Nova Scotia

Forest centre aims to plant seeds of Lahey report on private woodlots

While the Nova Scotia government continues to focus on implementing the recommendations of the Lahey report on forestry for Crown land, a group is stepping up to also make those recommendations possible for private landowners.

'Nova Scotians would be well-served for us to listen to what Bill Lahey said'

While the province focuses on implementing the Lahey report on Crown land, groups are stepping up to do the same with private land. (Alain Belliveau/Medway Community Forest Co-op)

While the Nova Scotia government continues to focus on implementing the recommendations of the Lahey report on forestry for Crown land, a group is stepping up to also make those recommendations possible for private landowners.

The Family Forest Centre was created by the Nova Scotia Woodlot Owners and Operators Association, with support from many of the small landowner service providers in the province.

Andy Kekacs, executive director of the association, said since Bill Lahey's report on forestry practices was released a year ago, with its call for prioritizing ecological forestry and changing the way Crown land is managed, there're been lots of interest from private landowners. But there hasn't been as much know-how.

"Explaining what that actually means to people in terms of the specific practices that might change is really important and I don't think it's well understood right now," he said.

The group has created an online hub that will answer questions, help people get resources and understand how the concept of ecological forestry might affect their land, and offer programs for people interested in pursuing it.

Andy Kekacs says the Nova Scotia Woodlot Owners and Operators Association started the Family Forest Centre to help private woodlot owners act on the recommendations in the Lahey report. (CBC)

While the centre will provide information, resources and referrals, it won't provide harvesting services, a choice Kekacs said was made to avoid any perception of conflict.

"The way we're set up, the government funds us to do outreach and education, and we provide impartial recommendations that are based on whatever the landowner professes to us their goals and their values are."

Lands and Forestry Minister Iain Rankin said efforts continue on implementing recommendations from the Lahey report.

Requests for supplier qualifications were issued earlier this month for six district heating pilot projects, which would be fuelled by low-grade wood and operate at public buildings around the province. The minister expects those to be ready in time for the upcoming heating season.

Lands and Forestry Minister Iain Rankin welcomes the support of groups trying to implement Lahey report recommendations on private land. (Robert Short/CBC)

The primary focus right now remains on finalizing the new forest management guide, which Rankin said is on track for completion by the end of the year. He said he hopes the government's efforts on Crown land as well as the services Kekacs's group is providing will help garner support for ecological forestry from private landowners.

"If we can do a good job on public land and show that we can actually achieve ecological forestry while maintaining an industry, then I think the private landowners will be able to learn from that."

Kekacs said the goal of the centre is to faithfully implement the recommendations of the Lahey report on private land, something that would "transform the way we manage the forests of Nova Scotia, much to our benefit."

The Nova Scotia Woodlot Owners and Operators Association has such admiration for the work Lahey did in his report that they recently named him a Friend of the Acadian Forest, an honour Kekacs said is not frequently awarded.

"The future generations of Nova Scotians would be well-served for us to listen to what Bill Lahey said and to start the job of implementing it now."

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About the Author

Michael Gorman is a reporter in Nova Scotia whose coverage areas include Province House, rural communities, and health care. Contact him with story ideas at michael.gorman@cbc.ca

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