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A LITTLE HELP FOR MEETING WITH OR WRITING TO YOUR MLA...
Does the idea of meeting with your MLA bother you? Do you worry that your deeply held concerns will be ridiculed or that you won’t be quick enough to respond effectively when he or she defends policies that you feel are wrong?
You are not alone. Somehow when a person whom you have known or seen around the community for many years wins election to the Legislature that person acquires an aura that can be intimidating. Even so, before they were elected MLAs they were teachers, electricians, doctors, administrative assistants, real-estate agents, lawyers – your neighbours! People you chat with at the check-out counter, or at the PTA meeting. Like you, they care about issues in their community. They need your feedback. It’s their job to hear your concerns. Don’t be intimidated.
To help you get started we have put together the following ‘cheat sheet’, a summary of reasons why we in the Healthy Forest Coalition are concerned about what is happening to Nova Scotia’s forests. Concerns that you want to share with your neighbour, who just happens to be an MLA. The cheat sheet also gives you some leads to further information and some tips on carrying on the conversation or correspondence.
- Forests in Nova Scotia are being decimated by clearcutting. The provincial government needs to step up to safeguard our forests.
- Below are some things that government could do to overhaul how we manage forests. Some stem from A Natural Balance the report on the extensive public consultation for the Natural Resources Strategy (NRS) which took place between 2008 and 2009, and The Path We Share, A Natural Resources Strategy for Nova Scotia, 2011-2020.
- In A Natural Balance Nova Scotia Chief Justice Constance Glube and her two colleagues, Joe Marshall, Executive Director of the Union of Nova Scotia Indians and businessman Alan Shaw, present an eloquent rationale for their contention that ‘the status quo is not an option’. Attached to their report are expert reviews and recommendations for the four areas that the consultation looked at: biodiversity, minerals, parks and forests. There are two expert reports on forests: one by Bob Bancroft and Donna Crossland, which presents an ecological perspective and the other by Jon Porter which argues for an industrial approach.
- The Path We Share, which was released in August 2011, is important because in it the government of the day made a series of commitments to the people of Nova Scotia. Commitments that should still be honored even though the party in power has changed and the new ministry has rescinded some of these commitments.
- The list of concerns we present here is not exhaustive. It is important to add your own suggestions based on your personal experience or priorities.
- If you would like more information about the HFC approach to forest reform, we urge you to explore our website (http://www.healthyforestcoalition.ca/) and the excellent website entitled Nova Scotia Forest Notes.
A Natural Balance: Working Toward Nova Scotia’s Natural Resource Strategy can be accessed at: https://www.novascotia.ca/natr/strategy2010/pdf/phase2-reports/Steering%20Panel_FINAL.pdf
The Path We Share can be accessed at: https://www.novascotia.ca/natr/strategy/pdf/Strategy_Strategy.pdf
Both documents can also be accessed via the HFC website Resource tab here: Forest Strategy
POTENTIAL TALKING POINTS
1. Clearcutting – Mention the petition calling for a clearcutting ban on Crown land! Talk about what you are seeing (on the ground and on Google Earth), what your neighbours are saying. Mention shocking satellite images published in the paper showing forest loss and what you are reading. Crown land is public land – it needs to support wildlife, recreation, tourism, and our quality of life. It is not just a commodity.
- State the obvious, that somehow has been overlooked - clearcutting can devastate wildlife and fish habitat, soil health and site productivity. It converts valuable forests into raspberry bushes and junk species with little economic value. In 2011 the provincial government responded to public concerns by committing to reduce clearcutting to no more than 50% of all lands cut in five years. But when the deadline came and government had done nothing to achieve the goal, they simply gave up and turfed the target.
- Nova Scotia taxpayers purchased over 550,000 acres of land from Bowater Mersey in 2012, with the promise that these lands would be stewarded for the long term benefit of the province. Instead they are being heavily clearcut.
- Phasing out clearcutting on Crown land would set a standard and support the development of new players in the forest industry whose model isn’t based on depleting forests. The privilege of logging Crown land should be reserved for operators who leave it in good shape. It would also help private woodlot owners frustrated by the volume of Crown wood flooding the market.
2. Provide a meaningful way for people to influence Crown land management – The NRS committed to collaboration with Nova Scotians. That implies having a say. Yet public input is limited to a comment box on a website, after cutting plans are completed. Before your visit, log on to the Harvest Plan Map Viewer (https://nsgi.novascotia.ca/hpmv/) - DNR's online tool showing proposed cuts and get a feel for the process.
- DNR Minister Hines points to the Harvest Plan Map Viewer as meaningful public consultation. The DNR website states "mills may begin harvesting on any plan for which no comments have been received or which the department determines there is insufficient need to postpone the harvest". Many people are experiencing difficulties logging on to and using the viewer. Yet the onus is on the public to scrutinize every cut posted. Who has time for that? Surely, as taxpayers, we should be entitled to access useful information about the forest conditions prevailing on a proposed cut, its relationship to protected areas, non-timber uses (such as maple syrup operations and tourist facilities), previous harvesting history, etc.
- When concerns about clearcuts hundreds of acres in size are raised, you get a form letter back assuring you everything is fine. It’s not, and that’s why you’ve approached your MLA. Commenting on proposed cuts that are rarely altered is not meaningful consultation.
