Newsletter Banner
Legacy
Nova Scotia Woodlot Owners and Operators Association 

 

 NSWOOA Logo

"All our wisdom is stored in the trees." 
-- Santosh Kalwar
DNR seeks
comments on
harvest plans 
By Clare Robinson

For the first time ever, the Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has made information about planned harvests on Crown land available for public comment. On Oct. 28, county-by-county maps were posted on the department website identifying lands planned for harvest in western Nova Scotia.

Colour coding is used to distinguish clearcuts from partial harvests. The release of the plans is part of the Western Crown Land Planning Process, launched in March 2013.

Each map includes a deadline for providing feedback to the department, which is 20 days after the harvest site is first posted. Response to comments will be provided within 10 days of that date. New maps and updates will be posted frequently over the coming months, and the website invites interested people to check back frequently. Updates have occurred since the site launched, but without public notice.

The department is working on maps for the entire area covered by the conceptual plan for western Crown lands, and eventually for the entire province. DNR describes this project as a step toward greater transparency and collaboration, which are commitments it made in The Path We Share, A Natural Resource Strategy for Nova Scotia - 2011-2020.

This kind of public consultation has been standard practice in some provinces for years. While DNR may be commended for taking the step, there are still some obvious kinks to work through.

The scale of the maps is 1:100,000, making them large and hard to navigate with a home computer. Smaller-scale maps in PDF format would be more user-friendly.

Harvest methods are described as either a partial harvest or a clearcut. A breakdown of what "partial harvest" means is not provided. For example, will management include individual or group selection methods? What about two-stage clearcuts (conventional shelterwoods), or "variable retention" cuts (clearcuts with bigger wildlife clumps)? Are these partial cuts or clearcuts? What are the site and stand conditions? Most people would need more information in order to provide meaningful feedback to the department.

The website states that before maps are posted, DNR forestry experts review proposed harvest plans and determine if they are appropriate. Protected areas, wildlife habitat, geological information, known recreational activities and areas of significance to Mi'kmaq are mentioned as considerations.

However, this background information is not provided to the public. It is unclear what consideration is given to species at risk or landscape connectivity. The website says "special harvest management practices" may be used to address environmental concerns. What these entail and where they are being applied is not disclosed.

Already, there has been strong community interest in some proposed harvest sites. Residents of Round Hill, Annapolis County, are currently petitioning government to halt plans to clearcut two parcels of Crown land in their community. To date, more than 670 people have signed.

The local reaction shouldn't come as a surprise to the department. Following the provincial purchase of land from Bowater in December 2012, government invited interested parties to submit community forest proposals. A group from the area did just that, with an eye to restoring approximately 900 acres to uneven-aged, mixed species Acadian Forest, while allowing small-scale logging. The group was not successful with their proposal, and plans to clearcut the parcels have added to their disappointment.
    
DNR's criteria for evaluating the feedback are not stated. The website says that "a 3-point scale will be used to provide a measure of the relevance and impact of each comment." Mills may begin harvesting on any plan for which no comments have been received, or for which the department determines there is insufficient need to postpone the harvest.

It is unclear how the scale will measure relevance and impact, or how new information will be assessed. There is no indication that evaluation of comments will be made public, or whether DNR will consult further on contentious parcels.

There is precedent within government for greater transparency and more meaningful consultation. For land to be protected, extensive public consultation must occur. Maps with detailed descriptions including analysis of natural, cultural and economic features of sites are shared online.

Information is made public well in advance to allow stakeholders to prepare for public open-houses and private meetings with government staff. 
Protection proposals are sometimes vetted by the public a second time before they are finalized. Some people would suggest that the same degree of transparency and consideration be required before an area is harvested.

If the department is to convince people they value the input it is soliciting, more effort may be required to engage the public. Among the options:

* A better system for keeping people informed about updates to plans would help demonstrate a commitment to transparency and collaboration.

* Updates could be accompanied by a press release or email notification.

* Better yet, the public could have a meaningful role in shaping plans, rather than commenting on what many will view as a done deal.

