Minister still weighing recommendations of forestry report

Lands and Forestry Minister Iain Rankin says action related to the Lahey report on forestry could come as soon as this fall, but any changes requiring legislation won’t be introduced until at least the spring.

Rankin says some changes could come this fall, but no legislation before the spring

Legislation related to recommendations in the Lahey forestry review won't be ready any time soon. (Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press)

Lands and Forestry Minister Iain Rankin says action related to the Lahey report on forestry could come as soon as this fall, but any changes requiring legislation won't be introduced until at least the spring.

Rankin has yet to provide an in-depth response to the recommendations the president of University of King's College delivered last month, and that didn't change during an interview Wednesday.

The minister said his department is still going through the report and considering the recommendations, which include a drastic reduction in the amount of clear cutting on Crown land. Rankin said he accepts "the premise that we could do more for ecological-based forestry."

"We're not really prepared to say which recommendations we will fully accept but in general we do accept the spirit of the report."

What is clear, said Rankin, is the need to have a sustainable, healthy forest. He said that needs to be the lens through which everything is considered. Finding a way to balance the desires and needs of the industry with those of small woodlot owners and environmentalists will be one of the key challenges facing the minister.

"At this point we can't really say what impact, if any, it will have on industry, but certainly the practices in how we manage our forests could change," said Rankin.

The executive director of Forest Nova Scotia, which represents industry members ranging from some of the biggest mills in the province right down to small woodlot owners, said he and his agency continue to evaluate what the proposed changes could mean in practical terms.

"This [report has] got some more meat on it [so] that we really need to understand what those impacts are," said Jeff Bishop.

Rankin's department is not exactly held in the highest regard in some circles, particularly with environmentalists and people who advocate for a more varied approach to managing the forests.

Lands and Forestry Minister Iain Rankin says changes that don't require legislation stemming from the Lahey forestry review could begin this fall. (Craig Paisley/CBC)

Ray Plourde, the wilderness co-ordinator for the Ecology Action Centre, said the minister could earn a great deal of good faith with people who want a new approach to forestry management by quickly acting on reducing clear cutting and working to restore the Acadian forest.

"This is the umpteenth report that says we have been clear cutting for far too long, or that there is too much clear cutting. The cumulative effects of all this clear cutting is that we have a degrading forest of lower ecological and economic value."

Plourde said he understands why legislation wouldn't be ready until at least the spring, but he said other things, such as completing the protected areas network and granting protection to the remaining proposed areas, should happen soon.

Government 'sitting on its hands'

"This government has been sitting on its hands, dawdling, doing nothing to move them forward," he said.

"There is nothing left except simply putting it through cabinet and approving it. They can do that in the next cabinet meeting as a complete package, and they should."

Rankin said a more thorough response to the report would come later this year.

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Michael Gorman

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Michael Gorman is a reporter in Nova Scotia who covers Province House, rural communities, and everything in between. Contact him with story ideas at michael.gorman@cbc.ca