Nova Scotia Old Growth Ground Zero

The Corbett Lake Old Hardwood Forest in Annapolis Co. is essentially Ground Zero in the struggle to save Nova Scotia’s Old Growth in 2019

View related maps at What is old Growth/OG Indicators/Nova Scotia Old Growth Ground Zero/C-D Peninsula Maps, also a related post: Scott Leslie’s “backgrounder” video on the Corbett-Lake Old Growth Forest, Little Brown Bat added to SAR residents 17July 2019

Corbett Lake Old Hardwood Forest on June 15, 2019

Over the last 2 years  there have been several instances in which a block of Crown Land was scheduled for logging – clearcut or shelterwood – or had already been partially logged and was found or known by people familiar with the general area to be OG (Old Growth) or in a state very close to OG; DNR/L&F investigated, and stopped logging or modified the logging prescription, – or did not.

The most notorious case was that of the Loon Lake area cuts in eastern NS conducted by Port Hawkesbury Paper on FSC-certified Crown land. Danny George raised the alarm about Old Growth hardwoods being cut in the Loon lake area in Feb. of  2018; his protests were initially ignored. Eventually (May 2018), however,  DNR confirmed that the Loon Lake area cuts included Old Growth and acknowledged that policy changes are needed to ensure old-growth forest isn’t being cut down unnecessarily.

Unfortunately, that did not solve the problem and more cases arose subsequently (one has to ask how many didn’t come to light?), e,g. view:

L&F nixes cut of Margaree Old Growth 20Mar2019
Post on NSFN, March 20, 2019

Nova Scotia Map Viewer folks acknowledge possible Old Growth amongst proposed harvest parcels
Post on NSFN Dec 21, 2018

Proposed cut of Old Growth on Nova Scotia Crown land nixed within one day
Post on NSFN Dec 18, 2018.

The Corbett Lake Old Hardwood Forest: L&F’s Line in the Sand

Location of the Corbett Lake Old Hardwood (Old Growth) Forest. View This Map for its location relative to Annapolis Royal. Corbett and Dalhousie Lakes are in NS Power’s Paradise Hydro System

Annapolis area residents raised the alarm about the Corbett Lake Old Hardwood Forest (also known as Corbett Lake Old Growth) , which lies within the larger Corbett-Dalhousie Lakes Forest (also known as the Corbett-Dalhousie Lakes Peninsula) – view Maps – after visiting the area on Boxing Day  in 2018. They learned that the area was to be harvested when a proposed harvest was  posted on the province’s Harvest Plan Map Viewer (view NSFN Post Dec 23, 2018).

The Annapolis folks had a variety of concerns about the proposed cuts  – View Annapolis Co. Nova Scotia folks investigating more Crown land cuts (Post on NSFN Dec 23, 2019) and Council Concerned – Province puts two more parcels of Annapolis County Crown forest on harvest plans map by Lawrence Powell in the Annpoliss Spectator, Dec 22, 2018. From the Spectator article:

“I’ve been referring to it as the Corbett-Dalhousie Lakes parcel,” said Bev Wigney, who with other concerned county residents is busy analysing the property.

She looked it up in ‘Canoe Annapolis County: A Paddler’s Guide To Outdoor Adventure’ published by the county. It’s listed as Route 12 and is on page 89.

“The proposed harvest would remove much of the forest between the two lakes,” she said. “Based on some older NS Forest maps, it looks like the northern parcel is predominantly Sugar Maple 14.5 meters tall – probably taller by now. I have a maple of that size in my yard and it is a goodly sized tree. Should we be harvesting stands of Sugar Maple?”

… He [Randall Fredericks] said people are concerned about possible flooding issues as a result of the forest harvesting. “There’s been a lot of cutting on both private and Crown land in that area and Dalhousie in general.”

And he’s concerned about historic Bloody Creek at the bottom of the mountain, an historic site with many artifacts, and farm fields below that on the valley floor.

So the Annapolis folks decided to have a look at the site before the period for submitting comments on the proposed harvest was closed. To their astonishment and alarm, when  they visited the area on Boxing Day of 2018, they found that a wide logging road had already been constructed and that there had been active logging.

