Nova Scotia

New draft forestry management guide now open for public comment

More than two years after the Lahey Report on forestry practices called for its development, the provincial government has publicly released a draft version of a new management guide.

Guide is a key part of changes called for by Lahey Report on forestry practices

A harvester removes trees during a partial cut in Colchester County in this file photo from 2018. (Michael Gorman/CBC)

More than two years after the Lahey Report on forestry practices called for its development, the provincial government has publicly released a draft version of a new management guide.

The public will have 30 days to offer comments on the silvicultural guide for the ecological matrix, which lays out a path for a more ecological approach to forestry that includes notable reductions in clear cutting and greater weight on things like biodiversity preservation when determining how and where to harvest.

The guide applies only to Crown land and is part of the so-called triad model Bill Lahey recommended in the report he delivered in 2018. It focuses on the largest leg of the model, with areas designated for conservation and high-production forestry making up the other two legs.

"As proposed, the draft guide aims to facilitate the practice of ecological forestry on Crown land by promoting long-lived, multi-aged, multi-species forests to maintain and enhance biodiversity and to reduce clearcutting on Crown land," according to supporting documents released Wednesday.

"It does so through increased retention requirements in stands that would have been prescribed clearcut treatments in previous versions of the guide, and through enhanced requirements for ecological values in [pre-treatment assessment] data collection."

Ray Plourde, wilderness co-ordinator with the Ecology Action Centre, said that although he's frustrated by how long it took to get to this point, Wednesday's release is "a substantial improvement" over previous drafts reviewed by stakeholders.

Raymond Plourde is the Ecology Action Centre's wilderness coordinator. (CBC)

Supporting documents released with the draft detail some of the changes reflected in the most recent version.

"The team worked to address concerns that ecological forestry objectives were underrepresented in the [guide] by revising the decision keys and including expanded sections on ecological forestry, climate change, retention trees, restoration and silvicultural timelines," the documents said.

Greg Watson, the manager of North Nova Forest Owners Co-op, said the guide in its current form will lead to less clear cutting and a changing forestry landscape, but he said it's also causing concerns for some people in the industry.

Watson's team has worked for years to become well-versed in ecological forestry techniques for private woodlot owners and he expects people trying to make the change now will experience technical and economic growing pains.

"There's people out there that can do this work, but for enough of them to get into this quick enough it's going to be a challenge for the industry to get enough wood doing it at the same time," he said.

Greg Watson is manager of the North Nova Forest Owners Co-Op. (Michael Gorman/CBC)

Nevertheless, Watson acknowledged that the majority of the public has been calling for this type of changes and so the industry needs to find a way to come together and make whatever changes are called for in the final version of the guide.

"We can't survive if we keep going against public opinion —  it isn't going to work," he said.

"The sector is important to Nova Scotia and there's a lot of people counting on the sector for jobs and that's not a lie, so let's acknowledge this is what we need to do and then let's find a way to do it."