Nova Scotia

Rare lichens to be protected, but planned cut on Crown land to proceed

The Natural Resources Department confirmed the presence of three rare species of lichens and will place 100-metre buffers around them at the site in question.

Concerned citizens want cut on Annapolis County land cancelled

Protesters have set up a camp near Beals Brook in Annapolis County in an effort to stop a planned cut on 24 hectares of Crown land. (Submitted by Nina Newington)

An official with Nova Scotia's Natural Resources Department says buffers will be placed on a piece of Crown land in Annapolis County to protect species at risk, but logging will still be permitted at the site.

Protesters have been camped out near Beals Brook between Roxbury and Albany since December. They don't want a partial harvest that would remove about one-third of the trees on the 24-hectare site to proceed.

The province recently put a hold on the harvest after a citizen scientist identified lichen that could be rare. A recent expert report confirmed that there are three species that need to be protected.

Ryan McIntyre, resource manager for the province's western region, said the department was pleased to get the additional information.

"This one was late in the process, obviously, and I know that that's a concern to folks, but I am glad it did get caught," he said.

"The fact that we can now protect those individual occurrences, you know, is a good thing."

No further survey required

A 100-metre buffer will be placed around each occurrence, which will further reduce the number of trees that can be cut on the block of land.

People who want the cut cancelled say the findings point to flaws in the department's assessment process. They also say the pause on this specific cut should continue until the forest floor is free of snow and a more thorough assessment can be conducted to determine if there are more rare lichens.

But McIntyre said the department is acting on the recommendations of a lichenologist who surveyed the site last weekend and there was no suggestion that further work be conducted.

"If they're confident that they've surveyed the area to their level of expertise and they're satisfied with that, then I would trust that."

Ways to improve process

McIntyre said every plan submitted to the department is reviewed by a biologist, forester, surveyor and forest technician. In this case he said the lichens in question didn't show up in predictive modelling, which means more work needs to be done to bolster data and consider other improvements to the assessment process.

"No one is going to stand here and say that we do everything perfectly and it can't be improved, but we're trying to do our best," he said.

"We're trying to look at everything we can and make the best decisions and protect species at risk whenever we know about it."

Even with improved modelling, McIntyre said there are practical challenges because there are only so many experts available.

He said this presents an opportunity to train and educate more people and citizen scientists on how to spot and identify habitat that could be home to rare lichen and other species at risk.

Nina Newington, one of the people who has been camping at the site in hopes of saving the land, said she and others would welcome the chance to receive such training and help the department.

"The question, of course, is what will they do with the information we bring them," she said in an email.