While the current system is step in the right direction, Nova Scotians need more information about proposed harvests, and more evidence that their knowledge and concerns will be reasonably considered.
Visit our Facebook page

If you're interested in the latest news about forestry, visit the association's Facebook page. You'll find stories ranging from regulatory changes and political developments to the latest in Canadian and international silvicultural research. Just click on the icon below:

 

Like us on Facebook

Factors at play today will create
the forest of the 22nd century

(Editor's note: The Acadian Forest extends well beyond the borders of Nova Scotia, and woodlot owners throughout this eco-region face similar challenges. This article looks at forces that are shaping the forests in Maine.)

By Joe Rankin
Forests for Maine's Future

Just as a person growing up in Maine in the 1860s could never have envisioned the resurgence of the forest in what was then an agricultural landscape, even those whose boots are in the woods today can't predict what southern Maine's forested landscape will look like 150 years from now.

There are too many variables in the equation. Among them: Wood markets; invasive species; climate change; efforts to educate landowners about forest management; transfer of forestland; housing trends; forest fragmentation; land trusts; and changes in the woods workforce.

The overall trend may become apparent after a few more decades. Then again, the most important factor crafting the southern Maine forest's future could be something that's on no one's radar screen right now.


Winter work with a forwarder. (Photo courtesy of Trees Ltd.)

Right now, southern Maine is blessed with an abundance of wood, and markets for much of it, "but it's chilling to us when we hear about the Verso Paper mill in Bucksport closing down," said Don Cole, who runs Trees Ltd., a Sidney logging firm, with his brother, Will. "Any time one of these mills goes away it's bad for the industry."

The forests of southern Maine have a diverse mix of species and wood of varying quality, Cole said. "The more of these local markets we have, everybody gains from that. If the market system remains intact we'll have a nice forest."

Andy Shultz, the landowner outreach forester for the Maine Forest Service, sums up the effect of markets this way: "No markets, no management. How do you pay for management in places that have no market?"

Supply is essential, too. But the current ample supply is due to decisions made decades ago, and the future supply will be influenced by the decisions made today.

"I believe right now we're reaping the rewards of 100 years of growing pine. But I'm afraid there's going to come a point, 10 years or 25 years from now, that there might be a scarcity, or a reduction in the amount of sizable mature pine," said Wayne York, who manages Hancock Lumber Co.'s 12,000 acres of timberlands in southern Maine. He said pine stands are reseeding well, but there is a dearth of the pole-sized pines that will provide the next generation of sawlogs.

While southern Maine currently has an ample supply of wood, much of it is owned by people who see it as something other than timber. A sizable percentage of today's landowners don't plan to harvest trees from their land.

Educating landowners about the benefits of periodic harvesting is the focus of a new state program, the Healthy Maine Forests Program. It is designed to show Maine landowners that, no matter what the goals for their land -- recreation, solitude, wildlife, income -- forest management can contribute to them, said Shultz.

"We have to market (the idea of forestry better.) We like to think that good forestry speaks for itself. That's not necessarily so," Shultz said.

Why many landowners don't even want to think about harvesting timber is an open question. Many of those in the industry say people are uncertain about how to go about it, fearful of not getting good value for their wood, put off by bad logging jobs they've seen elsewhere, and worried about what their woods will look like after the heavy equipment is gone.


Sugar maple stand after thinning. (Photo courtesy of Maine Forest Service)

Foresters and loggers need to do some deep listening when they're talking to clients, especially if they hope to be invited back in 10 or 15 years, they say.

"I think it's important to be a good service provider," said Harold Burnett, of Two Trees Forestry. "First off, you'd better be able to return phone calls and keep landowners updated and informed. You need to listen to their ambitions, their concerns. You have to begin with really open communication with landowners. If you just want to implement textbook forestry I think you're going to have a bit of a struggle" keeping in business.

Forestland owners are a graying lot. Forty-five percent are over the age of 65, and 48% between 45 and 64 years old.

"The generational transfer piece might be the biggest one (in determining the forest of the future) over the next 20 to 30 years," said Shultz. 

In many cases, young people aren't interested in their dad's forest. That leaves older forest-loving landowners with a couple of other options: Selling the land with a conservation easement or an outright sale or donation to a land trust.

Jeff Williams, a consulting forester based in Hollis, said "land trusts are already playing a big part" in forming the future forest. That influence will only get more apparent as the years pass, he added. But conservation easements and donations to land trusts can carry many stipulations. Not all are written to allow harvesting of timber, even in the name of improving the forest.

