Lahey on the Triad

Extracts from the Lahey Report

From the Executive Summary

At the landscape and provincial levels, I conclude that Nova Scotia should explicitly and officially adopt a triad model to the implementation of ecological forestry. This model recognizes that the goal – ecological well‐being that supports a thriving forestry economy – cannot be achieved solely as the cumulative effect of operational decisions. It also requires the following three elements:

  •  Forests that are protected from all forestry (and many other kinds of human interference) by designation as parks, nature reserves or wilderness areas or through private conservation. These forests serve as a sanctuary for wildlife and as a base for the ecosystems and biodiversity that span across the broader landscape.
  • Forests dedicated to high‐production forestry, including through clearcutting, as well as high‐production alternatives to clearcutting. These allow for the concentration of industry’s activity and the minimization or avoidance of the impact it would otherwise have on the wider landscape.
  •   The management of the rest of the forest, or as much of it as possible, for a combination of ecological and production objectives, contributing both to ecological conservation and to commercial forestry. In general, this means forestry with a lighter touch and limited clearcutting.

In Nova Scotia, although the basic elements of the triad are in place, not enough is being done to deliberately manage our forests within a triad model. Each of the three legs of the triad requires development if ecological forestry is to be achieved on the landscape and provincial levels.

From 3.1 General Conclusions: Ecological Forestry and the Triad

36. The spatial characteristics of sites allocated to each of the three levels of legs of the triad varies. Protected areas need to be large and connected enough to provide ecological functionality. In contrast, the spatial distribution of sites dedicated to ecological forestry and production forestry does not need the same aggregated patterning. Sites for production forestry will be interspersed across the landscape and selected based on site conditions, including land productivity, proximity to processing facilities, and the choices made by landowners. Ideally, to the extent practicable, high‐production forestry sites will be located where there is also alignment with successional dynamics and disturbance patterns and where growing conditions are optimal. Areas where ecological forestry would be practised would form a matrix surrounding protected areas and high‐production areas. Their function in the triad is to provide a substantial degree of ecosystem integrity across the landscape, connectivity between protected areas, and forest products.

37. There are four significant complications in fully implementing the triad in Nova Scotia, also discussed by Dr Robert Seymour in his paper in the Addendum to this report on balanced forestry and the triad. The first is the expected opposition to continuing or developing high‐production forestry on Crown land, especially when combined with use of herbicides. I discuss the rationale for doing so below.

Here, I simply say that, given the serious challenges of implementing the triad on private land, the triad cannot be meaningfully achieved on a provincial scale without some high‐production forestry on Crown land.

The corresponding ecological benefit of the approach proposed in this report is much stronger assurance of multi‐aged management on the rest of the working forest on Crown land.

38. The second – and related – complication is the proportion of the forest that is privately owned and, more specifically, by many owners. The issue is the number of decision makers who must opt to manage their woodlands under the triad model for the model to be achieved on a provincial scale. Leaving aside the protection leg of the triad, this presents difficulty for both of the legs in which forest operations occur. Implementing the triad requires owners who will embrace and act upon the underlying premise of ecological forestry – that forestry practices should emulate natural processes – where this calls for restrictions on clearcutting. But it also requires owners engaged in high‐production forestry to minimize pressure for wider application of high‐production methods and to contribute to meeting the supply needs of industry.

39. A third and related complication in implementing the triad is the challenge of maintaining a stable and predictable supply of needed wood products when more of it must come from a relatively fragmented supply network. In this report, I make some recommendations to address these complications. I do so acknowledging that addressing these issues will be very difficult and take concerted effort over many years applying a range of measures: the identification of the centrality of these issues to forestry policy in Nova Scotia goes back at least until the Royal Commission of 1984.20
20 Nathan Ayer, “Summary of Forest Policy from 1980 to 2017,” in the Addendum. 21 Robert Seymour, “Balanced Forestry and the Triad,” in the Addendum.