3. Do not sign a 10 year license agreement with WestFor!
- With the blessing of DNR, WestFor, a consortium of 13 mills, has become the manager of 1.4 million acres of public forest in western Nova Scotia. That is most of the Crown land, except national and provincial parks, west of Highway 102. The main partner is Northern Pulp. The Harvest Map Viewer shows that WestFor strongly prefers clearcuts.
- The Province has announced that it plans to sign a long term lease with WestFor. We are once again ceding control of our public lands to industrial forestry. This must not happen.
Called “clearcutting on steroids”, whole tree harvesting is the most destructive logging practice used in Nova Scotia. It means removing tops and branches from the harvest site, and turning a forest into a mangled, rutted, mud pit. The Province announced a ban in 2013 but never enacted it.
5. Reform the culture at the Department of Natural Resources
In A Natural Balance the NRS Steering Panel singled out the culture at DNR as an underlying barrier to reform. Then DNR was tasked with reforming themselves, which predictably failed.
Sweeping changes to senior management are needed. Reform will not be led by people who have invested their entire careers in the status quo.
6. Move wildlife and biodiversity responsibilities out of DNR
Separate the forestry regulator and the promotor. Absurd statements from DNR like “clearcutting does not destroy forest habitat” confirm that logging always takes priority over wildlife and biodiversity. DNR has no credibility to manage these files.
7. Remember: Change = Jobs
- Opponents of forest policy reform claim that implementing the reforms proposed in A Natural Balance will create unemployment. The opposite is true. Industrial forestry – like the industrial fishery – has cost many Nova Scotians their jobs. Restoring our forests to their earlier health and vigour will ensure long-term prosperity in forest enterprises.
- The men and women who use forest harvesters to clearcut can use the same equipment for selection cutting. More time and care is needed to manage and maintain a more diverse forest, but the ecological and long-term economic benefits are worth it.
- Good forest management can increase employment, because additional workers are needed to conduct pre-treatment assessments and to select those trees that should be cut.
- Better management will increase employment in other businesses that depend on the forests. Non-timber products are providing growing business opportunities elsewhere.
- Example: In Quebec’s Gaspe region new initiatives have led to the enhanced production and diversification of existing regional non-timber forest product markets, namely conifer boughs and blueberries, and development of new opportunities in the areas of medicinal plants and wild mushrooms.
- Commercial mushroom harvesting in the Gaspé region grew from 100 pounds per year in 2005 to well over 10,000 pounds in 2008 - 2009. As a result, a local mushroom business, ‘Gaspésie Wild Inc.’ (or Gaspésie Sauvage) was established and by 2009 over 800 harvesters had received training in proper identification and harvesting techniques. (See From East to West: Key Lessons for Non-Timber Forest Product Development in Canada’s Model Forests at: http://www.fundymodelforest.net/images/pdfs/Key%20Lessons%20for%20NTFP%20Dev't%20in%20Canada%20Report%20Final.pdf)
- Similar opportunities are possible in Nova Scotia, but only if the biodiversity of our forests is respected.
- Countless tourism jobs depend on maintaining healthy forest ecosystems. The natural beauty of Nova Scotia is world-renowned. Managing our forests for their aesthetic value is a legitimate and responsible investment in our brand – helping to ensure visitors will continue to make Nova Scotia their destination.
FINAL THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND
- Your concerns aren’t new. Public consultations that informed the NRS were province-wide and exhaustive. Hundreds of people voiced support for overhauling how we manage Crown lands. In A Natural Balance the independent steering panel noted a “resounding call for change” and stressed that the “status quo is not an option”.
- There are better ways to do forestry. To maintain and restore our mixed, multi-aged Acadian forest we need less clearcutting and more selection management. Current logging practices promote crappy, low-value forests ideal for harvesting pulp and pellets, but are detrimental to wildlife habitat and forest biodiversity.
- Make use of the HFC resources. Check out the Healthy Forest Coalition website for more information – especially Jack Pine’s Forest Notes. Look through the links to imagery, opinion articles and scientific papers. Raise the issues or points that appeal to you.
- MLAs are regular people in our community. Before they were elected MLAs they were your neighbours! Sure, they are community leaders today, but they are still your neighbours and they care about issues in the community and want your feedback. It’s their job to hear your concerns.
- Be yourself. Speak from your own experience. You don’t need to be a forester or a scientist to state the obvious. You don’t have to present a bullet-proof case, or have all the answers. Some of the best arguments against clearcutting are made by young school children! There is no “script” – speak from the heart.
- Leave an impression. Your main objective is to raise concern and demand something be done. At the very least, an MLA can say "I've heard from people on this issue. We need to address it". They need to know you want results. Try to have a specific request to leave with them – for example, some items from the list above. Consider leaving them with a one-pager summarizing your main points, newspaper clippings, or printed images of clearcutting - or send them a summary a day or two later. Google Earth images and photos of places in their riding are very powerful. Let them know you intend to call back in a couple weeks to find out if any progress is being made.
- Be a squeaky wheel – follow up. The issues that don’t go away are the issues that get addressed. Remember that there are people all over the province who want sweeping changes to the way we manage forests. They are contacting their MLAs and being persistent too.
You will find a convenient list of MLA’s and their email addresses at the HFC Action Centre on this website. If you are not sure which constituency you live in, check out the home page of Elections Nova Scotia (https://electionsnovascotia.ca/). You will see a map of the provincial ridings.