Jack Wadsworth of Wadsworth Woodlands in Hiram, a consulting forester and family forestland owner, said the high cost of woodland ownership is an even larger problem. Property taxes, he said, make the costs of holding the land a challenge.

"I think we're going to lose more forestland to development," said Wadsworth.

Hancock Lumber's York agrees. "Every time a house is built there's two acres of land out of production forever. I have to say the land base is shrinking a little bit" all the time.



Forest along the Crooked River in southern Maine. (Pam Wells photo courtesy of CFRS UMaine)

Along with the issue of landowners being willing to harvest and the markets being there to sell forest products to, is the question of whether there will be people willing to do the harvesting.

Selling young people these days on a career in the woods isn't easy. But it could be a crucial component in the supply chain.

"We need a sustainable workforce," points out Trees Ltd's Don Cole. "We need people interested in coming into the field." Cole believes that sort of career path is ignored, or even actively discouraged, by high school career counselors. "I'm 55. That's the living average of people working at the stump in Maine. If that doesn't change in the next 10 years it's going to be problematic, but after that it's going to be catastrophic."

Over everything, of course, hangs the specter of climate change, though radical changes in the makeup of species due to a warming of the planet might not be seen within the next 100 years.

Except for the almost sure thing -- emerald ash borer. Something that wasn't even found in the United States until 2002. Since then, it's killed tens of millions of ash trees and will likely enter Maine soon, given that it's already well established in New Hampshire.

Williams, the Hollis forester, says that in a hundred years invasive species -- plants as well as insects and diseases -- will be a major influence in the forests of southern Maine. "Even with good management and good silviculture, if you don't manage the invasive plants that are arriving from your neighbor's property it will hinder any management and natural succession. It's an immediate problem and it'll only grow."

Even with all these challenges, issues and question marks, foresters, loggers and others say they are, in large part, optimistic.

Southern Maine has some of the best soils in the state, points out Williams. It's got a largely healthy forest. And the current mix of markets ensures that even low-grade timber can find a buyer, though he said the likely long-term trend will be toward higher-quality wood.

Landowners exposed to good management and harvesting practices are generally amenable to actively managing their property, even as the Maine Forest Service, woodlot organizations and foresters continue to work to educate landowners about the benefits of forest management.

"Southern Maine forestry has a future," Williams said.

Forests for Maine's Future is a joint project of the Small Woodland Owners Association of Maine, Maine Department of Conservation, University of Maine and Maine TREE Foundation.

Assess your ownership goals,
ask NSWOOA for assistance 
The new NSWOOA goals assessment tool is attracting a lot of attention from forest landowners. If you haven't tried it yourself -- or told your family and friends about it -- now is the time!

NSWOOA believes that a values-based approach to woodlot management -- which puts landowners' own goals and the health of the forest first -- is the best way to ensure the province has productive and sustainable woodlands for our children and grandchildren.

If you haven't used the tool yet, please do! Just click here to visit our website, then follow the link to the goals assessment. If you like it -- and we suspect that you will -- please tell other landowners to visit nswooa.ca and check it out. 

They'll discover a fun and easy tool that can start them on a lifetime journey to restore and conserve the native forests of Nova Scotia.
Questions about forestry?

NSWOOA is committed to being your best source for information about sustainable forestry. We do not offer silviculture or harvesting services; our interest is only in the protection and enhancement of the native forest ecosystems of Nova Scotia.

 

Truly sustainable management requires that all the values of our woodlands -- ecological, social, and economic -- be preserved for future generations. That's a complex undertaking.

 

Current forest conditions, markets, soils, an owner's personal goals, tax planning and many other factors influence which activities should be considered in any stand of trees.

 

If you have questions about sustainable management of the Acadian Forest, we want to hear from you! Give us a call at:

 

1-855-NS-WOODS

(1-855-679-6637) 


NSWOOA| PO Box 823, Truro, NS B2N 5G6 | http://nswooa.ca
Truly sustainable forest management means that all values of our woodlands
-- ecological, social, cultural and economic -- are preserved for future generations.

Copyright 2014. All Rights Reserved.