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Nova Scotia Woodlot Owners and Operators Association 



"In the morning light, I remembered how much I loved the sound of wind through the trees."
-- Patrick Carman

Annual meeting

set for 25 April

in Great Village


This year's annual general meeting of the Nova Scotia Woodlot Owners and Operators Association will be held Saturday, 25 April, at the Masonic Hall in Great Village, NS.


As always, the agenda is packed with interesting and useful presentations for small woodlot owners. Among the speakers:


President Will Martin will talk about the NSWOOA's Forestry Summit and our proposal for an 18-month "Forestry Lab" that will identify major problems facing the sector and explore possible solutions.


Executive Director Andy Kekacs will summarize the association's accomplishments during the past year, when we reached out to more forest landowners in more ways than ever.

Amanda Lavers of the Mersey Tobeatic Research Institute will discuss endangered and threatened species in Nova Scotia, and what woodlot owners can do to help.

Greg Watson of North Nova Forest Owners Co-operative will track the financial challenges and rewards of owning and managing a woodlot over the long term.

Craig Tupper of Athol Forestry Co-operative will talk about the essential elements of a harvesting contract that protects the interests of landowners and loggers.


Registration will start at 8:30 a.m., and the meeting begins at 9. The business portion of the meeting will wrap up by 3:30 p.m. Coffee and snacks will be available all day, and lunch will be provided. There will be gluten-free and vegetarian options.


We'll send out the meeting agenda and directions to the Masonic Hall in two weeks. If you're ready to reserve a seat, please contact Andy Kekacs toll-free at 1-855-NS-WOODS or


NSWOOA board
warns of risks
from woodlot

Directors of the Nova Scotia Woodlot Owners and Operators Association are concerned about reports that some logging contractors have been encouraging landowners to sign 'development agreements' to convert their woodlots to non-forestry use before a biomass harvest.


The practice is being used as a cover for contractors who want to ignore wildlife and watercourse regulations. The  harvester gains a small amount of wood that should have been left standing in wildlife clumps or alongside streams, ponds or salt water.


For landowners, however, there are financial, environmental, and legal risks.


Wildlife and watercourse protections are critical, so removing the last few trees on a woodlot has serious implications for wildlife habitat and water quality.


There are also possible financial impacts from a change in use. By converting a woodlot to a non-forestry use, the owner faces:


Loss of future funding for silviculture, and the possible clawback of silviculture funding that was awarded in the previous 10 years.


Substantially higher property taxes when the lot no longer qualifies for the forest resource tax rate of 25 cents per acre.


Loss of eligibility for the special income tax treatment that is available to owners of family forests. This allows capital gains that would otherwise be paid on the transfer of forestland from one generation to another to be deferred indefinitely, as long as a managed woodlot remains within the family.


If wildlife habitat and watercourse protection regulations are ignored, but landowners don't take steps to develop their property or use it for farming, they could even face legal recourse from the Department of Natural Resources. Enforcement officials have up to two years to lay charges.


"We have been concerned to hear rumours of woodlots being harvested for biomass that are claimed to be 'converted' to other uses, so that wildlife clumps and watercourse regulations can be ignored," said Will Martin, president of NSWOOA. "This is worrying from an environmental health perspective, and also could have serious economic implications for the landowners."


NSWOOA directors advise landowners to consider the impact of their choices carefully. If you have questions about forestland conversion, call Andy Kekacs of the association staff at 1-855-NS-WOODS.


Eastern woodlot owners meeting

The last spring woodlot owner conference of 2015 will be held soon.

The Eastern Woodland Conference will be held at the Port Hawkesbury Civic Center, 606 Reeves St., Port Hawkesbury, on Saturday, April 18.

Advance registration is appreciated. If you're interested in attending, call toll free 1-855-624-6670 or register online at

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


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.


