A new review of Nova Scotia’s forestry practices is calling for fundamental changes to the way trees are harvested in the province — including reducing the controversial practice of clearcutting, which fells large swaths of forest.
The report by University of Kings College president Bill Lahey says forest practices should be guided by a new paradigm called “ecological forestry” which treats forests “first and foremost” as ecosystems.
It says the province should adopt a so-called triad model that sees some areas protected from all forestry; some forests that are dedicated to high production forestry including clearcutting; and forests that are harvested with a “lighter touch” and limited clearcutting.
Although he didn’t say it in his report, Lahey was unequivocal when asked whether there is currently too much clearcutting in Nova Scotia.
“Yes,” he said.
“There is too much happening where it should not happen ... and the consequences of that is a continuing reduction in the proper functioning of the ecosystems and the biodiversity that are dependent on our forestry.”
Lahey’s report says clearcutting would be acceptable in some even-aged forests of predominantly single softwood species. However, Lahey says alternatives to clearcutting should generally be used where the forest is of the mixed-species, multi-aged variety.
It says the recommended changes are estimated to reduce clearcutting from 65 per cent of all harvesting on Crown land to between 20 and 25 per cent.
Lahey acknowledged that as a consequence there could be increased clearcutting on private land as industry deals with a reduction in wood supply.
“It’s a recognition of the reality that 70 per cent of our land is owned by Nova Scotians,” said Lahey.
About 90 per cent of wood harvested in Nova Scotia is clear cut, according to federal figures.
But Lahey’s report says about 80 per cent of forest harvesting is done through clearcutting, with about 90 per cent done on private lands and 65 per cent carried out on Crown land.
Announced last Aug. 30, Lahey’s review was originally due in February, but extensions were granted in order to complete the report and then to have it reviewed by advisors in international law and forestry economics.