Nova Scotia

Don't make forestry review a nod to industry, ecology group says

The Ecology Action Centre says if the government wants the public to take an upcoming review of forestry practices seriously, it must be run by someone with credibility.

Ecology Action Centre calls for consideration of previous work, culture of Department of Natural Resources

Officials with the Ecology Action Centre say whoever does the province's independent forestry review must consider the effects current harvesting practices have on the forest. (Name withheld by request)

With still no word on when the Nova Scotia government's promised forestry review will get off the ground, the Ecology Action Centre is detailing what it believes must be included in the process.

The environmental group released a list of items on Friday, among them a call for a look at the effects of harvesting practices on the health of forests, wildlife, wildlife habitat and species at risk.

Ray Plourde, the group's wilderness co-ordinator, said whoever conducts the review needs to be well-versed in forest ecology and the dynamics of wildlife.

"If it's just an industry consultant then that will not fly with the public, it will not be seen as credible," he said.

A delayed promise

Premier Stephen McNeil made the independent forestry review one of the central items of his party's environment plank in its spring election platform. The Liberals promised the work would be done by September, but to date no one has even been announced to do the review.

Natural Resources Minister Margaret Miller told reporters earlier this month she hoped the review would be complete by the end of autumn.

A department spokesperson on Friday said the government hoped to have an announcement on the review "soon."

Considering past efforts

All of this follows the Liberals' decision to back away from a commitment in the 2011 natural resources strategy to reduce clear cutting by 50 per cent. (Currently about 90 per cent of harvests are by clearcut.)

That report was produced following one of the most extensive consultation processes in the province's history.

While Plourde and others have questioned the need for another review, given the work already done, he said whoever takes on the job must incorporate and review the work already completed.

"All of that formed the highest-level guiding policy for the department for a decade and it is not gone, it is not erased or taken off the table," he said. "And that needs to be the starting point for any review."

'Growing anger' in the public

The Ecology Action Centre also wants the review to consider the culture of the Natural Resources Department, a place Plourde and other critics have said is too closely aligned with industry, to the detriment of other organizations.

"The culture within that department desperately needs to change and be opened up," he said. "Certainly there is a lot of growing anger out there in the public with regards to the overuse of clear cutting."

Plourde said he's not surprised the work hasn't started yet and "he never expected it could be done by September." He said the main thing is the work is done right.

"You can't just ask some kind of expert in any given field if they can do something on the drop of a hat, so to speak. So that never made a lot of sense in terms of timing."

About the Author

Michael Gorman is a reporter in Nova Scotia whose coverage areas include Province House, rural communities, and health care. Contact him with story ideas at michael.gorman@cbc.ca