Jamie Simpson on forests and forestry in Nova Scotia and the Forest Funeral

Jamie Simpson is a forester, environmental lawyer and author of two books on the Acadian forest

Don Connolly interviewed Jamie Simpson earlier today on CBC Information Morning about forests and forestry in Nova Scotia and the upcoming Forest Funeral. Below is an abbreviated transcript of the interview.

Intro: Jamie Simpson is fed up. He is a forester and an environmental lawyer. He is also the author of two books on Acadian forests. For years he has been trying to get the province to put an end to cc on crown land but he says the province is not listening so this week he has helped organize a public protest. It will take the form of a funeral procession for Nova Scotia’s forests.

DC: Why are you fed up?

JS: We saw a massive public consultation process a number of years ago….that went on to an expert panel that made recommendations and government committed to make some changes in how forestry is practiced in NS such as reducing clearcutting by 50% within 5 years and putting an end to whole-tree harvesting. Now we have seen absolutely no progress in improving forestry practices and meanwhile we have a dual crisis with loss of a healthy forest and loss of a healthy forest industry. So something obviously needs to change, that’s why so many people in NS are so upset with the current situation.

DC: After the Natural Resources review process finished there was a lot of optimism about the forest industry… what happened between then and now?

JS: …it’s hard to say why the government has been so resistant to making change. One of the problems is that our Department of Natural Resources [DNR] seems to be entrenched in a clearcutting mentality for the whole province. There are probably many folks at DNR that would like to see some change but the senior management folks seem to be extremely resistant to making any change from the status quo whatsoever.

DC: Are there some areas of the province that concern you more than others?

JS: We’ve seen a lot of clearcutting from Cape Breton to Yarmouth. Right now we see some clearcutting next to Keji, a proposed clearcut for the Tobeatic region, we see clearcutting around the Wentworth Valley that is causing a lot of concern. If you go to Google earth and take a look at the satellite views, anybody can see what’s happening on the landscape.

DC: So it’s a province-wide issue? It’s not just…we heard a lot about the Wentworth issue, a clearcut clearly visibly in the whole ski area, it seems kind of counter-intuitive that you do that kind of cut in an area that is so picturesque, so emblematic of a particular landscape of Nova Scotia…

JS: It does seem to be from one end to the other.

DC: There is also an impact on wildlife in the province?

JS: Bob Bancroft, a notable wildlife biologist in NS will be at the event on Thursday to give a eulogy to our forests, marking what we have lost, not just the trees of course but all the wildlife, the biodiversity that our forests support.

DC: There is also the whole question of underutilization of the resource, we are basically in some cases burning it.. there is an opportunity to have value added in the forest industry.. talk about that a little bit.

JS: With some creative policy, we could see a transition away from this low value biomass or pulp based forest economy into an economy that supports rural jobs, that takes our forest resources and really uses it to its full potential.

DC: There was a lot of talk when we acquired the Bowater lands in the western part of the province that there would be more community groups, more opportunity to look at handling the resources differently. What happened to that?

JS: There has been some small amount of progress. We have seen a community forest developed in the southwest part of the province, unfortunately they have been given a very small chunk of land and have been told they are allowed to go forward only on a pilot project basis. Some people might think they were set up to fail. But hopefully they are given more land and that sort of initiative is replicated in other parts of the province. Basically the community forest idea is to put the control or management of public land, Crown land, in the hands of local people rather than in the hands of large corporations who may or may not have a long term vested interest in the province.

DC: It seems that we are trying to protect the jobs that we have in pulp and paper mills and other large companies rather than make a transition the industry to what it might become in a province which has a relatively high unemployment rate.. we have to protect the jobs we have.

JS: That seems to be the thinking, that we have to protect the pulp and paper jobs and to do that we have to clearcut the forests and create these monoculture forests…but the system is clearly broken. There are systemic problems with the culture in DNR and it is clearly time for that to change.

DC: So why a funeral?

JS: Because we are mourning the loss of our forests and of some of our forest industry. It’s a way to call attention to what we are losing.

DC: What will it entail?

JS: It’ll be an interesting event, we are hoping people from one end of the province to the other will show up. We will have a bag piper lead a procession from Grand Parade to Province House. We will have a number of speakers including Bob bancroft as mentioned, some M’kmaw people to share their perspective of the forests, Old Man Luedecke will play a tune for the forests. It will be part mourning and part celebration of the potential that our forests still hold and that we can look forward to better times for our forests and forest industry.

DC: You will have pine boxes?

JS: We will, caskets with trees, people are bringing stuffed dead animals to represent the loss of our forest biodiversity. It should be an interesting event.

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