Behind closed doors, Nova Scotia’s Department of Natural Resources has quietly transferred the management of 1.4 million acres of Crown lands to WestFor, a consortium of 13 privately owned mills. Some of these mills are local companies with a long history in their communities (Turner, Ledwidge, Freeman), others are decidedly international (Northern Pulp, Louisiana Pacific). All answer to their owners or stockholders, not to the public. They are managing our crown land for their profit and the sustainability of their companies, nothing else. The allocation of Western Crown to WestFor is the largest allocation ever made in Nova Scotia. When a citizen sends an inquiry about planned harvests through DNR’s Harvest Map Viewer, a response comes back from someone who works for WestFor, not from a government employee. WestFor’s management of our crown lands may soon be solidified by a 10-year lease.
Nova Scotians need to ask themselves: should private industry be the steward of public lands? Should the fox look after the hen house? Should the foxes be allowed to work together to decimate the hens?
Not long ago, Nova Scotians fought long and hard to convince the government to “Buy Back the Mersey”. The massive tracts that had belonged to Bowater Mersey became part of our Crown lands with a net cost to taxpayers of $111 million. Nova Scotians thought that these lands would be managed for the benefit of all citizens, not for the monetary benefit of a few companies. Changes in forest management strategies were promised, particularly when the Natural Resources Strategy was implemented 6 years ago. A few changes have been made: the type of forest is assessed before the type of harvest is decided, but somehow the vast majority of harvests turn out to be clear cuts. Giving WestFor a 10-year lease to manage 1.4 million acres of Crown lands would give industry unprecedented access to public forests. It would tip the scales towards devastating industrial exploitation, with virtually no consideration for ecological and environmental values.
Perhaps the public is not fully aware of the inroads industrial forestry has made into our Crown lands, but during the 25 years up to 2014, the last year of published forest data, 42% of the operable forest in Nova Scotia has been clear cut. Satellite photos taken from Global Forest Watch show an alarming loss of forest in much of central and northern Nova Scotia (see Jan 14th Chronicle Herald article by Crossland,). Instead of engaging the public with transparent consultations, DNR is allowing a consortium of mills to decide when, where and how to cut our forests. What oversight is given to the decisions? DNR should recognize that Nova Scotians want greater transparency and meaningful public consultation around the allocation of public resources. This arrangement with WestFor must not continue. Government needs to assure the sustainability of our forests for the well being of our and future generations.
The HFC has become aware of illegal tree poaching. Anybody out there hear of anything like that? If so, you can drop us a confidential line at email@example.com or if you want to go public, feel free to reply in our comment section below.
According to a 2014 US study, if humans grew like trees, after adolescence our growth rate would accelerate geometrically. By the time we retire, we'd be big as King Kong.
So, with that kind of exponential potential occurring naturally in our forests, why do we keep cutting our trees younger and younger? Why do we insist on shorter and shorter rotations? Let 'em grow 40 or 50 years, then cut 'em down. Witness the dwindling size of logs on all those big trucks hustling up and down our highways, burning up fuel like there's no tomorrow. At this rate, there probably won't be. Check out the startling Global Forest Watch maps showing Nova Scotia's devastating forest loss over the last decade. We are stealing from future generations! Why? To feed a heavily subsidized industry (arguably 10% of the provincial debt), reeling under bank loans incurred to buy bigger and bigger machinery so they can increase efficiency and eliminate more and more jobs. Crazy. We clearcut our forests then have to start them all over again from scratch. So we're not just cutting trees. We're also cutting our noses to spite our faces.
Why not let our mature trees grow, and harvest selectively? Why not shift the forest products industry to produce longer lasting value-added products, like hardwood flooring or laminated beams to replace steel in construction? Why not invest in the long term? Why not build employment and our rural economy by increasing the quality and quantity of our wood by working with nature instead of against her?
And while we're at it, though Mr. Trump may disagree, let's not forget this planet's biggest, most immediate problem, climate change. The US study proves that bigger, older trees as befits their size sequester way more carbon than spindly young ones. We cut young trees, some for lumber or pulp, but the rest for biomass under the illusion we're creating green energy. You know what happens when you burn trees? Not only do you release whatever carbon dioxide they may have pulled out of the atmosphere, you also kill forever their ability to sequester any more carbon. It's a double whammy.
So, let 'em grow and get bigger better wood, create jobs, help the economy, provide for future generations, and combat global warming, or cut 'em young, eliminate jobs, add to the provincial debt, and cut off at the knees the ability of our greatest renewable resource to fight climate change. That's our choice.
Time to ask ourselves some serious questions and set some new directions. We could, for example:
Tree growth just gets going at adolescence. If only one could say the same for human intelligence. Sometimes it seems like ours grinds to a halt.
Published in Inverness Onan and reprinted in the Halifax Examiner, HFC supporter JIm Harpell writes:
Going through articles in the Chronicle Herald over the last couple of months written by either DNR officials or by others in the forestry industry, I am reminded of the well known literary quote, "Methinks thou [doth] protest too much."
We had the minister, Lloyd Hines, Jeff Bishop, Cliff Drysdale, Kim Fuller, et al. expound profusely about the wonderful forest "management" strategy put forward by DNR and the forest corporations. They call their policies “science-based” yet, when asked to produce peer reviewed scientific evidence to back their policies, they are not forthcoming. Then, they revert to downplaying the expertise of those who oppose the way in which the industry is decimating the forests (with the blessing of those in the DNR).
Also, they use the tactic of negatively labelling those opponents as did Mr. Eddy in Truro when he called those opposed to clearcutting “peacocks puffing themselves up for show” or Ms. Fuller calling them "pessimists standing in front of every industry they perceive as not fitting their narrow vision for our resources", or the Harper government calling them “environmental terrorists”.
These people ignore the wealth of research on the other side done by scientists and forestry researchers from all over the world (peer reviewed and supported). They ignore the evidence of Global Forest Watch as to the level of destruction done to the forest when clearcutting has taken place.
At recent meetings in the western part of the province and in Cape Breton, NASA slides showing clearly the difference in clearcutting from 2002 to 2014, were seen by people in both the DNR and the forestry industry. Yet, this is totally ignored. It is as if they closed their eyes when the slides were presented.
Also, the supporters of the present "management strategies" never talk about how the forest floors are destroyed by the big machinery; how the wildlife is endangered; how the forests which replace the healthy forests are not of the same quality as that which has been lost; how the "regulations" restricting the cutting close to waterways are being ignored without penalty; or how the nutrients which formerly fed the new forests are now carted away to be used in biomass plants either here or overseas.
A friend has compiled a 500 page book covering all these topics. The research he has compiled comes from all over the world. Personally, I have given the former minister of natural resources an 80 page paper on the dangers of biomass burning. I indicated to him that this paper by Dr. Mary Booth, an expert in the field, was extremely informative, but because I knew how busy he was, that if he read five pages which I wrote on the cover, he would see how terrible this practice is to the environment. Yet, nothing changed.
The evidence is there to support our argument against clearcutting and all we need to do is to drive along any major highway to see the scrawny, low-quality forests which replace the old forests, (which, by the way, are far better at taking carbon out of the atmosphere and reseeding the surrounding areas). After a second clearcutting, the quality of the replacement forest is even lower. And these things we can see for ourselves. We don't need to listen to either side of the argument. We just need to be observant.