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CARP fears for Crown lands

RON SWAN Ron Swan is board chair, Nova Scotia chapter, Canadian Association of Retired Persons.

The membership of the Canadian Association of Retired Persons, Nova Scotia chapter (CARP NS), is comprised of seniors and others 45 years of age and older. This is a stage of life when thoughts increasingly turn to the legacy our generation will leave to our grandchildren and those who will follow.

Considered from this perspective, the debate that is raging across Nova Scotia over the state of the province’s forests, particularly Crown-owned forest lands, is troubling and, frankly, alarming.

Following a half-century record of persistent public criticism, contention and protest, the most recent independent review of forestry practices was launched by the Nova Scotia government in August 2017 through the appointment of University of Kings College president and professor Bill Lahey. Professor Lahey’s report was submitted in August 2018; his recommendations were accepted by the government in December of the same year.

The essence of Lahey’s recommendations is that priority should be given to protecting and enhancing ecosystems and biodiversity. The report therefore calls for the adoption of a new paradigm — ecological forestry — which contrasts starkly with past and present industrial practices and corresponding environmental impacts.

Lahey’s recent evaluation of progress, released in November, just a month shy of three full years since the previous government’s commitment to implementation, is deeply disturbing. His conclusion is that little has changed, in terms of forestry operations, on the ground and that there is no indication when recommended changes will occur. He further questions whether the Natural Resources Department internally embraces the ecological forestry paradigm, to which the current (and former) government has avowed commitment, and observes that, contradictory to direction given, the department continues to favour industrial forestry over the ecological approach.

The 2021 summer election campaign saw the Progressive Conservatives committing, if elected, to the implementation of the Lahey recommendations on Crown land, including adoption of the triad system of zoning as the guiding framework, and the protection of 20 per cent of the province’s land and water mass by 2030.

Commendably, the new government introduced and passed the Environmental Goals and Climate Change Reduction Act (EGCCRA), which advances wide-ranging goals regarding environmental sustainability and economic well-being, in support of an all-encompassing objective of sustainable prosperity. As promised, EGCCRA commits to implementing the triad zoning approach on public lands and to collaborative planning to meet the 20 per cent protection target (Section 10).

Unfortunately, the legislation also establishes a two-year planning horizon to complete this work, without any conditional co-ordination with ongoing forestry harvesting. The net effect is that the follow-through on implementing ecological forestry, deemed urgent in Lahey’s initial 2018 report, appears likely to be delayed for another two, and thereby a total of five, years.

The obvious concern, identified in Lahey’s evaluation report and, shortly thereafter, as the focus of the Dec. 8, 2021 news conference convened by eight of the province’s leading environmental advocacy organizations, is that Crown lands required to meet the 20 per cent protection target, to support the proposed old-growth policy and, generally, to maintain biodiversity (i.e., through the practice of ecological forestry) will continue to be lost to aggressive industrial forestry harvesting operations.

CARP NS therefore finds itself in agreement with recommendations to significantly curtail industrial forestry operations on Crown land over the timeframe required for planning to meet the protected areas target and to delineate the triad zoning system.

Numerous options should be considered, including the ban on all harvesting activity on Crown land as recommended at the Dec. 8 news conference, the placement of a moratorium on all areas of Crown land with potential to contribute to the 20 per cent protection target (as can be identified in a preliminary way through reference to available inventory information and satellite imagery) and/or the joint approval by the Environment and Natural Resources ministers of all forestry harvesting plans for Crown lands (including harvesting plans that previously have been approved but have not yet been executed).

CARP NS urges the adoption of a rational and responsible approach consistent with the principles set out in EGCCRA and mindful of the legacy that will be left to future generations. Clearly, the status quo is not an acceptable option.





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