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





March 2015
Searching for Chimney Swifts

By Allison Manthorne

Maritimes SwiftWatch Coordinator

Bird Studies Canada


In June 2010, I was doing a bird survey in northern New Brunswick in a patch of forest that had recently been harvested, leaving behind a few white pine snags. Suddenly, two dark shapes appeared in the sky above me, flickering through the air like blowing leaves. The next moment, the shapes plummeted from the sky into a tall pine snag and disappeared.

That was my first introduction to the Chimney Swift, a fascinating and rare bird native to eastern North America.



Chimney Swifts are dark grey with pointed wings and short tails. (Photo by Richard Stern)  

Every spring, the Chimney Swift migrates northward from South America to breed. Along the way, large flocks roost overnight in chimneys, sheltered from the elements and potential predators. Chimney Swifts reach Nova Scotia in May, returning to the very same roost chimneys that their ancestors used (well-known roosts are found in Middleton, Wolfville and New Glasgow). In June, swifts leave the roost in search of nest sites, usually chimneys but also barns, sheds and, as I witnessed during my bird survey, trees.

Centuries ago, Chimney Swifts roosted and nested in snags and cavity trees. Historical anecdotes describe massive tree roosts containing up to 9,000 Chimney Swifts at a time, overlapping like shingles inside the trunk.

Today, Chimney Swifts are most often found using their namesake, chimneys. As European settlers spread across the continent, however, they changed the landscape drastically. Chimney Swifts took advantage of the warm, dark and readily available man-made habitat that replaced trees, and the birds became a familiar sight in towns and cities.

Unfortunately, this habitat is disappearing too, as buildings are modernized and chimneys are capped, steel-lined or torn down. Besides the loss of both natural and man-made habitat, severe weather events, declining populations of their insect prey, and other factors have contributed to a 95% decrease in the Canadian population of Chimney Swifts since 1968.

Since 2010, the SwiftWatch program  has worked to improve our understanding of Chimney Swifts and curb their steep decline. SwiftWatch volunteers visit roost and nest sites every year to count Chimney Swifts. The information they collect is shared with conservation partners and used to track population trends as well as encourage landowners to manage roost and nest sites for Chimney Swifts. For more on the program, visit  


This natural nest site in a white pine cavity tree was discovered by Bernard Forsythe in 1979 and used until the late 1990s. (Photos by Bernard Forsythe)


While this approach is quite successful, the effort has focused on so-called "human-occupied" sites like chimneys. We know Chimney Swifts still use trees, but we have little information about what tree species they favour, what age a tree must reach to host swifts, or how much natural habitat remains. This information is critical to the success of Chimney Swift conservation plans.

The last Nova Scotia record of tree-nesting Chimney Swifts came from renowned naturalist Bernard Forsythe of Wolfville, who found a nest in 1979 while paddling Black River Lake. Seeing swifts flying into a white pine snag in the lake, he peeked inside and found the nest. Bernard continued to observe swifts nesting there until the tree toppled over in the late 1990s. Given that the last tree-nesting Chimney Swift in Nova Scotia was reported over a decade ago, it's obvious we still have much to learn about Chimney Swifts in forest habitat.

Now the hunt is on to find forest-dwelling swifts, and SwiftWatch is turning to woodlot owners for help. We are asking woodlot owners to be vigilant for swifts in the woods from May through September. Chimney Swifts are readily identified by sight and sound. Both males and females are dark, sooty grey all over, with paler grey under the chin. Sometimes found flying with other birds, swifts' rapid, bat-like flight and short, squared-off tail sets them apart from similar birds like swallows. Their constant, rapid high-pitched "chittering" call is unique (listen online at and their short, stubby bodies have given the birds the nickname of "flying cigar."

Look for Chimney Swifts from May to September, when they fly south for winter. If you observe swifts circling or flying into/out of a snag or cavity tree, please record the date, tree species, diameter at breast height (DBH), location (latitude and longitude in 'decimal degree' format, dd.dddd) and any other relevant details and report your sighting to SwiftWatch ( 1-506-364-5196 ) or toll-free on the Mersey Tobeatic Research Institute species-at-risk-hotline at 1-866-727-3447.

This project was undertaken with the financial support of the Government of Canada.



