An independent review of the province's forest practices is recommending fundamental changes to the way forestry is conducted in Nova Scotia.
University of King's College president Bill Lahey submitted his report today, Aug. 21, to the Minister of Lands and Forestry, Iain Rankin, after a year-long review.
In his long-awaited report, Lahey calls for the protection of ecosystems and biodiversity over and above economic considerations.
"In other words, I have concluded that protecting ecosystems and biodiversity should not be balanced against other objectives and values as if they were of equal weight or importance to those other objectives or values. Instead, protecting and enhancing ecosystems should be the objective (the outcome) of how we balance environmental, social, and economic objectives and values in practising forestry in Nova Scotia," Lahey wrote.
He goes to says that the primary reason for his conclusion is that ecosystems and biodiversity are "the foundation on which the other values, including the economic ones, ultimately depend."
Lahey says his conclusion and associated recommendations will require different approaches to harvesting timber on Crown and private land.
For example, he calls for the Nova Scotia Endangered Species Acts to be "fully and rigorously implemented in respect to forests on both Crown and private land – as it currently is not."
Lahey also recommends the adoption of new regulations that would "generally" prohibit full-tree harvesting when combined with clearcutting on both Crown and private land.
He wrote that the key to the entire report is the adopting of "ecological forestry," which treats forests first and foremost as ecosystems.
"It is not anti-forestry," he wrote. "It does not aim to protect the environment by eliminating or prohibiting commercial timber production."
Lahey said the top priority in ecological forestry is to protect ecosystems and biodiversity. In addition, it attempts to balance environmental, social and economic values in forestry.
In all, the report includes 45 recommendations to improve forest practices. Prof. Lahey conducted the review with a team of expert advisors, attending approximately 80 meetings, receiving more than 250 written submissions, and reviewing relevant forestry documents and reports.
Premier Stephen McNeil promised a forestry review during the last election and later halted the signing of long-term forestry agreements on Crown land.
For months, private woodlot owners have voiced concerns over their inability to move fibre, particularly pulpwood, on the market.
Meanwhile, environmentalists have criticized the amount of clearcutting on Crown land and their proximity to ecologically sensitive areas.
Much of the blame has been directed at WestFor Management Inc., a consortium of 13 mills with access to approximately 500,000 hectares of western Crown land, most of which Bowater previously managed.
WestFor is looking to sign a 10-year Forest Utilization Licence Agreement and is currently operating on an extended interim lease with the province.
However, the province will not be signing anymore long-term agreements until the review is complete.