Proposed logging raises concerns for mainland moose territory
Cuts would take place in Tobeatic Wildlife Management Area in Queens County
While concerns are being raised about the prospect of logging in forests known to be habitat for the endangered mainland moose, Nova Scotia's Lands and Forestry minister says consideration for the animal is built into any harvest plan.
The provincial harvest plans map currently lists 114.34 hectares of land along or near Upper Porcupine and Lower Porcupine lakes in Queens County, an area that's part of the Tobeatic Wildlife Management Area. About 40 hectares have been recommended for clear cut, with the rest a combination of partial harvest and individual tree selection.
Bob Bancroft, a retired biologist, said the area in question is isolated, and while it's not good moose habitat by definition, it's become attractive to them because of that isolation and lack of predatory threats.
"It's one of the last strongholds for the moose in less than ideal habitat for them," he said in an interview.
Bancroft, who was once part of a moose recovery team, said the government hasn't done enough in recent years to try to help the population reestablish itself. In 2016, the province's auditor general raised concerns about efforts to monitor the species' population.
Bancroft said the disturbance caused by harvesting, especially without an effective recovery plan, risks pushing the moose somewhere else, where habitat is even less ideal.
"We're not leaving an adequate amount of habitat for most species," he said. "The moose population is on a downhill spiral and this is just going to continue that."
Lands and Forestry Minister Iain Rankin said if there are moose in the area designated for cutting, it would be considered in any approvals.
"That's something our biologists look at and our whole integrated resources team, and then if there are known travelers in that area then we would specify special management conditions on the people that are harvesting," he said in an interview at Province House.
Rankin said guidelines could include leaving space for travel corridors and vegetation overhead for shade purposes.
"Typically you wouldn't see a clearcut in an area that there is moose, but you could see other types of management practices in there."
Not fulfilling legal obligations
Wildlife management factors into the recently released Lahey report on forestry practices. Rankin said it is his goal to have a general government response to the report before Christmas that will allow movement on some recommendations "right away."
Jamie Simpson, a lawyer and forester, questioned the wisdom of approving such cuts while there is a lack of a revised recovery plan for the mainland moose that identifies core habitat.
"The government hasn't fulfilled all of its legal obligations with respect to the mainland moose," he said.
"Without knowing what the critical habitat is, we really shouldn't be going and cutting down a lot of what could be critical habitat for the moose."