Nova Scotia

Cutting begins in Digby forest where Mi'kmaw chiefs asked for logging pause

A section of forest in Nova Scotia's Digby County that was the site of a blockade last fall has been clear cut, despite calls from the Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi'kmaw Chiefs to halt logging in the area.

Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi'kmaw Chiefs want mainland moose assessment done

Nina Newington took photos of the forest at the end of Rocky Point Road in Digby County in October. She says a small section has been clear cut. (Nina Newington)

A section of forest in Nova Scotia's Digby County that was the site of a blockade last fall has been clear cut, despite calls from the Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi'kmaw Chiefs to halt logging in the area. 

The area is considered by many to be important habitat for endangered mainland moose

Logging in the area is being done by WestFor Management, a forestry consortium that works with 13 lumber mills in Nova Scotia.

The Department of Natural Resources and Renewables said protecting habitat for endangered species is considered when the province approves harvests on Crown land.

Chief Sidney Peters from Glooscap First Nation wrote to the Department of Lands and Forestry in October 2020, demanding that logging operations cease until a moose habitat assessment can be done.

At the time, protesters were camped out on a road southeast of Weymouth, between the Tobeatic Wilderness Area and Silver Lakes Wilderness Area, trying to stop harvesting on Crown land that had been approved by the province.

The protest ended when nine people were arrested

Nina Newington was among those arrested, and said she visited the site near Rocky Point Lake Road last month and estimates about 25 hectares has already been cut.

"It was very painful actually to go there and look at what was being done," she told CBC Radio's Information Morning on Tuesday. 

Newington took photographs and video that show several forestry machines, felled trees and logs piled beside newly made roads. 

After learning that forestry machines had moved into the area, Newington sent a letter to Tory Rushton, the new minister of Natural Resources and Renewables. (Nina Newington)

"We're really at our wits end about this," she said. "You know, there have been court cases, there have been arrests, there has been a hunger strike. Mi'kmaw rights have been asserted, core habitat still hasn't been identified and basically the clear cutting goes on."

Chief Leroy Denny, who leads the lands portfolio with the assembly, declined to do an interview with CBC Radio's Information Morning but said in a statement this week that he has "serious concerns" about clear-cutting in southwest Nova Scotia. 

"We have voiced these concerns to the provincial government as the Mi'kmaq only support high retention, multi-age eco-forestry," Denny wrote. "We also need Nova Scotia to recognize the habitat area of the mainland moose that may be impacted by the work in this area."

Denny reiterated that the assembly wants all logging operations halted until a full assessment can be done of the mainland moose.

Newington said she took this photograph of the area in November, 2020. (Nina Newington)

Special considerations in place for moose: province

The Department of Natural Resources and Renewables said staff have surveyed the site by air and will continue to visit the area "to ensure the practices are being followed." 

"The area between the Tobeatic and the Silver River Wilderness had already been identified as a moose concentration area," the statement read. "This resulted in special management practices, developed based on guidance from biologists on staff, being put in place that ensure habitat remains for moose to shelter and feed in the area base."

The department also said a new recovery plan, which will include information about core habitat for mainland moose, will be released soon. 

The provincial government has said it's difficult to know how many mainland moose are left in Nova Scotia, but a CBC News investigation from 2019 found there could be fewer than 100 mainland moose left.

With files from CBC Radio's Information Morning