Nova Scotia

$50M forestry trust begins paying out funds

Nova Scotia's $50-million Forestry Innovation Transition Trust has started paying out money. Announced a year ago, the fund is intended to help the sector move toward sustainability and diversification following the closure of Northern Pulp.

Projects include support for NSCC, Mi'kmaw forestry, small woodlot owner co-operation

The goal of the trust is to develop new high-value products and business models through ecological forestry. (Michael Gorman/CBC)

Nova Scotia's $50-million Forestry Innovation Transition Trust has started paying out money.

Announced a year ago, the fund is intended to help the sector move toward sustainability and diversification in the wake of the closure of the Northern Pulp mill.

The Pictou County-based operation shut down last January when it failed to secure approval to build a new effluent treatment facility.

The funding announced Monday includes up to $2 million for the Nova Scotia Community College's multi-year forestry innovation voucher program, which allows new and existing businesses to develop new products and technology with the help of the college and its resources.

The Confederacy of Mainland Mi'kmaq is getting $288,596 to support the previously announced Mi'kmaw Forestry Initiative. The pilot project creates Mi'kmaw-led forestry efforts on about 20,000 hectares of Crown land in Annapolis and Digby counties.

Monday's announcement was in response to the initial call for proposals by the trust's board, which closed in August.

A second call for proposals closed in November. Sandra McKenzie, chair of the trust's board, said the process should become more refined the second time.

"We will have the results of the second call by the first week of February," she said.

Support for small woodlot owners

McKenzie said the board expects to do three open calls for proposals each year, as well as more targeted calls based on specific needs identified by the industry.

Along with the money announced Monday was word that the board is finalizing funding for three other projects, which will be announced early in the new year.

The trust is also going to hire a facilitator to work with several groups that submitted similar proposals to help private woodlot owners adopt sustainable management practices.

One of those groups is the Family Forest Centre, a collective of seven organizations representing 5,000 small woodlot owners that's helping implement the recommendations of the Lahey Report on private land.

The 2018 report by University of King's College president Bill Lahey called for a more ecological approach to forestry and a drastic reduction of clear cutting.

Andy Kekacs is part of the steering committee for the Family Forest Centre. (CBC)

Andy Kekacs, a member of the steering committee for the family forest centre, said their proposal calls for "a large-scale pilot of ecologically sensitive forest management activities in a wide variety of locations and woodland conditions."

"The pilot would include robust data collection before and after the work to demonstrate the costs and benefits of improved management," he said in an email.

"Both economic and ecological impacts would be monitored. In addition, the project would serve as a way to introduce family forest owners, forest professionals, and contractors to the key concepts, challenges and rewards of ecological forestry."

Kekacs said the group is pleased to work with anyone focused on widespread adoption of ecological forestry.

McKenzie said the focus for the trust will likely be on small woodlot owners, given that they own the majority of land in Nova Scotia and the Lands and Forestry Department is responsible for Crown land.

"Lahey pointed it out, in his own report, that it's in the private woodlot owners that we're really going to be able to achieve those overall goals of low environmental impact and high productivity."