Further,  they observed some very large,  presumably very old trees,   and that some of those very large trees had been harvested. It appeared that all of this had occurred even before the site was approved for harvest and public had a chance to comment. They communicated their concerns to the Premier and  L&F immediately.

It wasn’t until late on Dec 31, 2019 that they heard back. It turned out L&F had made the post on the HPMV erroneously; they removed the HPMV post with this explanation:

No apology was offered for the error.

The whole issue raised a number of new concerns and the Annapolis folks did their best to make a case for stopping the logging, with the Annapolis County Council taking up the cause and making a direct plea to the Premier and Minister of Lands and Forestry to turn over management of The C-D Peninsula to the County. The County’s interest in the specific area was hardly new:

{Annapolis Co. Warden] Heming said the Dalhousie-Corbett lakes area has been of special recreational and tourism interest to the municipality since the 1996 creation of Canoe Annapolis County, a popular book now in its third edition. The letter to Rankin notes that in March, 2013, at the time of the Bowater/Resolute land purchase by the province, council expressed its concern in “protecting the wilderness integrity” of this area to then minister Charlie Parker. – In Climate forest proposed – Annapolis County wants chance to develop new ecologically managed economic model by Lawrence Powell for the Annapolis Co. Spectator, May 23, 2019

The County’s request was firmly turned down (view June 11, 2019).

In the meantime, with the arrival of spring, the Annapolis folks – which include some skilled naturalists – started doing more of their own ground-truthing of the area, focussing on the multiaged old hardwood forest by Corbett Lake, part of which had been harvested as the first stage of a shelterwood cut. They brought in or attracted others, including some professional foresters and ecologists to participate.  In the process:

  • In early May, 2019, they counted rings on stumps of some harvested trees ( “most [were] aged over 100 years up to 138 years for an American Beech”) and  noted a number of other Old Growth features (view Post on NSFN, May 6, 2019).
  • In late May/early June they received several reports from nearby landowners that that there are Blandings Turtles (a Species-at-Risk) in Corbett-Dalhousie Lakes
  • In late May/early June they noted many neotropical migratory birds already on territory, meaning that they were nesting or about to nest. “To begin industrial activity”, said Bev Wigney,  “is in direct contravention of the Migratory Birds Convention Act — an act which makes it illegal to destroy bird nests and their eggs — an illegal act that will undoubtedly occur if industrial work commences on June 9th [as had been indicated on signs posted in the area]”.
  • On June 4-5, 2019, Chimney Swifts, a Species-at-risk– were found on territory at the Hardwood forest at Corbett-Dalhousie lake
  • More recently, Scott Leslie recorded Little Brown Bat, a Species-at-risk at the site.

In regard to the possible OG status of this stand, L&F investigated following receiving letters from the Annapolis folks in January  and even Minister Rankin visited the site on Feb 1,  2019. However, says Bev Wigney, “We [were] told by Minister Iain Rankin that this forest doesn’t qualify as “Old Growth” so cannot be preserved in its natural state. [Instead] it will be “managed” to create a multi-age forest.”

L&F/WestFor apparently  ignored concerns about Blanding’s turtle raised in early June, 2019 and argued that “concern for birds must be balanced against industry need” (view NSFN Post of June 12, 2019).

However, following the reports of Chimney Swifts at the site by Scott Leslie, on June 14, 2019 L&F Minister Rankin “ordered Westfor to put a hold on the harvest until further investigation can be done” (view L&F Press Release June 14, 2019) which is where it all stands currently (mid-July 2019).

Sound of Silence at Corbett-Dalhousie Lakes forest. June 15, 2019

By coincidence or not, by the time Minister Rankin made his announcement, a group of Annapolis women were camping out on the logging road under the banner of Extinction Rebellion Nova Scotia.

There is far more to this story which I have been attempting to document on this website as it has unfolded in  posts on the home page, and under In the News and Social Media Posts. I  also visited the Corbett Lake  Old Harewood Forest site on June 15, 2019. Related posts on NSFN and some news articles are listed below.

There is very clearly a strong case to be made  for conserving, not logging, the Corbett Lake Old Hardwood Forest site on the basis that it harbours Species-at-Risk, it  is Old Growth or very close to it,  and represents an old forest/OG type now rare in the Annapolis Valley.

