Nova Scotia will spend $5 million to help the province's forestry industry adapt to a 50 per cent reduction in clearcutting over the next five years.
Natural Resources Minister Charlie Parker said Tuesday the government is committing the money to help stimulate woodlot owner interest and participation in the industry through training and outreach programs.
"It wouldn't be all at once, but by the end of five years we expect to be at the 50 per cent goal for clearcutting and that would mean 50 per cent selection harvesting as well," Parker told reporters.
"If we do it right we can move forward and have healthy, environmentally sustainable woodlots that people can take pride in. They can say, 'This is my woodlot, look at what we've done here.'"
All of this is a response to a consultant's report warning that without mitigation measures, clearcut reductions could have a devastating impact on Nova Scotia's sawmill and pulp and paper industry.
Peter Woodbridge said in his report that reducing clearcutting by half over five years would not put the forestry industry out of business as long as the government ensures appropriate mitigation measures are in place — in particular, bringing more private woodlot owners into the wood supply mix.
He concluded that unless that happens, the loss of wood volume — particularly in softwood — could dramatically drive up the cost of supply to pulp companies and sawmill operators.
"This is not just mitigation by government. This is the industry taking a long, hard look at what it's done in the past and thinking, 'Our supply change has to be different going forward,'" Woodbridge told reporters on Tuesday.
"Circumstances have changed. So it's that dialogue that's important."
In a worst-case scenario, the consultant said fibre costs for the pulp and paper industry could climb by 30 to 47 per cent over the next 10 years and potentially push mills out of business.
"I don't know what the probability of losing a pulp mill is but I think the direction the province is going, I think we've reduced the likelihood of losing a pulp mill. I think you've increased the likelihood of keeping it," he said.
About 30,000 private woodlots owners hold about half of the province's land mass, but only about 10 per cent of them are involved in the forest industry.
Parker said clear targets will go into effect when the province unveils a new natural resources strategy later this spring. There is also no definition of what constitutes a clearcut, which is also expected to be addressed in the strategy.