In August 2018, William Lahey released his groundbreaking “Independent Review of Forest Practices in Nova Scotia.” The review called for sweeping changes in the management of Nova Scotia’s forests.
Lahey said that future forest management decisions should be based on ecological considerations, not economic ones. Natural processes in our native Acadian Forest should serve as the model for our actions, according to Lahey, who is president of the University of King’s College in Halifax.
“I have concluded that protecting ecosystems and biodiversity should not be balanced against other objectives and values as if they were of equal weight or importance to those other objectives or values,” Lahey wrote. “… A number of reasons are given for this conclusion, but the primary reason is that ecosystems and biodiversity are the foundation on which the other values, including the economic ones, ultimately depend.”
The report proposed the adoption of a "triad" approach to forest management. Triad is an attempt to balance the acreage devoted to conservation lands and plantations across the landscape, leaving the majority of the forest (60 to 70 percent) to be managed with far greater consideration for ecological values.
“At the operational scale – where decisions are made for particular stands of trees – ecological forestry means forestry that strives to emulate the natural processes that would affect those stands in the absence of forestry,” Lahey wrote. “In particular, forestry must seek to approximate the 'disturbance regimes' that would naturally be determining the species composition and tree maturity of the forests in which forestry is being conducted. The underlying premise is that such forestry will moderate the negative consequences of commercial forest use because forests (as ecosystems) and forest‐dwelling species have evolved to cope with those natural disturbance regimes.”
If implemented in full, Lahey’s recommendations will transform forestry in Nova Scotia. Future generations may look back on his report as a watershed event in the history of the province.
NSWOOA believes the government is sincere in its intention to implement the Lahey recommendations. During the past 12 months, the Nova Scotia Department of Lands and Forestry has devoted significant staff time to developing the tools needed to change Crown land management in ways that are consistent with the review. The department also has made substantial efforts to improve outreach to people who care about our forests.
Meanwhile, more than 30,000 Nova Scotia individuals and families who own small forested parcels have yet to hear how the government plans to promote ecological forestry on privately owned woodlands. With the department focusing its attention on publicly owned forests, members of Nova Scotia Woodlot Owners and Operators Association considered and approved two resolutions at our 50th annual meeting in late May. The resolutions are intended to provide family forest owners with the resources they need to adopt ecological forestry principles on their own lands:
NSWOOA will promptly take all necessary steps to create a Family Forest Centre that will work to implement the recommendations of the “Independent Review of Forest Practices in Nova Scotia” and address any other issues that may arise while promoting exemplary, ecologically grounded management of small, non-industrial woodlands.
The association will promote to woodlot owners, and to the public, the climate change mitigation potential of the Province’s private woodlots … [and to] develop an outreach program to educate forest owners on state-of-the-art forest carbon management practices and their application on small private woodlots in Nova Scotia.
Landowners’ interest in ecological forestry has never been higher, and these resolutions are entirely consistent with the recommendations in the Lahey review. Today, NSWOOA is announcing the establishment of a Family Forest Centre to achieve the intent of these resolutions.
We do not want to lose the momentum that the Lahey review created, so NSWOOA is starting the Family Forest Centre without a guarantee of provincial or federal support. We have established a set of targeted, achievable first-year goals that recognize the need to move forward with ecological forestry on small, privately owned woodlands, but also to acknowledge the reality that the association currently has limited funding for the project.
NSWOOA has committed to undertake the following actions over the next 18 months:
A. Write a guide to Ecological Forestry, Biodiversity and Climate Change
The guide will address the following questions:
What did the Lahey review recommend?
What is ecological forestry?
How is it different than the old way of managing Crown land?
What do the recommendations mean for family forest owners? How does it change what they do?
What services and funding are available to help implement ecological forestry?
Resources and activities
Referrals to professional services
B. Create a Facebook page and website with resources built around ecological forestry.
The online tools will offer:
Videos: Ecological forestry techniques, success stories, etc.
Information about field days, workshops and other events for small landowners.
An explanation of how to get help
C. Develop an online tool about Ecological Forestry, modelled after our current Landowner Goals Self-Assessment.
D. Create a brochure on service areas and landowner cooperatives in Nova Scotia: Who are they and what do they offer?
E. Host or promote workshops and field days for small landowners throughout the province.
F. Publish a digital newsletter about issues of importance to family forests.
We hope the government will see the value in having a single point of contact for landowners who want to embrace the kind of forestry that Lahey recommended – a Family Forest Centre that includes representatives of all the organizations that provide services to non-industrial woodland owners in Nova Scotia. The project has already received strong support from most of them. Implementing ecological forestry across the varied forests and regions of Nova Scotia won’t be easy. That’s why the Family Forest Centre also will host a provincial steering committee that meets from time to time to discuss key challenges to family forest owners, and ways that we can work together to address them.
The fledgling Family Forest Centre is also the first step in achieving a long-term goal of NSWOOA: To build a national Centre of Excellence in Family Forestry based in Nova Scotia. Unlike the rest of Canada, forestland in the Maritime Provinces is largely owned by families, not the government. The Maritimes are home to a significant percentage of the nation’s small, privately owned woodlands. That creates a strong rationale for creating a federally funded centre to tackle the unique problems and explore the significant opportunities related to small, non-industrial forests in Canada.
NSWOOA PO Box 823 Truro, NS B2N 5G6
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