NS Legislature’s Resource Committee Thurs 24 May 2018: Current State and Future of the Forestry Industry in Nova Scotia

WestFor will be a witness and the Report of the Independent Review of Forestry Practices should be in, so it could be the first open-to-the-public discussion of the recommendations related to the Western Crown Lands

The Nova Scotia Legislature’s Standing Committee on Resources is holding a session on “Current State and Future of the Forestry Industry in Nova Scotia” on May 24, 2018, 10am-12pm. View Standing Committees/Resources.

Currently (May 5), under the “Witness / Agenda” heading, only the topic is listed; no witnesses are cited.
UPDATE (May 21): Witnesses are now listed: WestFor Management Inc. – Marcus Zwicker, General Manager & Forest Nova Scotia – Jeff Bishop, Executive Director

I have been told but have not independently confirmed that WestFor – the consortium of 13 mills granted licenses to harvest wood in the Western Crown Lands – will be one of the groups/individuals giving testimony & answering questions. At the last of the Committee on Resources’s monthly meetings in which forestry issues were discussed (Forest Management on Private Lands, Thursday, December 7, 2017), April 19th, 2018 was set as a tentative date for WestFor to appear before the Committee on Resources; there is no record of such a meeting, so the info I got about WestFor appearing on May 24 is probably correct.

These sessions can be very informative. A list of the Committee on Resources meetings in which forestry issues have been discussed with links to transcripts in Hansard is given on this website at nsforestnotes.ca/perspectives/standing-committee-on-resources/

Perhaps the meeting with WestFor was rescheduled in anticipation of the Report from the Independent Review of Forest Practices being completed. The Report was originally scheduled to be completed by Feb 28, 2018, then it was postponed to April 30, and then it was again postponed for a further, undefined period (but sometime soon).

So the dynamics of the upcoming meeting could be quite different according to whether the Report has by then been released.

Western Crown lands, modified from CPAWS map (2012)

Western Crown lands, modified from CPAWS map (2012)

The status and prospects for the Western Crown lands is a major area of review for the Independent Review of Forest Practices, re item 2 under Terms of Reference/Scope:

The review will examine current practices, including strengths and weaknesses, and provide recommendations for improvement regarding how Nova Scotia balances long-term environmental, social and economic interests in managing the province’s forests. In particular, the review has the mandate to examine the following components:
1) Evaluate the effectiveness and identify opportunities to improve the legislation, regulations, policies and guidelines, as well as the science-based tools that determine whether and where harvesting occurs, as well as the harvesting methods (eg: clear cut, partial harvest) that can or should be used.
2) Evaluate market access for private forest owners, particularly in the western region, and provide recommendations to address any identified issues.

WestFor has been criticized by some private operators who feel excluded or discriminated against in regard to access to the Western Crown lands, and the allocations to WestFor and the management prescribed by NSDNR have frequently been criticized because of the extensive clearcutting, cutting near protected areas etc. Probably no single event/action had more influence on the McNeil Government’s decision to set up an Independent Review of Forest Practices than the letter to Premier McNeil from Annapolis co (in the Premier’s riding) in the spring of 2017 requesting an exclusion from the impending WestFor agreement.

With the announcement that there would be an Independent Review of Forest Practices, the government declared that there would be no more long-term commitments to the 13 mills operating on the Western Crown Lands under the WestFor umbrella until after the review is completed. In the meantime, temporary extensions have apparently been granted, but with restrictions: a reduction in allocation, and elimination of unused allocation. This is said to have posed “shock and concern …to mills that employ thousands of Nova Scotians in rural Nova Scotia.” View Six month extension given to WestFor to operate in SW Nova Scotia but with a reduction in allocation, (post on this website, Nov 3, 2018)

So a lot is riding on the outcome/recommendations of the Independent Review of Forest Practices, soon to be released publicly at the same time it is submitted to government. It seems likely that the Report from the Independent Review will submitted and made available within the next couple of weeks, so we can expect a pretty lively meeting of the Committee on Resources to follow.

These meetings, held at the NS Legislature are open to the public, but seating is limited.

Tip of the hat to RP for the head’s-up on the upcoming meeting of the Committee on Resources

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