Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia's forestry minister says he won't impose a clearcut moratorium

Iain Rankin says there will be no changes in forestry practices following a plea from three municipal leaders in southwestern Nova Scotia.

3 South Shore municipalities concerned recently approved clearcuts could permanently damage forests

Wildlife biologist Bob Bancroft co-wrote a letter to Shelburne municipal councillors about forest harvest plans near Deception Lake, about 13 kilometres north of Shelburne near Highway 203. (Phlis McGregor/CBC)

Nova Scotia's forestry minister says there will be no changes in forestry practices following a plea from three municipal leaders in southwestern Nova Scotia. 

The mayors of Lockeport and Shelburne and the warden of the District of Shelburne wrote to Iain Rankin asking for a moratorium on clear cutting provincewide until new forestry regulations are fully implemented.

"I'm not prepared to pick specific regions of the province to stop the forestry industry. They continue to abide by the interim guidelines we've had in place. And we're committed to implementing ecological forestry," Rankin said following a cabinet meeting Thursday. 

The warden and mayors are particularly concerned about clearcuts planned for roughly 90 hectares of forest located near Deception Lake north of Shelburne. 

The harvest plans call for 70 or 80 per cent of trees to be cut down at three sites.

On Dec. 3, two ecologists wrote a letter to Shelburne district council warning that the forest in those areas lacks the ability to regenerate from clearcuts due to prior logging and a history of wildfires. 

The ecologists predict the clearcuts will cause remaining nutrients to be leached away from already thin soils by rain and melting snow. 

Nova Scotia Forestry Minister Iain Rankin says there's been an overall reduction in clear cutting. (Craig Paisley/CBC)

Rankin acknowledged the councils' concerns. 

"I did see letters coming in. I appreciate the concerns that municipalities would have," Rankin said. 

"I do want them to know that the interim guidelines that were put in place right away are already seeing a lot more retention of trees on the ground, and there has been a reduction in clear cutting overall." 

Forestry guidelines delayed

Rankin said the first draft of new forestry regulations won't be made public until the New Year. 

They were scheduled to be unveiled in late November or early December, but Rankin said the government wants to show them to a newly created "stakeholder advisory committee" first. 

After that, the committee will begin working on an undetermined timeline to shape the permanent regulations. 

"I'm not going to estimate on the time. I just know that we are prepared to work with … NGOs and industry and discuss these very important recommendations that we should get right," Rankin said. 

'This isn't deforestation'

The minister said the interim forestry guidelines are already reducing the impact of clear cutting on the province's forests. 

He said the interim regulations preserve between 10 and 30 per cent of trees on clear cut plots. 

"This isn't deforestation, which some people like to compare it to. This is clear cutting with higher retention," he said. 

Rankin said he's seen no evidence that the province's forestry companies are clear cutting more aggressively in anticipation of stricter regulations in the future. 

"I don't see any change in the volumes of harvest plans coming through," he said.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jack Julian

Reporter

Jack Julian joined CBC Nova Scotia as an arts reporter in 1997. His news career began on the morning of Sept. 3, 1998 following the crash of Swissair 111. He is now a data journalist in Halifax, and you can reach him at (902) 456-9180, by email at jack.julian@cbc.ca or follow him on Twitter @jackjulian

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