L&F has taken a hard line on the issue, insisting that the planned harvests will go ahead and backing off, it seems, only when  information was brought forward indicating if they did, they would be contravening SAR legislation. Likewise Marcus Zwigger of WestFor has been quite vocal in defending WestFor interests,  for example, maintaining that they take adequate precautions to protect nesting birds (NSFN Post, June 12, 2019).

 The Independent Review of Forest Practices in Nova Scotia, also known as the Lahey Report was released on Aug 23, 2018.

The Lahey Report on the topic of Old  Forests

The Lahey Report, issued on Aug 23, 2018,  made specific recommendations to “improve the abundance and conservation of old forests”. An “Old Forest Project Team” was formed early on – view NSFN post Mar 29, 2019 for some details.

From the latest update on “Ecological Forestry Implementation” by L&F (July 8, 2018):

Old Forest

  • The project team is reviewing the old forest policy and the criteria used to identify and classify old forests.
  • Government’s policy will be revised following input from stakeholders and new definitions will standardize identification of old growth forest.
  • The team is led by Mark Pulsifer, and Dr. Peter Duinker is an external expert advisor. Dr. Duinker is a professor at Dalhousie University’s School for Resource and Environmental Studies with 30 years of experience in his field.

A few more details are available on the L&F Old Forest Information Sheet.

This is progress, but outside of  the internal deliberations at L&F, there has been little evidence of change in what’s actually happening on the Crown lands  and public frustration is growing.

Public knowledge  and direct investigations of Crown land forests are also growing and the Corbett Lake Old Hardwood Forest has essentially become Ground Zero in the struggle between a large sector of the public seeking fundamental change in forestry practices in ND and L&F/Big Forestry over efforts to conserve and increase Old Growth forests in NS.

Surely,  given:

  • the evidence for Species at Risk at the Corbett Lake Old Hardwood Forest
  • its Old Growth features including trees well within the range considered to be OG under the existing Old Forest Policy set against  L&F’s contention the site does not meet its requirement to be classified as Old Growth, while at the same time it is acknowledged that the criteria need to be revised
  • the more general issue of logging during nesting season that has been highlighted by citizen investigations at the Corbett Lake Old Harwood Forest
  • the confusion surrounding posting of the harvest plans, and subsequently over the precise prescriptions for harvesting
  • the high level of public interest in the area and associated Citizen Science investigations/the request of the Annapolis County Council that management of the Corbett-Dalhousie Peninsula be handed to over to the county

The Corbett Lake Old Hardwood Forest is a test-case of the sincerity of Minister Rankin’s commitment to

take the feedback of … the public very seriously [and] engage further with community members as the department reviews evidence put forward… [and ]  to ensure decisions are made based on science and evidence with a focus on ecological conservation and protecting the province’s wildlife.”

The situation surrounding the Corbett Lake Old Hardwood Forest and the larger Corbett-Dalhousie Peninsula would seem to provide the perfect opportunity for the Old Forest Project Team at L&F to get involved.

For example, L&F has said the Corbett Lake Old Hardwood Forest does not meet their criteria for Old Growth (we have yet to see any formal report such as that they issued after the Loon Lake harvests) but at the same time it is acknowledged that current methodologies are inadequate and one of the Key Deliverables of the Old Forest Project Team is “Methodologies for identification of old forests and acceleration of their assessment”.  Another Key Deliverable: “Updated Old Forest Policy for Nova Scotia”.

What better place to work on these deliverables, and at the same time do some of the “Public Education on old growth forests” scheduled by the Project Team for the Fall of 2019.

Just perhaps, that education could be two-way.


Uniform Shelterwood
Description on BC Government website, under a section titled Introduction to Silviculture Systems

Uniform Shelterwood at CorbettLake Old Hardwood Forest
Photos and video taken on June 15, 2019 contrast the state of the forest after the first stage of a uniform shelterwood cut has been completed (in this case, it seems there was one entry to remove biggest trees) with still intact forest nearby. For info about the site ad the issues, see…. Location: Nova Scotia; on Crown land

Some related posts on NSFN:

Newspaper articles