The Voluntary Planning document, Our Common Ground, was divided up into five subject areas; Sustainability, Diversity, Collaboration, Transparency, and Informed Decision Making.
In Sustainability a phrase often repeated since then was coined: "The status quo is not an option." It said then current practices were not sustainable. "Our resources and the communities that rely on them are in decline." Sound familiar? The people recognized the overwhelming importance of biodiversity. They said the short term was eclipsing the long term. They emphasized the connection between healthy forests and clean soil, water, and air. They called for green forest practices and the promotion of more value-added forest products.
In Diversity, the key phrase was, "One size does not fit all." Nova Scotia's then 30,000 private woodlot owners have to be given the means for good stewardship not, for example, silviculture supports weighted towards bad practices (a system by the way which still prevails 8 years later). Instead the people recognized the need for more uneven-aged management and a reduced emphasis on monoculture.
In Collaboration, there was a virtually unanimous call for increased collaboration in decision making. Government-stakeholder groups-public, these were identified as the three pillars. While private woodlot owners said the didn't want to lose control over their lands to special interest groups or urban dwellers, the old 'a man's home is his castle' argument, participants recognized that effective collaboration must include both consumptive (the forest industry) and non-consumptive (e.g., recreational or tourism) users. And they called for consistent enforcement, not big breaks for big industry. DNR, they said, must work together with the Department of the Environment, not at loggerheads.
Our Common Ground set a goal for more transparency. People wanted to know, who makes these decisions and based on what? More and better data is needed and it must be communicated. Presaging a basic tenet of the 2012 Buy Back the Mersey movement, the 2008 consultations said Crown land must be used for "exemplary practices." Is that being realized? Now that the Mersey lands are, in fact, back in public ownership, are we managing them better, or, with seamless staff shifts from the old Bowaters-Mersey Paper Company to the Department of Natural Resources, is it same old same old?
Lastly, the people called for Informed Decsion Making. Communities - economics - peer-reviewed science, another three-sided mantra for resource management. They called out for better forest inventory data. And how are we doing on that score? How are we doing, for example, in achieving the 50% clearcutting target? And what might be the basis for that estimate? Compared to other provinces, territories, and states, how does Nova Scotia rank in terms of its statistical openness and completeness?
And more important, have the people's opinions changed so much since 2008 that we have to reopen this dialogue, or is it time simply to realize the public's expressed wishes and actually do some of the things we called for?