Shanni Bee on Stop Spraying and Clearcutting Nova Scotia Nov 29, 2020
Remember that email Iain Rankin wrote me on November 22nd defending his great environmental policies and record? (…If you don’t and are interested, it can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/…/permalink/3460481797404655) [also below] …Well, I wrote Mr. Rankin (another) doozy of a response today. Probably most will want to TL;DR (I don’t entirely blame you =ÿÞ), but it might be worth your while to read on. I am throwing down a gauntlet. (…Otherwise, just enjoy some updated maps. I sent these to Mr. Rankin as well.)
To: The honorable Iain Rankin,
Thank you for your November 22nd email, in which you responded to several of the concerns I previously raised. I especially appreciate that you clarified where you stand re: a provincial emissions reduction target. However, a number of your answers were unsatisfactory to me, and I am following up to discuss my concerns further.
Mr. Rankin, you stated that you & your colleagues at Lands and Forestry were successful in making progress on the majority of recommendations found in the Lahey report . With all due respect, this claim suggests that you are, at best, ignorant of the reality on the ground, or at worst, being dishonest about it. Please clarify which Lahey measures you have made progress towards (besides widespread glyphosate spraying, which your government has embraced wholeheartedly.) More than 25,000 hectares of crown forests have been clear-cut since the release of the Lahey Report. Biologists and naturalists who are actually in the forest & field have been adamant that nothing has changed. The media does not believe your boasts of progress either. (See: the August 13th CBC article, 2 years after Lahey, advocates say very little has changed in N.S. Forests; the August 24th Halifax Examiner article, It s been two years since the Lahey Report was released, but its recommendations have yet to be implemented; and the very in-depth chronicling of your government s failures in the September 8th NS Forest Notes article: An assessment of Nova Scotia s L&F progress in implementing ecological forestry in response to the Lahey Report, Part 3: The Project Muddle).
Mr. Rankin, I told you before that I have a master s degree in Landscape Ecology. I am also a conservation GIS expert with many years of experience. I recently downloaded GIS datasets for all of three cycles of the Forest Resource Inventory as well as the Crown Harvest Plans, both of which (as I m sure you know) are maintained and distributed by NS Lands and Forestry. (On that note, I want to thank you for one thing the NS Liberal government has been very good on: a commitment to open data. I give you and Mr. McNeil much credit for this, and given your stated commitment to transparency, I hope it continues. But I digress& ) I used this data to do some analysis of forest activity in the province and create a few maps for you. The first two maps focus on an area of particular interest to citizens who are pushing for ecological forestry: the crown forest between the Tobeatic and Silver River Wilderness Reserves.
Mr. Rankin, in your recent Cape Breton town hall event, you stated that, as premier, you would seek to strengthen Nova Scotia s protected area network, in large part by increasing connectivity among protected areas. The crown forest between the Tobeatic & Silver River Wilderness Areas (shown in these maps) provides critical connectivity for a number of at-risk species, including the severely endangered mainland moose. Indeed, it is precisely because this area is so important to connectivity that environmentally-concerned citizens have been very vocal about the clear-cutting there (which continues unabated as we speak). Indeed, some of these citizens are so concerned that they have been camping out on the ground, in the cold (even in a snowstorm) for over a month now.
The first of these Tobeatic/Silver River maps illustrates forestry using the crown harvest plans (2016-2020) alone. In your November 12th email, you stated that, in response to Lahey, you instituted mandatory preliminary setbacks from clear-cut harvesting of 100m . So, I took a closer look. As you can see, there are a number of clear-cuts in the Crown Harvest Plans that are occurring within 100m of the Silver River Wilderness Reserve. According to the harvest plans, about half of these cuts occurred post-Lahey. I also found a number of clear-cuts within 100m of protected areas in Cape Breton but did not make a map for this area. I am happy to do so if you wish.
The second map focuses on the same area of interest, but it shows clear-cuts which have occurred since the late 1980s (as well as plantations that have been established). As you can clearly see, Sir, the ecological integrity of this area has been utterly decimated. If improving ecological connectivity is truly important to you, you should be gravely concerned by these maps. You should also direct the current Minister of Lands and Forestry, your friend Derek Membourquette, to finally meet with the longsuffering encampment activists who are trying to protect what little connectivity is left between these wilderness areas against high-intensity forestry.
The third map illustrates forest harvests on crown land (of which over 90% are clear-cuts, despite the fancy new names adopted by Lands and Forestry post Lahey, such as shelterwood , overstory removal , salvage harvest , etc.). Mr. Rankin, because connectivity is important to you, I want to point out that watercourses provide some of the most excellent opportunities to promote habitat connectivity, as they benefit a wide range of species. To cite one example, while an upland forest buffer provides connectivity for upland forest songbirds, research has found that watercourse buffers can benefit both upland & lowland birds. Nonetheless, in this province, the mandated buffer width between forest harvests and watercourses is a paltry 20m. I will save the discussion for why this buffer width is woefully inadequate for another day. Right now, I want to inform you that I found many violations of the mandated 20 m watercourse buffer all across the province. (These violations are highlighted in red on the map.) The harvest data used for this analysis is provided by Lands & Forestry, so clearly the department is aware of what s going on. Why are large resource-extraction companies being allowed to blatantly violate the Wildlife Habitat and Watercourse Protection Regulations? Can you speak to this please? Can you also kindly tell me whether, as premier, you will increase the mandated watercourse buffer size to a width that is in line with what science tells us is necessary for connectivity?
