Nova Scotia

Progress report on N.S.'s effort to shift to ecological forestry expected in June

Premier Iain Rankin says he remains committed to implementing the report's substantive recommendations by the end of the year.

University of King's College president Bill Lahey delivered his initial report in 2018

Bill Lahey will release a report in June on the government's progress implementing recommendations from his 2018 review of forestry practices. (Michael Gorman/CBC)

The man who authored the report outlining how Nova Scotia can move to a more sustainable approach to forestry is scheduled to release an update on the government's progress in June.

Lands and Forestry Minister Chuck Porter said during budget debate on Tuesday at the legislature that University of King's College president Bill Lahey will provide an update to his department this month and have a finalized review complete for public release about two months later.

Because the work is Lahey's, it's for him to release, said Porter.

The update will come almost three years after Lahey's review on forestry practices was first published.

Slow progress

Among other things, the document found the need for a drastic shift in the approach to forestry, one that puts the environment first and reduces clear cutting, while allowing for a productive industry that operates in a more ecologically minded way.

Outwardly, government's progress on the recommendations from Lahey's report has been slow.

The management guide for how work would take place in the ecological forestry section of Lahey's so-called triad model, a key cog in the wheel, was finally released in January and the public comment period on the document recently closed. Porter said those comments are now being reviewed to determine next steps.

But frustrations have grown as people wait for demonstrable progress. In November, half of the members of the minister's advisory panel called for a moratorium on clear cutting and other intensive harvest methods until Lahey's recommendations are in place to allow for a proper shift to ecological forestry.

Meanwhile, information remains outstanding about where the high-production aspect of the triad will take place, with industry members calling for that information as soon as possible so they can evaluate how their operations would need to change.

Premier remains committed to ecological forestry

On Tuesday, Premier Iain Rankin told reporters he remains confident his pledge to implement the key recommendations of Lahey's report by the end of this year will happen.

Rankin said work continues on identifying the land where high-production forestry will be permitted, with the aim of launching it, the soft-touch forestry area and a conservation area all at the same time.

The government passed the Biodiversity Act on Tuesday, something Lahey called for in his report, as were amendments to the Crown Lands Act, which were also passed during the current sitting at Province House.

Despite the premier's confidence, opposition leaders were less sure.

Tory Leader Tim Houston said Rankin, who was lands and forestry minister at the time Lahey delivered his report in 2018, has had plenty of time to bring about change.

"I think he's found a few sound bites that he thinks appease people, but this province is way past the need for sound bites. We need action on files and we need action on that report and I hope he takes it."

How to restore public confidence

NDP Leader Gary Burrill said the repeated delays in shifting to ecological forestry, along with the way the Liberals changed the Biodiversity Act, have shaken some people's confidence in the government's commitment to the environment.

One thing could fix that, he said.

"It's so important that the government implement a moratorium in this interim period on clear cutting until those key milestones of the report are implemented," he said.

Doing so until the triad model comes into force would go a long way toward reestablishing public faith and trust that something real is being done, said Burrill.