New forestry practices in Nova Scotia are expected to be largely in place by June

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The Nova Scotia government has advised foresters who have been pre-approved to fell on crown land to start cutting by June 1, or they will have to use more environmentally friendly cutting practices when the province moves to an ecological forestry model, which is allowed for four years ago is recommended.

Natural Resources Secretary Tory Rushton called it a “major change in the way forestry is managed in the province”.

“There will be some hiccups along the way,” Rushton said. “But I felt very strongly that we had a chance to get this right and I definitely want to take the time to make sure we’re moving at the right pace and in the right direction.”

Those who have blocks that are 10 acres or less will be exempt from the new rule. Rushton said the number of parcels that could be exempted amounted to “a very small percentage of Crown land”.

Since February, foresters applying for a permit to fell crown land must submit plans that conform to the new practices recommended in the Lahey Report on Forestry Practices. Excluded were those who had previously received a permit.

William Lahey, who authored the 2018 review, issued a stunning assessment of the province’s progress in implementing its recommendations last November.

“None of the work in progress [report] Recommendations have resulted in many, if any, actual changes on the ground in the way forestry is planned, managed or conducted, and I have no indication of when that will occur,” said Lahey, the University of California’s President King’s College, in its review.

Rushton said these rule changes would start to change things in forestry.

“I don’t want to speak for Prof Lahey, but I think it will have a huge impact on what he was certainly looking for, as well as changes on the ground,” the Cabinet Secretary said.

Tory Rushton, Secretary of State for Natural Resources and Renewable Energy, called the new practices a “fundamental change in forest management in the province”. (Robert Kurz/CBC)

Ray Plourde, senior wilderness coordinator at the Ecology Action Center in Halifax, said he was glad the government had set the June 1 deadline.

“It’s finally showing some progress on the ground and the government deserves some credit for that,” Plourde said. “It’s a shame it’s four years after the Lahey report to come here.”

As for the exceptions, Plourde suggested that this would not further exacerbate the rush to cut down trees under the old rules.

“They’ve been rushing to cut by the old rules for quite some time,” he said. “So it’s actually just good to see that there’s a date horizon very soon now when this should end.”

According to the provincial government, harvest plans for an average of around 10,000 hectares of crown land have been approved annually over the past five years.

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