Better Nova Scotia forestry management needed, says critic

The NDP's natural resources critic says the minister is rolling over for bureaucrats in his department rather than standing up for good forestry management.

Natural Resources minister says department on track to reach protected area goal

NDP natural resources critic Sterling Belliveau says the minister is deferring too much to bureaucrats when it comes to setting forestry policy. (CBC)

The NDP's natural resources critic says the minister is rolling over for bureaucrats in his department rather than standing up for good forestry management.

Queens-Shelburne MLA Sterling Belliveau levelled the charge several days after Natural Resources Minister Lloyd Hines approved the vast majority of a proposed clearcut next to Kejimkujik National Park.

"I think that, unfortunately, the culture that lives within the Department of Natural Resources is dominating the minister's decisions," Belliveau said in an interview.

"It's unfortunate that he's not standing up against that particular culture … They're not creating a balance."

Industry vs. recreation

Hines said one of the main reasons for approving the cut was the importance of the industry to the province and the thousands of people who make a living in the woods.

But Belliveau said a balance between industry and protection is what's missing right now and exactly what his party did with its forestry strategy while in power.

That balance is one of the reasons his government bought the lands that belonged to the former Bowater mill, near where the 94-hectare cut will take place.

"To make sure that there is a commercial component to it and also that the recreational needs are being satisfied," said Belliveau.

Natural Resources Minister Lloyd Hines says his government is on track to meet its goal of protecting 13 per cent of all Crown lands in the province. (CBC)

But Hines said his government is doing its part, including remaining on target to protect 13 per cent of all Crown land in the province. The current total sits at about 12.26 per cent and includes 110 parcels announced last year.

"We're getting very close to reaching that number. We're almost weekly nominating new parcels into the 13 per cent goal, which are then taken to [the Department of] Environment and put through their lens."

There is no deadline for when the government must hit its self-imposed target.

To buffer or not to buffer

Belliveau and others have said the province needs to institute buffer zones around all protected land so cuts can't happen right next to areas such as Keji. But Hines argued buffers are naturally built into the protected areas.

"The reason that the areas next to protected areas are not protected is because there is a significant change in the quality and quantity and type of landscape that, simply put, was being sought after or the particular area that was looking to be protected."

Tory Leader Jamie Baillie said the government's whole approach to forestry needs to be more open and easy for the public to follow, in order to foster the balance between protection and responsible industrial use.

"I think it's time that the government brought forward clear guidelines that we can all look to to make sure that we're meeting that balance."