Wake up Nova Scotia. It matters little that well over 2,000 of you stepped forward in good faith a few years back, believing your input was valued in establishing a sustainable forestry plan for your province.
Turns out the resulting 600 written submissions, submitted in large measure from your hard work, were mostly all for naught.
Natural Resources Minister Lloyd Hines wrote a letter to the Chronicle Herald on Sept. 7, defending his department’s recent decision to abandon The Path We Share: A Natural Resources Strategy for Nova Scotia 2011-2020 (the one many of you contributed to), choosing instead to maintain the status quo in regard to clear cutting and other questionable harvesting practices.
“Nova Scotians asked for a change in the way we manage Crown land,” wrote Hines, “and that we base decisions on science that takes into account all aspects of forests. We are delivering on this and providing transparency and accountability in decision-making.”
Really? This is the change Nova Scotians asked for?
Hines told CBC Nova Scotia on Sept. 15 that “clearcutting is a recognized technique that is used throughout any place where there’s forest to harvest fibre.” Apparently he “doesn’t believe the amount of clear cutting happening now poses an environmental threat,” reports the CBC.
Time to get on with it, then. Warm up the harvesters and tree-farmers and porters and feller-bunchers. Find those last vestiges of uncut standing timber. Go where no man has gone in recent memory – to the very boundary lines of Kejimkujik National Park and 16 provincially mandated protected wilderness areas. Sarcastic, but sadly true.
In response to DNR’s latest science-based approach to forest management, Jonathan Riley of the Digby Courier writes that “Chris Miller, the national conservation biologist with Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS), thinks this the wrong direction for the province to be headed.”
“Clearcutting right up to a protected area boundary will shove those impacts into the protected area itself,” says Miller. “The damage doesn’t stop at the border. The concept of edge-effect is well known and the solution is to buffer your protected areas against that type of heavy industrial footprint.”
With wood at a premium, don’t count on the harvesters stopping at the wilderness boundaries. Any excuse will do. An example could well be the predicted return of the spruce budworm, which Hines ominously warns the province is prepared to combat using “drastic measures”.
What those are he won’t say, but assure us it will be based on consultations with “various stakeholders” — aka industry representatives.
The majority of us are not professional foresters or scientists, but neither are we fools. We understand more than what bureaucrats and industry lobbyists give us credit for.
Take, for example, when DNR associate deputy minister Allan Eddy says, “The challenge is that quality hardwood does not make up a large percentage of our Nova Scotia forests.”
Well, it did at one time and could again if allowed to grow, rather than being killed by spraying and burned under the guise of green energy.
So what to do? Well, there are some options.
Stay the course. Keep issues to the fore by writing investigative exposes, letters to the editor and opinion pieces, calling in to talk shows and posting on websites. The more of this the better, but unfortunately, those in key government positions don’t care what you and I think or say.
So go to the top. Contact Premier Stephen McNeil directly. Write, e-mail, text, phone, request a face-to-face meeting. Tell the premier what you think about the state of the province’s forests and of those in charge of managing them. And don’t let your local representatives off the hook. Continually remind them who holds their political fate at the ballot box.
We might do well to subscribe to the philosophy of Jane Goodall. “My mission is to create a world where we can live in harmony with nature. And can I do that alone? No. So there is a whole army of youth that can do it. So I suppose my mission is to reach as many of those young people as I can through my own efforts.”
Perhaps that’s the answer, then. Hope and pray for another Stella Bowes to step to the fore, she being the 12-year-old girl from Bridgewater who made national news by taking various levels of government to task in her successful campaign to clean up the La Have River of sewage.
With all due respect to Bob Bancroft’s insightfully crafted article in this paper on March 5, “Give our forests back to the people”, industry and bureaucrats are not going to give the people of Nova Scotia anything.
Freelance journalist Ralph Surette, an outspoken critic of DNR for years, explains why this is so in a March 9, 2015, article in this newspaper, Split DNR and put its agenda through the chipper .
“Wearily, let me say this for the umpteenth time,” wrote Surette. “In practice, DNR is not a department of government but of the pulp and lumber industry. It’s been that way since the 1960s. DNR ministers arrive knowing nothing and end up as messengers for the established powers …
“The nub is that DNR is in a conflict of interest — it both regulates and promotes the industry.”
Nova Scotians agree with Hines when he says, “People should know how government is managing public lands.” That’s why he should address the following concerns, minus the rhetoric and talking points.
•Show us the science that explains why clear cutting overwhelmingly trumps selective cutting in this province.
•Show us the science that favours single species softwood plantations over mixed forests for wildlife habitat.
•Show us the science behind whole tree harvesting and how it benefits soil nutrition.
•Show us the science for cutting down forests to burn for green energy.
•Show us the science that explains how leaving a postage-stamp patch of trees (to blow down later) in an expanse of flattened, cut-over wind-swept barren land promotes natural regeneration or serves as shelter for a myriad of mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and insects.
•Show us the science behind DNR’s “ecosystem-based forest management” that says clearcutting and spraying hundreds of acres of forest and subsequent protective canopy does not contribute to soil erosion, water run-off, dead fish and the demise of valuable shade tolerant vegetation.
•Show us the science-based rationale for dropping Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification — considered the “gold standard for environmental certification systems for forestry operations” by the previous DNR minister — choosing instead the much weaker Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI).
•Explain to us — without invoking the sovereign rights argument again — why government cannot or will not regulate clear cutting on private land holdings.
Let’s have a public debate. Produce the science. Produce hard job numbers proving changes in current forestry practices will unleash an apocalyptic economic meltdown.
Obviously no one in government is going to volunteer for any of this. But as Silver Donald Cameron has written, we can use the law.
Cameron explains how “unborn generations actually have legal rights, and that today’s generation has an obligation to preserve the natural world reasonably intact for its successors. That principle of “intergenerational equity” is now known as “The Oposa Doctrine” — and it’s been applied all around the world.”
The only way to take back our forests short of storming the Bastille is for the people of Nova Scotia to step up, coalesce and initiate a lawsuit against the provincial government for the sake of “our children and our children’s, children’s children.”
To date, more than 29,000 people have signed an on-line petition to “stop destroying Nova Scotia’s forests for biomass power generation.” But it continues. The vast majority of Nova Scotians have expressed displeasure with the rate of clear cutting in opinion polls. Again nothing has changed.
Government is listening, but not to the people. The time for actions to speak louder than words is now.
How much do your forests mean to you Nova Scotia? As that iconic sage Red Green so often put it, “We’re all in this together. I’m pullin’ for ya.”