White Pine snag hosting Chimney Swift nest in northern NB, June 2010. (Photo by Allison Manthorne)

Apple trees and wildlife

By Tom Miller
Green Hill, NS

I consider the wild apple to be the most valuable tree in our woodlot.


Certainly not financially, but just about every living thing in the woods eats the fruit of this tree, making it very important for wildlife. In this winter of the "big snow," our apple trees are providing much-needed browse for the whitetail deer.

My neighbor once told me that our farm was first established as an apple orchard and, indeed, the remnants of that effort are visible in our front field as "old growth" apple trees in broken-up rows. The result has been a proliferation of wild trees in the woods close to the house, and lesser numbers throughout our 250-acre woodlot. These wild "plantings" were established by the same wildlife that eats the fruit each year, the seeds spread through their digestive systems.


In the early 1990s, during the last years of the Federal-Provincial forestry agreement in Nova Scotia, a "wild apple trees for wildlife" program was funded for woodlot owners. When I was approached by a local forestry co-op to try this treatment on their members' woodlots, there was little information on how to go about it. To that end, a field day was organized for our woodlot here in Green Hill.


Approximately 30 foresters and technicians met on a snowy March day to receive instruction from the orchardist at the Agricultural College in Truro. It was a very productive day, and I went on to treat over 800 trees through this program on various woodlots in northern Nova Scotia. This was the beginning of my love affair with the wild apple tree.


I'm always excited to find apple trees in our woodlot, and I make every effort to release them from competing trees, particularly on the south side. This isn't always successful, as these specimens are often spindly from the tight growing conditions, but I try anyway.


Getting a bigger crown is needed for a heavier fruit crop. Once the trees are getting some sun, the next step is to do some pruning to open up the crowns. There are links to several resources at the end of this article that describe the pruning process, along with other information about wildlife trees.


In the last two winters, I've opened up a couple of patches of apple trees, hoping to create food plots for wildlife. I cut nearby trees that are competing, then let the apples get acclimatized to the increased sunlight for a year or two before I start slowly with the pruning.   

(From "Wild Apple Trees for Wildlife," University of Maine Cooperative Extension)


This procedure is best done in March or April, and snowshoes will need to be part of your kit this year.  I carry an array of tools in a backpack to get the job done, including hand shears and saw, long-handled shears and a pole pruner/saw combo. A power saw is also helpful. It seems a big bunch of gear, but any or all of it will be needed to complete the job, you'll find.  


Climbing into the crown may be necessary as well. Be sure the tree is able to support your weight, and be careful!  All brush thus created is hauled off to be piled for brush pile construction, which also benefits wildlife. Unimpeded access to the apples is a desired effect under the treated trees. For a more detailed description of the process, see "Wild Apple Trees for Wildlife" and other publications at the end of this article.


Whitetail deer will stand on their hind legs to reach the fruit in the tree, a rather neat thing to witness. They put the whole apple in their mouths and chomp on it. Smaller animals and birds nibble or pick away at their meal. The size of the apple crop seems to alternate each year, and as last year had small production overall, we're looking for a bumper crop this fall.


Module 4 of the Woodland Management Home Study program, produced by the Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources, has good information about features and practices that benefit wildlife. Several other useful publications are also noted below. They are worth a look, as wildlife invariably provides woodlot owners with years of enjoyment in many ways.


Wildlife resources:


Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources, Woodland Management Home Study Module 4.


University of Maine Cooperative Extension, "Wild Apple Trees for Wildlife."


Northern Woodlands, "The Care and Maintenance of Wild Apple Trees in Vermont."


The Ontario Woodlot Association, "Wild Apple Trees - Pruning for Wildlife." 

MacPhail Woods Ecological Forestry Project, "Wildlife and Woodlands" and "Plants for Improving Wildlife Habitat."


Editor's note: Tom Miller is a longtime member of the Nova Scotia Woodlot Owners and Operators Association and a former provincial Woodlot Owner of the Year.
NSWOOA| PO Box 823, Truro, NS B2N 5G6 |