Nova Scotia Healthy Forest Coalition: The Story of the Corbett Lake Affair and the Erosion of Trust in the Public Process

Photo from Annapolis Royal & Area – Environment & Ecology illustrates some of the intact forest by Corbett Lake

Overall this is another example of mismanagement of our natural resources by the Department of Lands and Forestry particularly in the context of the Lahey report which calls for major forestry reform and reform of LAF procedures and policy

From Healthy Forest Coalition Facebook page (copied on NSFN with permission):

The Story of the Corbett Lake Affair and the Erosion of Trust in the Public Process

General conclusions:

1. Overall this is another example of mismanagement of our natural resources by the Department of Lands and Forestry (LAF), particularly in the context of the Lahey report which calls for major forestry reform and reform of LAF procedures and policy.

2. The broader context for citizens concerns is the erosion of the ecological values of our forests both in Annapolis County, and throughout the province, through the over-reliance on one and two-stage clearcut practices..

3. LAF’s entrenched determination to continue with the status quo approach to forest management represents a major lost opportunity to implement ecological forestry which includes the full range of forest values and a fair procedure for citizen participation in decision-making for our public lands as envisioned by the Lahey report.

4. Several recent events provide examples (some of which are described below) that serve to demonstrate some the major flaws within LAF’s consultation process its inadequacy to engage the public, and incorporate their concerns, in a meaningful way.

Corbett Lake case:

1. The proposal to harvest approximately one half (~ 40 ha) of the peninsula between Corbett and Dalhousie lakes Annapolis Co., using a two-stage clear cut approach, was posted by LAF for public comment in Dec 2018 with a comment expiry date of Jan 19, 2019 (Figure 1 a-b).

Figure 1 a. Proposed 21.5 ha harvest, comment period open until Jan 19 th , 2019.

Figure 1 b. Proposed 18.9 ha harvest, comment period open until Jan 19 th , 2019.

2. Citizens of Annapolis Co were very concerned about this proposed harvest at Corbett Lake particularly in the context of the wide spread devastation of the Acadian Forest in Annapolis county (Figure 2) with few benefits left for residents. This was reported in the local media.


Figure 2. ‘A Sea of Clearcuts.’ The Corbett Lake natural parcel is enclosed in the red square. The “intensive forestry” leg of the TRIAD forestry model has been over-allotted in Annapolis County, dominating 375 square km in this photo. Ecological forestry must be CAREFULLY carried out on the remainder, including Corbett Lake.

3. Many citizens and the Annapolis County council immediately began preparations to submit comments on this proposed harvest. A site visit was conducted with 18 residents to tour the proposed two-stage clearcuts. Upon arriving at the site, they discovered a large 750 meter long road constructed down the center of the natural peninsula. (Figure 3 a-b). They also discovered that first stage harvesting had already taken place. The citizen field tour also found many scattered very large and ancient hardwood trees and other ecological, scenic, and recreation features, being a peninsula between two lakes. Many citizens expressed outrage over the flawed consultation process and the mismanagement of our forests by LAF.

Figure 3 a. Natural forest stand on the peninsula in July 2018 with no road.

Figure 3b. New access road slices through the peninsula during August 2018 prior to public comment.

4. A letter was immediately sent to Premier McNeil (MLA for Annapolis), Minister Rankin and the Warden of the County. The letter outlined the mismanagement of due process and the continual failure of LAF personal to properly oversee our forests. Phone calls and emails were also directed to LAF to try and obtain an explanation for the harvest. No explanations were forthcoming.

5. On New Year’s Eve @ 4: 25 PM, LAF responded by stating:”AP068637B and AP068637D were originally posted as proposed clear cuts for public comment the Harvest Plan Map Viewer this week.”

6. This response from LAF was totally unacceptable for several reasons:

  • LAF did not provide any evidence or supporting documentation that demonstrated that the two stands were posted for public comment in 2015. Several residents have since requested the 2015 map and forestry data from the PTA but have not received any response.
  • By removing the posting from the Harvest Map Viewer, they effectively shut down the formal public consultation for the area, perhaps thinking their mismanagement will simply ‘go away – end of story’.
  • LAF claimed the area was posted as a clearcut three years ago and they modified it to a partial cut (a uniform shelterwood – a two stage clearcut). Citizens of Annapolis Co. have no way of knowing what the true plans are for the area as the one posted for comment has now been withdrawn.
  • Many citizens do not trust LAF and believe they mislead the public with no accountability for their actions.

7. Conducting searches on the internet, citizens discovered the natural peninsula between Corbett and Dalhousie Lake was posted for public comment FOUR years ago on Nov 18, 2014 with a public input deadline of Dec 8 2014. The area posted was not for a clearcut as LAF stated but for a partial cut again, a uniform shelterwood – a two stage clearcut) and the area was about twice as large as posted in Dec 2018 and included almost the entire peninsula.(Figure 5). None of this was mentioned by LAF. It seems that citizens have again been misled and mis-informed by LAF.

Figure 4. The uniform shelterwood cut partly completed prior to public comment period.

Figure 5. The original posting for a partial harvest at Corbett Lake in Nov 2014. The polygon was larger in 2014 than in the 2018 harvest proposal in Figure 1.

8. It appears that LAF has been clearly derelict in their responsibilities. The department decided not to consult with residents while knowing about the demonstrated interest of Annapolis county residents and municipal council in the state of our forests. In addition, as the original posting was 4 years ago for a different (but overlapping) area LAF should have insured there was a fair and transparent consultation for the new proposed harvest on the peninsula well before road construction and harvesting took place.

