Nova Scotia not meeting commitments on resource management, says expert

Nova Scotia is not honouring its commitments to managing the province's forests, minerals, parks and biodiversity, says the member of an expert panel that assessed the province's Department of Natural Resources.

Allan Shaw says government has stepped away from balanced approach to conservation and development

Allan Shaw said the province has not followed through on the recommendations laid out in the expert panel's 2011 report. (Canadian Press)

A member of an expert panel struck to assess how Nova Scotia's Department of Natural Resources was managing the province's forests, minerals, parks and biodiversity says the provincial government is not honouring its commitments to those resources.

Allan Shaw, chair of the Shaw group of companies, served on a panel that released a 2011 report recommending Nova Scotia's natural resource managers strike a better balance between conservation and development. 

"A Natural Balance is what we called [the report]," he told CBC's Information Morning.  "We don't seem to have that."

A more collaborative approach

Shaw said the panel advised the Department of Natural Resources to work more collaboratively with other government departments, NGOs and citizens. 

Shaw said there was some consultation following the panel, but the leadership has not become more collaborative. 

Last week, the Department of Natural Resources released an update on Nova Scotia's 10-year resource development plan.

The update said Nova Scotia was on track to meet targets for increasing accountability and sustainability in resource development, and that Nova Scotia would officially abandon a recommendation to reduce clear cutting by 50 per cent.

Natural Resources Minister Lloyd Hines said that decision was partly because much of the woodland in Nova Scotia is privately owned.

"The [2011] strategy envisaged our ability to project onto private property owners the 50 per cent imperative and that really has proven not to be something that we can easily accomplish."

'A lost opportunity'

The recommendation to reduce clearcutting— along with suggestions to end the use of herbicides on public lands, extend good practices developed on public lands to private lands, and exercise caution around the use of biomass to produce electricity — was developed by Shaw and his fellow panelists.

Shaw said there's been little progress on improving sustainable forest management since those suggestions were made. 

"I'm disappointed, unfortunately. I think it's a shame and a lost opportunity," he said. "I think the government has stepped away from its commitments to have a much more balanced approach."

But Shaw said the greatest loss may not be to Nova Scotia's resources, but to people's faith in government.

'It makes it harder'

Shaw said he and the other panelists participated in the panel voluntarily, and thousands of Nova Scotians took the time to contribute their thoughts on how resources should be managed. 

"We always have hope, but hope starts to fade when we see very little progress. So I think the real loss is that when that continues it makes it harder to get other people to step up and volunteer. 

"It makes it harder to do it next time, and it makes it harder for government to be credible."

But Hines said that with last week's update, the province had "enlivened" the province's resource development strategy, and that expert input on that strategy was seen as valuable 

"I don't like having information that we're not using, and I'll make every attempt to make our document real."

With files from CBC's Information Morning