Groups representing 2,000 N.S. woodlot owners endorse forestry review

The report issued last month by Bill Lahey called for less clear cutting on Crown land, and recommended biodiversity and ecosystems be given a higher priority in forest management.

Recommendations will significantly improve the condition of forests in Nova Scotia, says one group

Ed MacDonell is the manager of Conform Ltd., a company based out of Middle Musqouodoboit, N.S., that manages 220 woodlots for private owners. (CBC)

Twelve organizations representing more than 2,000 small private woodlot owners in Nova Scotia are endorsing all the recommendations of a recent independent review of forestry practices.

University of King's College president Bill Lahey carried out the yearlong review and presented it to the Nova Scotia government last month.

One of the report's key recommendations is that the province should adopt a "triad model." That would mean a total ban on logging in some areas, high-production forestry that includes clear cutting in other areas, and a "lighter touch" in harvesting when it comes to remaining forests.

Speaking in one voice

Andy Kekacs, the executive director of the Nova Scotia Woodlot Owners & Operators Association, called the endorsement a significant development.

"I think it's the first time in the history of Nova Scotia that so many groups who work with small woodland owners have spoken with one voice on an issue of provincial policy," Kekacs said.

"It's a landscape level plan that's meant to balance the various needs and demands and values in our forests from stakeholders while putting the forest itself first."

Twelve organizations representing private woodlot owners in Nova Scotia endorse an independent review of forest practices. (Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press)

The report estimated about 80 per cent of forest harvesting in Nova Scotia is carried out by clear cutting. It said nearly 90 per cent of private lands are harvested using the method and up to 65 per cent of Crown land.

On Crown lands, which make up 30 per cent of the province's forests, Lahey called for much stricter ecological management. He predicted that would result in a reduction of clear cutting on Crown land from 65 per cent to 20 to 25 per cent, and a 10 to 20 per cent reduction of wood taken from Crown land.

Environmentalists had mixed reactions to the report. They welcomed the emphasis on making forest ecosystems and biodiversity a priority, but also raised concerns about recommendations to allow single-species plantation-like forests and the use the herbicide glyphosate on Crown land.

Support letter sent to premier

The woodland owners met last week in Truro to discuss the report and have sent a joint letter of support to Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil.

If implemented, Kekacs said, the recommendations will significantly improve the condition of forests in Nova Scotia.

"It will make a healthier, more resilient, more diverse, more natural older more valuable forest for all sorts of non-economic reasons."

Ed MacDonell, the manager of private woodlot management company Conform Ltd. in Middle Musquodoboit, said the report addresses pertinent issues facing the industry.

"Clear cutting has long been an issue with the public, in particular, and as forest managers, we're aware of that and we want to work with society's objectives in mind," he said. "So, we see the report leading to potentially a reduction to clear cutting on Crown land."