Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia forests still being clearcut at high rate despite reductions

An environmental group in Halifax says clearcutting has been reduced in Nova Scotia's forests since 2010, but not nearly as much as the minister of Natural Resources claims.

The government is playing 'a game of semantics' says Ecology Action Centre

According to numbers on the CCFM website, forest clearcutting in 2010 made up more than 95 per cent of the total harvest in Nova Scotia. (Jeff Green/CBC)

An environmental group in Halifax says clearcutting has been reduced in Nova Scotia's forests since 2010, but not nearly as much as the minister of Natural Resources claims.

In an interview earlier this year with CBC Radio's Mainstreet, Zach Churchill quoted numbers from 2010, the latest numbers he'd seen.

"Back in 2010, clearcutting made up about 75 per cent of the harvest in the province. And those numbers have steadily been brought down. Currently I think they're about at 64 per cent," he said.

Matt Miller, the forestry coordinator at the Ecology Action Centre, says figures made public by the Canadian Council of Forest Ministers (CCFM) differ dramatically from the numbers Churchill gave.

According to numbers on the CCFM website, clearcutting in 2010 made up more than 95 per cent of the total harvest in Nova Scotia.

The situation improved slightly in 2011 to about 94 per cent. Clearcutting dropped to 89 per cent of the harvest in 2012, before rebounding to 90 per cent in 2013.

Miller says he believes Nova Scotia's Department of Resources provides the numbers the CCFM uses in its tables.

'A game of semantics'

Members of the CCFM include Churchill and Natural Resources Deputy Minister Frank Dunn. 

But when it tabulates figures, Miller says the CCFM defines clearcutting differently than the government of Nova Scotia.

"If you can imagine a forest roughly the size of a Canadian football field. It's got trees there, you come along, you cut all those trees down — generally accepted that that's a clear cut," Miller said.

"You take that same area, that same forest type, you cut all the trees down, but you leave behind as few as six trees to act as a seed source for the next generation of forest. You have then performed what is known as a seed tree harvest."

The database maintained by the CCFM classifies a seed tree harvest as a kind of clearcut. Miller says the government of Nova Scotia argues it's not a clearcut, adding that the government is playing "a game of semantics" and undermining its own credibility on the issue.

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