N.S. remains committed to Lahey Report as province's forestry industry is in limbo
'I still believe that we can have significant progress by the end of this fiscal year,' says Iain Rankin
Nova Scotia's forestry minister says he remains committed to implementing the Lahey Report on forestry practices, even as the industry is in the midst of significant challenges.
Iain Rankin had previously said he hoped a new forest management guide, a key part of the report by University of King's College president Bill Lahey, would be ready by the end of last December.
But that process was delayed when it was announced Northern Pulp would be shutting down its Pictou County, N.S., operation after failing to secure approval to build a new effluent treatment facility.
On Thursday, the company announced in a news release it had begun issuing lay-off notices to 90 non-union salaried employees at the pulp mill. The earliest layoffs will take effect on Jan. 31.
Rankin said he expects the advisory committee working on the new guide to meet by the end of February. He said he wanted to give the industry time to focus right now on the necessary transition efforts as a result of the pending closure at Northern Pulp.
"We wanted to put a high priority on that, making sure people were taken care of working in the forestry industry, but we are absolutely committed to adopting the Lahey Report and ecological forestry," he said.
The minister said he remains optimistic the new guide can be completed early this year. Work on other aspects of the report's recommendations, which call for a more ecological approach to forestry and a reduction in clear cutting on Crown land, remains on track, said Rankin.
"I know a lot of people are waiting for the guide, but in fairness to industry, there has been some significant change in their lives," he said.
"I still believe that we can have significant progress by the end of this fiscal year when we'll be evaluated [by Lahey on our progress on achieving the recommendations]."
Rankin is also keeping tabs on efforts to transition an industry that's about to lose its most important player. Part of that process is finding new markets for low-grade wood chips and finding them soon, as rumours swirl about the viability of some sawmills in the province.
The minister said time is the biggest challenge right now. Port Hawkesbury Paper has agreed to take more chips and Rankin said Nova Scotia Power could also take more for biomass energy.
'We're considering all options'
Still, finding a home for the hundreds of thousands of tonnes of chips Northern Pulp used to purchase each year won't be easy. Although some industry members are pushing for an expanded use of chips at Brooklyn Energy near Liverpool, Rankin said there are a variety of considerations for such a move.
"We want to make sure that we're doing what's right for [power] ratepayers, what's right for the environment, what's right for all involved, but specific to that piece, that's owned by Nova Scotia Power and they'll make that determination," he said.
Access to Crown land
Access to fibre is also an important consideration for sawmills and Rankin said he's heard from some outfits that want access to some of Northern Pulp's Crown land allocations once the company stops operating.
"I think quite rightly they're looking out to make sure that they have at least the amount of fibre allocation that they had through the Northern Pulp licensing," he said. "So we're considering all options when it comes to the sawmills that had those exchange agreements in the central region."
As efforts continue to try to cushion the blow of Northern Pulp's closure to the industry, Rankin promised "a number of initiatives" that would be announced soon to help people in the industry and ensure that a workforce remains in the province for whenever new options and opportunities become available.
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