Mr. Rankin, as the maps make clear, Nova Scotia s biodiversity and natural heritage are being sold out to moneyed interests and big forestry. Sir, in your November 22nd email, you left one of my questions unaddressed. Specifically, I asked whether you would pledge to appoint scientists, ecologists, or individuals with a proven record of prioritizing conservation & sustainability to the posts of Minister of Lands and Forestry and Minister of Environment. Clearly, under the direction of businessmen and former-businessmen, our natural resources are not being managed; they are being mined. Unless you commit to installing credible people to head these ministries, no Nova Scotian who has been paying attention will take your self-proclaimed environmental bona-fides seriously.
In addition, I want to extend a second offer to put together an environmental roundtable discussion, where you can meet with (and listen and learn from) some of the foremost experts in ecology, conservation, and sustainability that this province has to offer. I m not talking about trolls or well-meaning but poorly informed tree huggers; I m talking about serious people who are impeccably credentialed. If you are interested in participating in such an event, I will be happy to let you first see & approve the list of participants.
Mr. Rankin, I note also that you recently blocked me from posting on your Facebook wall. This is disappointing, especially given that you have said you greatly value transparency. I have never (in a public context or to you privately) written anything more than respectful, polite, and well-informed critiques & questions. But regardless of where our Facebook relationship stands, I am not going away, Sir, and neither are thousands of other environmentally-concerned Nova Scotians. I will give you a week to respond, and if you have not, I plan to reach out to the larger media landscape, as the option of urging you to respond via your public Facebook wall is no longer available to me. I don t mean any disrespect, Sir, and I have nothing against you personally. I just understand the seriousness of the issues we face, and I need you and our other elected leaders to understand (I mean really understand) as well.
And a comment from NN: Thank you, SB,
Setting up the Moose Country Blockades, we have come to know the areas planned for cutting on this crown land, and the areas already cut. Out of 3300 acres approved for cutting by our government in this area in the last 4 years, only 275 acres would result in uneven aged stands. The other 92% are or will be even aged, meaning the existing forests will have been destroyed. The Department of Lands and Forests has the gall to describe this as ‘Sustainable Management’ in what is supposed to be a buffer zone surrounding protected wilderness areas. Thank you for your excellent mapping.
IAIN RANKIN TO SHANNI Nov 23, 2020
After three letters and two PMs, plus half a dozen odd posts on his FB wall, I received a personalized response from Iain Rankin today (not the typical form letter politicians usually copy/paste when concerned citizens write in about an issue). Here is what he has to say for himself…
Thank you for your letter, and engagement on this subject. I am a firm believer in the need to act decisively on the climate crisis. Investing in clean infrastructure as part of the COVID-19 recovery is the greatest opportunity of our lifetime to fundamentally transform our economy in a low-carbon, climate resilient and socially inclusive way. We also need to implement ecological forestry as soon as practical to ensure maximum carbon sequestration and healthier forests.
I was able to make some progress, with the support of my colleagues, on the majority of the recommendations found in the Lahey report, and am excited for the opportunity to be in a position to expedite progress and ensure we fully implement ecological forestry, in Nova Scotia. As you may know, it was recommended in the report to review clearcut harvesting setbacks from protected areas, which I am committed to. The interim policy I instituted mandated preliminary setbacks from clearcut harvesting of 100M. I suspect that number to be modified based on what the project team recommends.
I will note that the new Forest Management Guide will result in the most substantive stand level changes in the matrix forest, and the work of the project team (with co-author Bob Seymour) has been very thorough. The Guide should be ready for implementation, in the next calendar year, after the public consultation period ends. It will shift the vast majority of prescriptions away from the single-aged clearcutting approach, to irregular shelterwood.
For clarity, my commitment is to 80% renewable energy in our electricity sector by 2030, not an 80% reduction in total provincial emissions by 2030. The reason I am targeting the electricity sector is because electricity generation is by far the largest source of emissions in Nova Scotia, representing approximately 42% of our provincial total. Tackling emissions in this sector, and then focusing on electrifying our end uses of energy, is absolutely essential if we are to significantly reduce provincial emissions and successfully address other high emissions sectors of our economy such as transportation (31%) and buildings (14%).
Most emissions from Nova Scotia’s electricity sector come from our fleet of coal fired generating stations. Currently, Nova Scotia’s equivalency agreement with the Federal Government allows us to continue to run our coal fleet out to 2040. As Premier, I’m committed to work with the Federal Government to get Nova Scotia off coal earlier than that by legislating an 80% Renewable Energy Standard (RES) for the electricity sector by 2030.
My plan is informed by the work Nova Scotia Power is currently conducting with the 2020 Integrated Resources Plan (IRP). The IRP modelling results are clear that accelerating the schedule for coal closures will result in significant adoption of local renewable energy resources like wind energy.
Furthermore, my plan for transforming the energy sector will strengthen the themes of inclusive growth outlined in our Sustainable Development Goals Act. I will ensure that underrepresented communities in the energy sector, including women, Mi’kmaq and African Nova Scotian communities, are front and centre with skills training opportunities and career placements.
Thank you again for engaging on this topic and I sincerely appreciate your passion to address this pressing issue.