Nova Scotia

3 South Shore communities want clearcut moratorium

Three municipalities in southwestern Nova Scotia are asking the provincial government to halt clearcutting in Crown forests until new forestry regulations are in place. The municipalities are concerned clearcuts could permanently damage forests.

Municipalities concerned recently approved clearcuts could permanently damage forests

Wildlife biologist Bob Bancroft co-wrote a letter to Shelburne municipal councillors about forest harvest plans near Deception Lake, about 13 kilometres north of Shelburne near Highway 203. (Phlis McGregor/CBC)

Three municipalities in southwestern Nova Scotia are asking the provincial government to halt clear cutting in Crown forests until new forestry regulations are in place.

The Town of Lockeport, the Town of Shelburne and the Municipality of the District of Shelburne are concerned recently approved clearcuts could permanently damage forests already depleted by generations of harvesting and fires caused by human activity.

"Many citizens in Shelburne County are very concerned about the approval by Lands and Forestry for the clear cutting contracts in the County," Lockeport Mayor George R. Harding wrote to Lands and Forestry Minister Iain Rankin on Dec. 10, following a unanimous vote from council members.

He went on to write that council wants a moratorium on clear cutting.

"Once the Lahey Report is implemented and regulations developed by your government, citizens will have more confidence in forestry decisions and harvesting practices in Shelburne County."

Lahey report recommendations

The 2018 Lahey report recommended a move away from clear cutting in Nova Scotia on a "triad model," where some forests would remain untouched, some would be harvested intensively and the balance managed on a sliding scale of ecological conservation.

On Dec. 5, Karen Mattatall, the mayor of the Town of Shelburne, wrote a letter to Rankin.

"As William Lahey's report has recommendations involving forest practices that are intended to balance economic and environmental goals, we feel that it should be considered carefully before Crown land trees are harvested in large quantities," she wrote.

Penny Smith, the warden of the Municipality of the District of Shelburne, told CBC News she's composing a letter with similar demands.

Scientists concerned

The concerns of the three municipalities originated with a letter two Nova Scotia scientists sent to Shelburne municipal council on Dec. 3.

Wildlife biologist Bob Bancroft and forest ecologist Donna Crossland wrote to councillors about forest harvest plans near Deception Lake, about 13 kilometres north of Shelburne near Highway 203.

"Clearcut, or modified clearcut practices that take place over low fertility soils will lead to further declines of both forests and aquatic health, as well as reducing future wealth and land use options," the pair wrote.

According to Nova Scotia's Harvest Plans Map Viewer, a 49.54-hectare tract of provincial Crown land is approved to be cut with 30 per cent of trees left standing.

Two other tracts totalling 42.27 hectares are approved for cuts leaving 20 per cent of trees standing.

Soil degradation and acidification

Bancroft and Crossland wrote that the 25-40 year-old forests in the area are still recovering from previous clearcuts and wildfires caused by human activity "from the 1700s to recent times."

The recovery is complicated because the area is "located on slow weathering bedrock that cannot replenish soil nutrients quickly enough to compensate nutrients that were lost via wildfires and clearcut harvesting," the pair wrote.

This causes nutrients such as calcium and nitrogen to be leached away by rain and snowfall.

Worries over impacts on salmon, trout population

"Without the retention of continuous forest cover, nutrient deficiencies worsen and the land's inherent ability to buffer streams that flow through the forests is lost, lowering the pH required to sustain salmon and trout populations," they wrote.

Bancroft said the letter was meant to alert local politicians to the risks of clear cutting.

"What we were trying to do is bring it to their attention, and to suggest that this isn't wise management of public lands," he said.

When CBC News contacted Crossland about the letter, she declined to comment.

Lands and Forestry responds

In May, Rankin said there will be a "dramatic reduction" in clearcutting once the province's new forestry management guide is in place.

Rankin expected it would be ready for release in late November or early December.

In an email statement Tuesday, Lands and Forestry spokesperson Lisa Jarrett said the government will respond to the letters as they are received.

Jarret said interim forestry guidelines introduced following the Lahey report reduce clear cutting provincewide.

"Government is committed to adopting ecological forestry.... A revised draft forest management guide is also currently in development," she said.

"It's important to note that clear cutting, as the Lahey report specifies, is ecologically acceptable in some circumstances."

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About the Author

Jack Julian

Reporter

Jack Julian joined CBC Nova Scotia as an arts reporter in 1997. His news career began on the morning of Sept. 3, 1998 following the crash of Swissair 111. He is now a data journalist in Halifax, and you can reach him at (902) 456-9180, by email at jack.julian@cbc.ca or follow him on Twitter @jackjulian

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