Forestry services and other related industries have suffered recently in Nova Scotia, but a group of partners in western Nova Scotia is coming together to try and change that.

Mark Shaw, a Windsor branch employee of the Department of Natural Resources, demonstrates a spacing/clearing saw during the DNR field day trip at the Oulton’s woodlot in Martock. File photo by Carole Morris-Underhill

The Mersey Tobeatic Research Institute is teaming up with groups like the Federation of Woodland Owners, La Foret Acadienne and the Nova Scotia Woodlot Owners and Operators Association to hold a series of public information sessions and consultations with private woodlot owners to discuss what resources are available to them and what they need. They hope to connect landowners with resources and services needed to not only profit from their woodlots, but to increase the health of those in a sustainable way.

West Nova Woodlot Services has received funding from the Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources and is in the early stages of putting together a business plan.  They are keen to engage the public before moving forward because it is “a very ambitious project, but it’s worth taking a grass roots approach and asking lot owners what they need,” said Jane Barker, forest stewardship co-ordinator at the Mersey Tobeatic Research Institute.

Some of the services that West Nova Woodlot Services plans to offer include management planning, certification, harvesting and silviculture, and education and training.

“This is what we’re planning, but it may not be what they (lot owners) want,” Barker said, although this could change based on feedback.

Whether a woodlot is used commercially, recreationally or to provide wildlife habitats, the goal is to provide useful services to all owners.  Barker notes that people are less connected to their woodlots, due in part to declining markets and to a lack of assistance.

“It’s not like it used to be, where you worked on the farm in the summer months and on the woodlot in the winter,” she says, adding that many people have sought work elsewhere.

By helping to educate landowners on funding options that may be available and by encouraging the expansion of contractor services available, the group hopes to not only support existing markets for both timber and non-timber forest products but to expand and create new markets for producers and contractors.

The group’s initial objectives indicate a goal of helping to stimulate economic development and strengthening rural communities.