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.
The Family Forest Network envisions a time when the long-term ecological health of Nova Scotia’s woodlands is the foremost concern of landowners, forest service providers, wood products firms and government.
In a reinvigorated forest sector, FFN will be a trustworthy place for woodland owners to get the information, advice, services and market access they need to be exemplary stewards and profitable managers. Forest service providers will have the workers, training and equipment they need to help landowners achieve their goals while earning a fair return for their work. Forest products firms will benefit from a stable supply of high-quality raw material from well-managed woodlands that support a diverse and resilient rural economy. Government policy will ensure that Nova Scotia is a global model for ecologically sensitive, economically productive and socially responsible forest management.
Eleven organizations that serve small-woodland owners and contractors are working together to develop a Family Forest Network (FFN) in Nova Scotia. The network will promote – and significantly increase our capacity to support – the adoption of ecological forestry on non-industrial woodlands through outreach, demonstration and research.
Building on programs and services currently offered by these organizations, the FFN will be the starting point for woodland stewards who want to learn more about forest practices that mimic natural processes, promote biodiversity, and restore ecosystem health – the key recommendations of William Lahey, author of the “Independent Review of Forest Practices in Nova Scotia.” There is clear value in having a single, collaborative, highly visible point of contact that promotes such practices.
To begin the process of transforming forest management in Nova Scotia, the FFN will conduct a large-scale pilot of ecologically sensitive forest treatments in a wide range of woodland conditions across the province. Special emphasis will be placed on restoring degraded stands to their natural diversity and productivity.
This pilot will be the first concrete step taken to implement the recommendations of the Independent Review on non-industrial, private woodlands. While the techniques of ecological forestry have been the focus of numerous research studies, there has been no large-scale pilot in Nova Scotia that compares the costs and benefits of ecological and industrial approaches to forest management. The FFN harvesting pilot will study not only the short-term economics, but also the long-term impacts on forest value, carbon storage, soil fertility, biodiversity, and other non-timber values. This work will provide fresh opportunities for learning, and we will work closely with academic and Mi’kmaw partners to base future forest management on sound scientific research and Indigenous knowledge.
Detailed pre- and post-harvest assessments of site conditions, annual monitoring, and modelling of expected future growth will yield critically important information for the sector. Forest stewards will be able to make better decisions about management options. Forest professionals will gain experience in ecologically sensitive management, and an assurance that such practices have value in the long term. Contractors and woods workers will learn how to efficiently perform such work. The sites will also become living laboratories that showcase the potential of ecological management to restore Nova Scotia’s woodlands.
If you are interested in learning more about the ecological forestry pilot, contact Andy Kekacs at email@example.com.
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