Nova Scotia

2 years after Lahey Report, advocates say very little has changed in N.S. forests

Two years after the Lahey Report called for Nova Scotia to adopt a forestry approach that would drastically reduce clear cutting, advocates say there has been a lot of talk, but no real change on the ground.

'On the ground, there hasn't really been any change at all'

The Lahey Report was released in August 2018, but two years later large sections of Nova Scotia's forests are still being clear cut, advocates say. (Name withheld by request)

Two years after the Lahey Report called for Nova Scotia to adopt a forestry approach that would drastically reduce clear cutting, advocates say there has been a lot of talk, but no real change on the ground.

The provincial government accepted the report's 45 recommendations in the months after it was released in August 2018, and has maintained it's still committed to following through.

But Raymond Plourde is left wondering when people will see actual progress.

He said he's seen very few concrete changes to forestry practices, and he's calling on the provincial government to speed up introducing legislative changes that would limit the number of clearcuts.

"On the ground, there hasn't really been any change at all, except they're leaving a little bit more trees behind in their clearcuts," Plourde told CBC's Information Morning this week.

He said that usually looks like between 10 to 30 per cent of trees left standing.

"It's not at all what Lahey's report has promised," he said.

Lahey's vision

The key recommendation in the Lahey Report, which was carried out by University of King's College president Bill Lahey, was that the province adopt a "triad model" of ecological forestry that would see a total ban on harvesting in parks, nature reserves and other designated wilderness areas.

The model also envisioned some forests dedicated to high-production forestry, while the remainder would be managed using approaches ranging from ecological conservation to outright commercial forestry.

Raymond Plourde is the Ecology Action Centre's wilderness co-ordinator. (CBC)

Plourde, the wilderness co-ordinator at the Ecology Action Centre in Halifax, is a member of the advisory committee set up to implement the report.

He said he's encouraged by the level of research and consultation that's taken place, but blames a lack of consensus among Lands and Forestry staff.

Lahey anticipated his approach would result in about 20 per cent less wood cut on Crown land.

"And there still seems to be a reluctance within the department to accept that," said Plourde. "I think they still think they can actually increase wood supply while still reducing clear cutting, and that doesn't seem to make a lot of sense."

Community activist Shelly Hipson was excited about Lahey's vision for "a gentler touch in the woods," but said the province's response has been "very disheartening."

She keeps tabs on proposed harvests across the province, using the harvest plans map viewer, and said it appears that more forests are being clear cut than in the past.

Plourde says forests are still being clear cut, with between 10 to 30 per cent of trees left behind. (Alain Belliveau/Medway Community Forest Co-op)

The province has determined about 18 per cent of Crown land is suitable for high production forestry, and about 47 per cent for ecological forestry.

But Hipson takes issue with the province's categorization of "ecological matrix," which includes areas like wetlands, bogs and beaches, places with few trees.

"When we've taken out all of that and just look at the forested land and compare, what's left is 356,000 hectares compared to 333,000 hectares of high production forestry," Hipson said. "Fifty per cent is going to go towards high production forestry."

No response from province

Plourde said if it's going to take much longer for the province to truly implement the Lahey Report recommendations, then interim harvesting guidelines need to be put in place.

The Lahey Report said changes to legislation were necessary, including to the Forests Act and Crown Lands Act, and Plourde said that work should have started from the get-go.

"If that legislation is not changed, then the department's fundamental underpinnings, legislative wise, direct them to stay on the 1980s industrial, over-harvesting focus, instead of the new ecosystem-focus as recommended," Plourde said.

He hopes the changes come up in the fall sitting of the legislature.

CBC News requested comment from the Department of Lands and Forestry on Monday, but has not heard back.

With files from CBC's Information Morning

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