–Post May 8, 2022
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Nina Newington (continued)
Forests and forestry in Nova Scotia
Nova Scotia is a relatively small province it’s also home to a quite a unique form of forest, the combination of the evergreen boreal forest of the north and the more deciduous forests of the south.
Nova Scotia has been subject to a tremendous amount of clearcutting. In the part that I live in the southwest of Nova Scotia, the industry talks about it as “the last fiber basket”. It’s the last source of fiber because they hadn’t walloped it as hard as the rest of the province.
A lot of the most immediate struggle is to change the practices on “Crown land” which I say in inverted commas because it’s really the unceded, unsurrendered territory of the Mi’kmaw people in southwest Nova. A lot of this land was actually owned by a pulp mill called Bowater-Mersey. They went bankrupt as many of these pulp mills have and there was a huge effort by Nova Scotians to buy back a lot of that land. And in 2012 we did, thinking that that land would now be treated more gently and with higher values for conservation and for recreation. But in fact the provincial government put it in the hands of a consortium of mills called WestFor who have been running along and cutting it just as fast as they can.
All this is also in the context that for the last 13 years, there have been promises from government to reform the clearcutting. It started with an NDP government and they produced a wonderful Natural Resources Strategy, didn’t really start to act on it when the liberals came in they basically ditched most of it.
Then we got a new promise of a new plan. So we had lots of promises of reform and we gradually realized that most of this is talk and log, you know they keep us hoping that change is coming but in the meantime they’ve gone right along with clearcutting more and more. Some bit of change is finally coming.
The other thing that happened was that in August of last year the Conservatives (the PCs) won a majority. And part of how they won that majority was they sort of ran to the left of the Liberals on environmental issues and they pledged to protect 20% of Nova Scotia by 2030 where the liberals were only pledging to protect 17%.
They’re gonna need to add 330,000 hectares to the protected areas in order to meet that target. However, what’s happening is they just going on issuing permits to keep cutting whether those cuts have a slightly more ecological tilt or not, without any kind of planning about what areas should be protected.
And that’s kind of the issue with the area that we set up camp. It’s on something called the South Mountain; it’s a great big granitic area on fairly poor soils with lots of lakes and lots of forests. Except that if you fly over it, you see how little of that forest is really intact. A huge, huge amount of it is clearcuts and some of those clearcuts aren’t regrowing because the soil is too poor and acidic to recover from all of the assaults that have come its way since settlement.
The Last Hope Camp – where and why
So what happened with the area where we have set up camp and we set up camp the 2nd of December was that I happened to see a comment that somebody made on a local environmental Facebook group talking about how he had tried to stop a harvest that was imminent but have been told that it was too late to stop it and they were going to start cutting within two weeks. This harvest was on the South Mountain, about 45 minutes from where I live. So I contacted him.
His name is Randy Neily, he’s a farmer, a hunter, trapper; he’s a 7th generation Nova Scotian in that place. He used to vote conservative, you know he’s not people’s idea of an environmentalist but he’s really deeply connected to that land. He’s been traveling it all his life, he has a cabin there and his neighbour Simile who’s a master corporal in the Canadian forces is deeply attached and when they saw flagging go up late in November, they kind of swung into action and they tried to contact the department of Natural Resources and Renewables.
They were eventually able to get DNR to talk to them and Natural Resources guys surprise surprise said nope, well sorry, it’s too late, harvest was already approved, you’ll have to talk to WestFor which is that consortium of mills. And Randy talk to WestFor and they said Oh no, n,o too late, it’s gonna happen within the next two weeks. At which point Randy made the comments on Facebook.
This particular forest connects 3 large wetland areas., it also isn’t worth all that much in terms of lumber, it’s really worth alot more as habitat for mainland moose and wood turtle and pine marten and, as it turns out, rare lichens. As well, it’s not a huge magnificent old growth forest, there’s about 0.15% of the forest in Nova Scotia are old growth. We’ve lost so much for us that this forest which is about 80 years old, is already a rarity. In 1958, 25% of Nova Scotia’s forest was 80 years old or older now it’s between one and 5%.
So although this forest is not huge and magnificent, it is more mature than almost anything else around and it really needs to be protected. The harvest that WestFor is proposing for it is not a clearcut, it’s a possibly somewhat ecologically acceptable cut called a uniform shelterwood. These have been so abused did Nova Scotia, it’s hard to sound enthusiastic about it. But their plan was to take 30% of the wood.
But it is a forest that shouldn’t be cut at all; it should be put into the Protected Areas Plan. We felt strongly enough to go in and set up camp with the intent of getting in the way of the proposed harvest. The particular spot we set up, it’s kind of into the middle of Nova Scotia. It’s not coastal, it gets a lot more snow, it’s a bit colder. It so happens that it’s also the exact site of the Last Hope hunting camp which Randy Neily told me about that first day.
And that’s a camp that was set up in the 1920s when game was already growing scarce in Nova Scotia because of all the damage that settlers had already done. But there were always so many moose in this particular area that, if you haven’t managed to bag your moose for winter meet somewhere else, you might come there and have a good shot at doing it. So it was called the Last Hope hunting camp. So that seemed like a good name.
We fly the flag of the Seven Districts of Mi’kma’ki
And we’re also connecting with indigenous groups. The Mi’kmaw are trying to re-establish the traditional form of governance, as are many indigenous groups, that is separate from the colonial structure created by the Indian Act with the reserves in the band councils and that structure which really only has authority, if it has any, over the reserves. So in Mi’kma’ki, that traditional structure had 7 districts and the district that we’re in, Kespukwitk, is district One. And the district chief, Marilyn Leigh Francis, has come up to camp on a kind of official visit and formally presented us with the flag of the Seven Districts to fly. And we’ve been told that this is our invitation to be on territory and thanks to us for our efforts to protect the land and the creatures that live on it.
See Flag of the Seven Districts (Post on Extinction Rebellion Mi’kma’ki / Nova Scotia, Jan 31, 2022)
Teaching Workshops and Lichens
16:20: One of the things that we’re beginning to do is also teaching workshops from camp. The first one was a Settlers’ Education Workshop. Since then, we’ve also had a lichen identification workshop. One of the things that has happened is that a lichen enthusiast came and took a tour through the forest that is slated to be cut. On one day, he identified one extremely rare lichen which does have a Species-at-Risk designation and that requires 100 meter buffer around it if there’s to be any logging around it. Then he came back a few days later and found two other Species-at-Risk, 5 specimens altogether.
He reported them and at that point the department of Natural Resources put a freeze on the harvest for couple of months. They hired a lichenologist to come out and he did confirm the five specimens the first guy found and then also added two more that he found.
So we were kind of hoping that, maybe, that about Natural Resources would say ‘gosh it looks like we made a mistake deciding that we should go ahead and harvest this forest’. But no, that isn’t what happened; instead they decided to impose the buffers without even coming out and flagging them.
They were a bit embarrassed about it in Natural Resources and Renewables ’cause they’ve made quite a big deal out of the fact that that biologists had reviewed the site not once but twice in response to citizen concerns and had found nothing that they needed to worry about.
And as it turned out, their biologists basically never left their desks, because they mostly don’t. And as a part of their attempt to manage that, their spokesman said and you know, yeah we don’t really have enough experts, so yeah this would be an opportunity to educate citizen scientists in Nova Scotia. They haven’t really made any moves to do that, but that’s part of why we decided we should start doing that. And so we brought in a lichen expert and she held a workshop and we went into the forest and we found another couple of specimens of one of these rare lichens.
–Post May 8, 2022
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