Nova Scotia

Proposed clear cut near Kejimkujik National Park concerns environmentalists

An online map by the province shows almost 134 hectares of former Bowater land in Queens County is being considered for harvest.

Seeing a clear cut forest is 'always a shock,' says Friends of Keji Cooperating Association

A proposed clear cut of about 134 hectares near Kejimkujik National Park has some people worried. (CBC)

Environmentalists are concerned about a proposed clear cut near the southeast border of Nova Scotia's Kejimkujik National Park that comes close to a habitat for endangered turtles.

An online map by the province shows almost 134 hectares of former Bowater land in Queens County — near Loon Lake and close to a back country camping site — is being considered for harvest.

Norm Green, the board chairman for the Friends of Keji Cooperating Association, said one of his primary concerns with the proposal is the endangered Blanding's turtle. The turtles have a known habitat just north of the proposed harvest area, said Green.

Blanding's turtles are one of the four species of turtle found in Nova Scotia, and are by far the most endangered. (Jeffie McNeil)

He's also unhappy because his group only found out about the proposal earlier this week when they were alerted by members of the Mersey Tobeatic Research Institute.

There is a 20-day comment period for the public when a proposed cut is posted on the online map, but there is nothing that indicates the deadline. In this case, the deadline for comments is Aug. 20.

There is also no option for an email alert when new proposed sites are added, meaning people have to check back to see if there are new harvesting proposals.

Discussion period not advertised, say critics

Green said it seems like the government isn't putting much effort into keeping people informed.

"Although they can claim that they have an open discussion period, it's not advertised in a way that most people would be aware of it and therefore be able to provide comments," he said.

Matt Miller, the forestry co-ordinator for the Ecology Action Centre, said he's concerned the cuts will have negative impacts on the ecological integrity of Kejimkujik and other protected areas where cuts are proposed, such as in Cape Breton.

Matt Miller, the Ecology Action Centre's forestry co-ordinator, says there isn't enough information on the map showing proposed clear cutting locations. (CBC)

Cutting close to sensitive areas is becoming common practice for the department and it's up to them to develop a plan so forest management doesn't negatively impact protected spaces, said Miller.

Another concern Miller has is the lack of information on the map. There is nothing to indicate where Kejimkujik is located, for example, or any other protected area. It's a far cry from other provincial maps, said Miller, that have a similar design but more information.

"I think that there is a deliberate attempt to reduce the amount of information that the public sees in the context of reviewing these maps," he said.

But Natural Resources Minister Lloyd Hines said that isn't the case.

Natural Resources Minister Lloyd Hines says the previous NDP government's pledge to reduce clear cutting by 50 per cent over five years was unattainable. (CBC)

Hines said he was unaware of the map's shortcomings and pledged to look into it.

"If that's the situation we certainly didn't intend that," he said. "As we go forward, if there's ways we can improve it we're well advised to do that."

Backed away from previous commitment

Earlier this week the province released an update on its 10-year natural resources strategy, lauding its own progress. But they also backed away from a commitment under the previous NDP government to reduce clear cutting by 50 per cent over five years.

Hines said that doesn't necessarily mean clear cutting will go up.

"It may very well be that clear cutting is reduced by more than 50 per cent as a result of the individual analysis for the particular lot that's being harvested," he said.

Harvests must follow endangered species rules

Hines said the previous government's pledge was "arbitrary" and "unattainable" because it included private lands, where the government has no jurisdiction.

"What we're actually doing is applying more science to our methods."

Nova Scotia's natural resources minister says any harvesting that happens must follow protocols for endangered species, so he is confident no harm will come to the habitat for Blanding's turtles. (Tarissa Holmes)

In the case of the land by the park, Hines said only a small portion — no more than 20 hectares — borders Kejimkujik. Any harvesting that happens must follow protocols for endangered species, so Hines is confident no harm will come to the turtle habitat.

'Always a shock' to see a clear cut forest

Green said there have been other cuts right up to the park's boundary. While he's not sure about the impact of those cuts, it's a stark image while it's happening and once it's complete, he said.

"It's always a shock when you arrive at the boundary and you see everything ahead of you is a clear cut forest."

When it comes to where a cut can happen, the only buffer rule is for streams and watercourses — that it must be at least 20 metres away.

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