9. The Corbett Lake peninsula is an excellent demonstration of the very reasons why Dr. W. Lahey’s Independent Review of Forest Practices made key recommendations to reform forestry and LAF (formerly DNR), such as Recommendations 16, 19,20, 38, 39 copied below:

Minimizing adverse affects through broader public engagement.

  • Rec.16. DNR, with Crown licensees, must take immediate and sustained action ­ including by conducting or commissioning appropriate scientific research, engaging interested parties in collaborative problem solving forums, and adopting precautionary measures ­ to be responsive to concerns about the potential adverse impact of forestry on Crown lands on the following interests:
    a. Sensitive soils, particularly on Crown lands in the western region
    b. Bird populations
    c. Tourism operations and developmental plans
    d. Outdoor recreation activities, including established trails
    e. Protected Areas

Give Equal weight to all Values.

  • Rec. 19. The Crown Lands Act should be amended to ensure that its purpose clause encompasses and gives equal weight to the full range of the values (and uses) relevant to the management of Crown land, thereby eliminating the statutory preference the statement of purpose currently found in the act gives to timber production objectives.

Environmental Assessment needed.

  • Rec. 20. The forestry management planning process for Crown lands should be conducted under a legislated environmental assessment process, either as a Class II environmental assessment under the Environment Act or in a process that emulates the Class II process under the supervision of an independent third party (or panel) under the authority of the Minister of Natural Resources or the Ministers of Natural Resources and Environment. This process should be required before the issuing or renewal of forest utilization agreements. One of the objectives of this assessment will be to ensure that forestry on Crown land will adhere to the principles of, and contribute to the objectives of, ecological forestry, as embodied in the strengthened framework for ecosystem based forestry and the outcome-based accountability to be applicable to areas of Crown land managed for high production forestry.

A new land use plan for the western end needed.

  • Rec. 36. A land use planning process to be conducted by an independent person or panel should be established for the western Crown lands.

Change LAF (DNR) culture.

  • Rec. 38. DNR must deeply and pervasively embrace a culture of transparency and accountability. It must institute the information management, sharing, and distribution systems needed to put that culture into routine operational practice, including (a) adopting a practice of giving written reasons for decisions on matters of public interest wherever practicable, and (b) measures to prevent the protection of privacy provisions of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, as well as bureaucratic systems or resistance to disclosure, from inappropriately limiting the operation of the freedom of information provisions of the same legislation as it relates to public policy on forestry or the management of Crown lands.

Increase use of science.

  • Rec. 39. DNR must dramatically increase its reliance on science and its role in conducting, enabling, and applying the scientific research that is needed to move Nova Scotia in the direction of ecological forestry with healthy forests and thriving forestry based industries.
  • Within reasonable limits, the instinctive approach of the department in the face of scientific uncertainty should be to enable its own excellent scientists to undertake the necessary research or to work with the broader scientific community to address or understand that uncertainty.

10. It is clear to the public that LAF cannot reform itself and has little interest in forestry reform. The time is now for the Premier to get serious about forestry reform by fully implementing the Lahey report and reforming LAF.

11. Annapolis Co has been devastated by clearcutting with few benefits flowing locally. There are only a small number of natural forest patches remaining ­ all of which are targets for harvesting by the status quo.

St. Margaret’s District Case:

1. Located within the proposed Ingram River Wilderness Area, parcels HX068405A, B, and C were up for harvest on Harvest Plans Map Viewer (HPMV) on November 30th, 2018. Parcel B was shown to contain not only Old Growth but what is likely to be one of Nova Scotia’s extremely rare pockets of ‘virgin forest ‘ – forests that have never been harvested. Fortunately, this parcel was removed from the HPMV on Jan. 3, 2019. What is unfortunate is that although this particular harvest did not move forward it is undoubtedly the case that there are pockets of Old Growth that ‘slip through the cracks’ in the system and end-up getting harvested. See Figure 6.

Figure 6. The Old Growth hemlock stand that was proposed for harvest as parcel HX068405B.

2. Another concerning aspect of this particular block of harvests parcels is that the road had already been laid out before the public comment period had concluded. This was observed by local community members that were performing ‘old forest scoring’ in the stand in early January. The roads had been surveyed and flagged with tape reading “Road Location”. Why is this work moving forward prior to the closure of the public consultation process? This would seem to indicate that these harvests are not “proposals” at all but are forgone conclusions which completely disregards the public process. See Figure 7.

Figure 7. The flagging tape demonstrating that the construction of these roads to access these stands, and thus the harvests themselves, was moving forward before the public consultation process had completed.

3. This case is not an isolated incident as there have been countless reports of road surveys and block layouts being conducted prior to the closure of the public consultation process


We request the Premier to freeze all the remaining patches of established forests that are potential targets for forest harvesting on crown land (including the Corbett lake peninsula) until the ecological forestry framework is in place supported by the science community and public input, followed by the development of a new and publicly acceptable land use plan for the western crown lands.

– Without LANDSCAPE LEVEL PLANNING as per Dr Lahey’s independent review recommendations, we the public are forced to police our own Crown lands to ensure the last stands do not fall under the Dept of LAFs ongoing mismanagement.

The HFC recommends that its members play an active role in verifying every land parcel proposed for harvest on Harvest Plans Map Viewer until LAF demonstrates that it can act responsibly and regains public trust.

The Premier must make significant changes to personnel at LAF, since the recent events at Corbett Lake, plus Shelburne area’s proposed clearcuts, and the Saint Margaret’s Bay old forest harvest proposals in proposed protected areas, demonstrate that the department is unable to embrace change. It would seem that they cannot be entrusted to reform themselves without the ousting of entrenched high-level personnel and the hiring of new staff who are aligned with the modern, ecological forestry vision.

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