BW on the Birch Hill Forest 21Jan2020

Text of Bev Wigney’s post on Annapolis Royal & Area – Environment & Ecology (Public Facebook Group), Jan 21, 2020.

My comments regarding the BIRCH HILL FOREST — as just submitted on the HPMV comment submission site. If it seems that I’m being a little harsh – well, yes, I am. Having seen how they respond to these comments (as seen in FOIPOPs of submitted comments), I will make use of the *opportunity* to say just what I think:

ONE:: – According to the Habitat Conservation Strategy for Southwest Nova Scotia (SWNS) Conservation Value Index (CVI) the largest part of this stand has a CVI ranking of “HIGH” and another large part of it as “MODERATE”. The CVI was developed to identify sites within the SWNS bioregion that have the highest conservation value in terms of priority habitat attributes and priority species. Why would you wish to do a Shelterwood cut (two-stage clearcut) on a forest that has a CVI of “HIGH”?

TWO:: – What is the point of this “shelterwood” harvest prescription? A shelterwood is generally used to help establish a young forest. This ALREADY IS an established hardwood forest – predominantly SUGAR MAPLE – that is still young, but well on its way to eventually becoming a VALUABLE HARDWOOD FOREST. Why would you go in and start hacking away at this forest? Is your intention to get rid of the Sugar Maple and turn the whole forest into a pine or spruce plantation? That would be a major mistake. This is a high, dry location — the perfect site for an upland, shade tolerant, hardwood forest like the one that is already growing there. It would be a ridiculously lousy site for conifers — otherwise there would be some growing there – and there are very few. What does that tell you?

THREE:: – We’ve been out to see this forest – the hardwood all seem PERFECTLY FINE – they are doing well, but are too immature to harvest for lumber. They will need at least another couple of decades to reach that size, or to be suitable as Sugar Maple tapping trees. There are almost NO CONIFERS in this forest, so there is NO reason to be going into it to remove them. Working in this forest will just cause damage to the soil – rutting and compaction – and likely damage the trees. Sugar Maple are very susceptible to infection after damage – and damage will undoubtedly occur when large equipment is driven in to cut and extract the majority of the trees as you plan to do. In other words, SOMEONE’S BAD IDEA.

FOUR: – This healthy, young hardwood stand, located high on a hill, overlooks many hectares of former forest which has all been hacked down in previous clear cuts. Is the goal of this harvest to remove the LAST VESTIGES OF RECOGNIZABLE FOREST between Bridgetown and Roxbury and turn it into one huge, uninterrupted chopped up eyesore? Because, once this forest is gone, all that will be left will be clear-cut slash and suckered regeneration for the next 20 or 30 years. All of the forest habitat for wildlife will be GONE from several hundred hectares — and for what? Biomass? Firewood? People around here are SHOCKED by what’s been done in the area surrounding Paradise Lake and Roxbury. Many used to hike or go x-country skiing up to Roxbury Ghost Town in winter and now it’s just a big mess of slash and no forest. This is a DISGRACEFUL ABUSE of the recreational values of this area.

FIVE:: – With so much hardwood having been SCALPED off of the Crown land forests in our area, we are running low on proper habitat for so many of the bird species that nest in shade tolerant hardwood forests. Further, a forest like this, located high on a hill in the midst of a SEA OF CLEAR CUTS – is just the kind of forest that provides extremely valuable nesting trees for raptors, and for all of the migratory bird species that nest at various levels in the canopy, as well as for deciduous forest ground nesters. Creating a major disturbance in this forest will DESTROY ALREADY DIMINISHING SUITABLE HABITAT for those species of birds.

SIX: – Removing the bulk of trees off the top of a high hill will create soil erosion and also send more water flowing down off of the South Mountain into the Annapolis Valley and River. I realize that YOU have NO KNOWLEDGE of WHAT all of this recent logging activity on the South Mountain is doing, but it is causing a great deal of damage to the many small rivers that flow down into the Annapolis River. It is messing with the water retention of the land, resulting in flash flooding and almost relentless rapid flow in the many small rivers coming off the South Mountain where there was only seasonal spring freshets before all of this clear-cutting. I live right beside Round Hill River and the transformation of this brook over the past 10 years after forest after forest on the upriver branches have been cut down is unreal. That’s terrible for fish habitat and it is causing draining of the lakes up above. This autumn, there was so little water remaining in Paradise Lake that is was pathetic. YOU are CAUSING a MAJOR DISTURBANCE to the Annapolis watershed system with YOUR RELENTLESS CUTTING DOWN of all of our forests. The damage YOU are causing to the watersheds and to all of the aquatic life such as the glass eel (elver) and salmon smolts and other fish that live and grow in these small rivers and the lakes up on the South Mountain will be irreversible. Elver were a common sight in the river beside my place a few years ago. Since all of this forestry disturbance in the past few years, the elver have gone from being frequent to almost non-existent – probably all BLASTED AWAY in the RAGING DELUGE that takes place in the river following even a small rainstorm these days. We have only YOU to thank for that.

SEVEN:: – If any work is to be done in this forest – and that is only **IF** — it should be done AFTER a CERTIFIED TREE MARKER has been in to inspect the whole forest and select trees for removal (remove Red Maple and leave the more valuable and long-lived Sugar Maple – unlike at Corbett-Dalhousie Lake where no distinction was made between the two maple species). Any removal must be planned and executed in such a way, using smaller equipment, so that it will not damage valuable trees. This is NOT a suitable stand for a *shelterwood* cut and this should NEVER have been considered in the first place. WHAT WERE YOU THINKING????

From the comments, discussion of glossy Buckthorn:

AW Great letter, BW I also thought of another big problem that we have in our forest which is ” Glossy Buckthorn”
I have a clear cut behind my property that was done maybe 15 years ago and it turned the whole site into buckthorn forest. Yes, buckthorn trees.

BW: Oh, indeed. I’ve visited a few clear-cuts around here to see what regrows. Most of them are dreadful. Buckthorn, or else dense thickets of suckers from ash and other trees. I always think this with these super wide forest roads they are building with the forest edge cut back so far. You know the first thing that is going to move into those spaces will be Buckthorn!

DGP: Amazing. And the Biodiversity Strategy people say Invasive Species but not clearcuts are a big threat

BW: It’s interesting. When I went to that biodiversity session – the one that was taking place around the province – I attended the Caledonia one. I brought up the topic of Buckthorn in the clear cuts and along the roads. Some of the landowners — one in particular I can’t remember his name but he owns a lot of land down toward the Tusket area — was really annoyed that Crown land lets Buckthorn grow like mad so that it spreads into everyone’s land. He said that the Province needs to get its house in order before it starts telling the private woodlot owners to control invasives. He’s correct, of course…No worse thing than cutting down forest and letting a lot of light onto disturbed ground. Like throwing fire on gasoline when it comes to Buckthorn.

AW: No more native trees can grow there. Irving, never got replanted. The point is that we have to be careful about those invasive species too