40. The fourth complication is also a related one, though it is of broader origin and consequence. It is that Nova Scotia forests, including those being managed for industrial production, generally do not appear to be very productive from a resource development perspective.21 For example, their productivity is considerably below that of the forests of Maine, a jurisdiction with a similar forest, to an extent that is not fully explained by biophysical differences. This is ironic, given the number of submissions I heard from industry about the problems Maine is said to have encountered in imposing limits on clearcutting. My conclusion is that the low productivity of Nova Scotia forests stems from the fact that much of the forest is not really managed at all, due either to landowner choice or to the lack of opportunity or incentive available to landowners. Further, too much of the forest that is managed is not being managed well, under the apparent influence of a combination of silvicultural theories or practices and related public policy choices that are yielding low rather than high productivity.

41. The importance of this to the implementation of the triad model is that low forest productivity increases the wood‐supply and harvesting‐cost challenges created for industry by ecologically based limits on clearcutting within the landscape matrix leg of the triad. It does this by limiting the wood that can be obtained from the high‐production leg of the triad to offset the reduction in supply available from the wider landscape. The seriousness of this is that actions to increase forest productivity will only yield benefits over decades. Implementing restrictions on clearcutting on the part of the landscape matrix that is on Crown land, as this report recommends, will therefore create significant transition challenges for industry that are connected to but distinct from the issues of expanding the supply available from private lands.

42. Overcoming, or managing through, these complications to the triad’s implementation in Nova Scotia will not be easy. What is clear is that they will not be overcome if they are avoided. They must be confronted and addressed. Unless they are, Nova Scotia will continue to face the choice between a much smaller forest industry and an industry that continues to apply high‐production practices to a much wider proportion of the landscape, including to forests on Crown lands that are ecologically ill suited for such forestry.

From 3.4 Conclusions on Impact on Wood Supply and Harvesting Costs

85. On wood supply, the Review team conducted a preliminary analysis of the impact that proposed changes for DNR’s ecosystem‐based system of management would have on wood supply. That analysis suggests a short‐term reduction in wood harvest from Crown land of between 10 and 20 per cent. It also suggests that the reduction cannot be addressed in the short term by shifting production either to high‐production sites on Crown land, including plantations, or to plantations on private land. More broadly, the analysis indicates that the reduction can be addressed by increased harvesting on other private lands, given that the sustainable harvest level (as estimated by DNR) is currently above actual harvest levels. The issue will be its economic availability and the cost of procurement and of harvesting. Further scenarios should be run, particularly to determine the impact on wood supply from Crown land of different levels of required retention on Crown land; that is, within the proposed 5–30 per cent range…

86. Otherwise, the Review team did not have the opportunity to complete the kind of analysis of my recommendations that industry urged me to complete. If such an analysis is part of the consideration of my recommendations, it should look at benefits as well as costs and it should look at both broadly, including ecological and social considerations as well as economic ones and consider all three in the long as well as the short term. These should be compared to the costs and benefits of current forest practices, again taking ecological and social as well as economic outcomes into account for both the short and the longer term. The analysis should be completed openly and transparently. This will not only ensure its credibility but help to avoid a flawed analysis. It will, for example, prevent the kind of discrepancy that occurred in the past when DNR commissioned a review of the cost to industry of the goal of reducing clearcutting to 50 per cent or less of harvesting in five years; instead of analyzing the impact of a reduction in the percentage of harvesting done by clearcutting, it analyzed the impact of a 50 per cent reduction in the volume of harvesting, a very different thing. Openness and transparency will also help to ensure that the analysis is conducted on the basis of fair, defensible, known, and openly stated assumptions.

87. Specifically, if there is to be a cost analysis of recommendations that limit or reduce clearcutting on Crown land outside of plantations, there should be a parallel analysis of the socio‐economic and ecological costs of current harvesting practices on those Crown lands. For the reasons given in the preceding paragraph, this analysis should be conducted openly and transparently. This will ensure that there is clarity and accountability for the tradeoffs being made among economic, social, and environmental factors in decisions based on a costs/benefits analysis of my recommendations.

88. An acceptable alternative would be to simply get on with the implementation of the recommendations contained in this report, dedicating the analytical capacity that would otherwise go to this kind of cost/benefit analysis to the work of identifying, designing, and testing options for making the change to ecological forestry that is right for Nova Scotia. On this approach, one of the areas of focus should be options for mitigating the impact on the forest industry of implementing changes in how forestry is practised in Nova Scotia, particularly on Crown lands, other than delaying the implementation of those changes.