The critics were right — old-growth forest being cut in Nova Scotia
New report confirms century-old trees that should have been conserved were cut in Guysborough County
A new report from Nova Scotia's Department of Natural Resources acknowledges policy changes are needed to ensure old-growth forest isn't being cut down unnecessarily.
In the report, Natural Resources forester Peter Bush concluded that two of 12 forest stands that were partially harvested by Port Hawkesbury Paper earlier this year in the Lawlor Lake area of Guysborough County contained old-growth forest.
It also found that eight of 15 stands in the queue to be cut also contained old-growth forest.
The assessment was done in response to "public concern" about harvesting practices. In March, veteran logger Daniel George took the CBC on a tour of the area to illustrate his concern that old-growth forest was being cut down.
The report, released Thursday, confirms some of his suspicions.
George told Information Morning Friday that cutting the "very pristine" area to burn as biomass fuel is "a crime."
He called for an independent assessment of the province's forests.
Natural Resources Minister Margaret Miller said the department has ordered Port Hawkesbury Paper to cancel all harvests near Lawlor Lake.
She also said it was to George's credit that he brought the problem to the province's attention in 2010.
Joint responsibility, minister says
The department and Port Hawkesbury Paper "both bear the responsibility" for the partial harvest of the two sections —approximately 30 per cent of the trees in the old-growth area — that shouldn't have been cut, she told CBC's Information Morning.
For that reason, she said the company wouldn't be facing repercussions.
In a statement issued in response to the report, Port Hawkesbury Paper said it will continue to follow the department's policies and procedures. It also said it would work with the department to improve its assessments.
Miller said in the last year to 18 months, Natural Resources has changed its process for identifying old-growth forest and the minister personally approves lots to be cut or thinned.
"Everything was analyzed to make sure our designations were spot on," she said.
In the report's conclusion, Bush writes that work needs to be done to update Nova Scotia's old-forest policy and refine the scoring system for determining what qualifies as old growth.
The goal of the policy, which was introduced in 1999 and updated in 2012, is to conserve old-growth forest on public land. Old-growth forest is defined, in part, as a forest stand where 30 per cent of the trees are 125 years or older.
For its report, the department hired an independent expert, Ben Phillips, the director of the Dendrochronology Lab at Mount Allison University in Sackville, N.B., to count tree rings to determine tree age.