Nova Scotia forestry review to consider clear cutting minister

HALIFAX — Clear cutting will be among the contentious issues examined in a new review of Nova Scotia’s forestry practices, the provincial government announced Wednesday.Natural Resources Minister Margaret Miller said University of King’s College president William Lahey will lead the independent study, which is due by Feb. 28.The review was first promised in the run-up to last spring’s provincial election and became a key part of the Liberals’ environmental platform.“The forestry review will examine harvesting types and rates across the province, with a focus on the western region,” Miller told a news conference. “It will also be looking at market access concerns and will consider current forestry practices.”Lahey confirmed he’s been given a broad mandate and will examine clear cutting, a controversial practice that drew public attention last year when the Liberal government said it was backing away from a previously stated goal of reducing the practice on Crown land by 50 per cent.About 90 per cent of wood harvested in Nova Scotia is clear cut, according to federal figures.Reducing that number was a goal stated in province’s 10-year natural resources strategy, released in 2011.“I definitely will be looking at clear cutting as one issue,” said Lahey. “It’s clear that it is one of the issues around which a lot of people have serious concerns.”However, Miller was evasive when asked whether Lahey’s mandate was a sign the government is having second thoughts about clear cutting.“We’re hearing from people that are saying they are hearing about wood left in the forest to rot from Crown land,” she said. “We’re hearing from private woodlot owners that say they can’t move their wood … because it’s easier to get Crown wood. That’s why we thought it was important to do the review — let’s give it another look.”Lahey said he plans to provide fresh information that will build on the previous strategy, which heard from a wide swath of industry and environmental interests, as well as the public.Ray Plourde, wilderness co-ordinator with the Halifax-based Ecology Action Centre, has been among those calling for the review to revisit the issue of clear cutting.Plourde applauded the decision to hire Lahey, a former deputy minister in the Environment Department and the co-author of a report that called for strict regulations to govern aquaculture in the province.“It is a classic kicking the can down the road,” Plourde said of the review.“But I’m hopeful that they will actually do something with it this time. Bill Lahey is a sterling individual with a very strong reputation for being able to examine economic and environmental and social issues.”NDP critic Lisa Roberts welcomed the review, despite questioning why it’s needed.“I don’t think we needed a review to tell us that there is too much clear cutting happening,” said Roberts, who added that she doesn’t understand why the government abandoned the 50 per cent cap in the first place.“There is no new science. The science that informed the natural resources strategy . . . has not changed significantly.”Roberts said it’s no coincidence the review comes after a public outcry, including from Premier Stephen McNeil’s own riding in Annapolis County. The county’s municipal council recently called for a one-year moratorium on clear cutting on Crown land within its boundaries.“This is in his own back yard,” she said.The terms of reference call for the review to “evaluate opportunities” to improve legislation, regulations, policies and guidelines, as well as to look at harvesting methods and where it occurs, including clear cut and partial harvest.