceptable adverse impacts on ecosystems, biodiversity, and in other areas, including the following:
a. Impact on species at risk (SAR) or species of concern (including the lack of completion or implementation of species recovery plans required by legislation)
b. Destruction of old growth forests
c. Proximity to protected areas and the impact of that proximity on the functionality of protected areas
d. Proximity to and adverse impact on recreational and tourism activities or on forests or landscapes that have tourism potential
e. Transitioning forests to (or keeping them in) an even aged stage of development, contrary to their natural state as part of the Acadian forest
f. Fragmentation of the forest landscape, including the adverse impact on connectivity between habitats for wildlife
g. Adverse impact on birds, including migratory birds and songbirds
h. Inconsistency of clearcutting, in many or most of its applications, with a true or complete understanding of natural disturbance regimes in Nova Scotia
i. Impact on sensitive and otherwise compromised soils, especially in western Nova Scotia

 Global Forest Watch Images for the area.

These maps show areas of net tree cover gain (blue coloured) and net tree cover loss (pink coloured) over specified intervals between 2001 and 2020. In the area of Annapolis Co. most, probably more than  95% of the tree cover loss is associated with clearcuts. Even the tree covergain is likely to be associated with clearcuts made before 2001. So the patches of blue and pink together illustrate the extent of recent clearcutting.

Cumulative changes in 2001 (perhaps 2000-2001?) Click on images for larger versions

Cumulative changes to 2005

Cumulative changes to 2010

Cumulative changes to 2015

Cumulative changes to 2020

View the maps in a you-control-the-speed movie-like sequence (This should open in a new window or tab on your browser)

Area of Analysis

In GFW, you can conduct an analysis to estimate the amount of change in a specified area over a specified interval. For the area depicted at right (approx the same as the area in the images above), the analysis gave these results:

Variable Area in kHa
(1000s of hectares)
Total Tree Cover 30.1
Non Forest 6.63
Canopy gain 2001-2020 1.41
Canopy loss 2001-2020 8.49

So in total, (1.41+8.49)*100/30.1= 32.9% of the area has been clearcut in recent years;  28.2% since 2001. The latter corresponds a complete cutover of the entire forested area in 100/28.2*20 = 71 years. The actual cutover for working forest would be less, prob  40-50 years. Those are very short rotations.

British landscape ecologist Barrie Goldsmith who spent some time in NS in years gone by estimated* that following the arrival of the Europeans, Nova Scotia was cutover the first time by about 1800, 195 years after the first logs were cut at Port Royal; the second time by 1860 – an interval of 60 years; the third time by 1920, after another 60 years, and the 4th time by 1970 after another 50 years. So the figure cited above, 71 years, suggests the 5th cutover has occurred by 2020, and the interval  is in the same ball park as in the past (during the colonial era). It appears we are not harvesting more than in the past, but we are definitely employing  far fewer people to do it.
* Evaluation of a Forest Resource- A Case Study from Nova Scotia. F. B. Goldsmith. 1980 Journal of Environmental Management 10: 83-100 Unfortunately this thoughtful and informative paper is not available online, even from the publisher ; to obtain it, one would have to access a print copy or a scan from a print copy in libraries that hold the journal, e.g. Dalhousie University). Some equivalent historical info. is given in The Acadian forest: Historical condition and human impacts by J. Loo and N. Ives. 2003. THE FORESTRY CHRONICLE , VOL. 79, NO. 3, 462-474

So can the working forest take it or are we going to see declining productivity over time?

And what’s happening to the age structure and the amount of old forest habitat on the landscape over time?

Good questions. (If I may say so.) ‘Will explore them in next couple of post in this series. Of course we can ask NRR those same questions too.


A Couple of Related Posts

Global Forest Watch satellite images and PLV maps of Nova Scotia speak volumes
January 8, 2019

Biodiverse Southwest Nova Scotia at Risk
October 29, 2018 “Given the Lahey Report & Recommendations, why are we still making harvest decisions on Crown lands based on a narrow spectrum of highly specialized information that few can critique and on a process that has essentially been discredited?”

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