Nova Scotia is moving towards a forestry model that protects ecosystems and biodiversity, supports economic growth, and keeps our forests healthy and sustainable.

Ecological Forestry

The province is adopting a new approach to forestry management that protects ecosystems and biodiversity, supports economic growth, and keeps our forests healthy and sustainable.

Ecological Forestry: A Fundamental Shift

Ecological Forestry will divide Crown land into three zones that work together to balance a range of interests. The three zones of the triad model are: conservation zones, high production forestry zones, and mixed forest or matrix zones.

To learn more about Ecological Forestry: Understanding Ecological Forestry

Change is happening now, and more is coming

Here is some of the work completed as part of the planning and implementation so far:

  • Completed and released the new forest practices guide called the Silviculture Guide for the Ecological Matrix. The sector must follow interim harvesting guidelines for all new harvest proposals, which have already reduced clearcutting, until the new guide is fully implemented. From June 2022, all Crown harvest proposals must meet most requirements in this guide.
  • Advanced work on High Production Forestry by completing and releasing the HPF Final Report, which includes criteria for selecting suitable areas
  • Completed two peer-reviewed papers on Natural Disturbance Regimes
  • Formalized the prohibition of whole tree and full-tree harvesting on Crown lands
  • Consulted with the public, industry and other stakeholders on many aspects of our forestry system and policies

Here’s what we’re working on now:

  • Providing training to staff and forest professionals on methods under the new Silviculture Guide for the Ecological Matrix
  • Reviewing previously approved harvests to determine how many would fall outside of the Ecological Forestry model
  • Updating the old-growth forest policy
  • Identifying Crown lands for high-production forestry using the criteria outlined in the High Production Forestry Final Report
  • Advance research and innovation initiatives for improved productivity and sustainability are being developed
  • Working with partners to advance the work needed to protect and conserve more Crown land
  • Developing a draft framework for Outcomes-Based Forest Management that includes principles, values, objectives, and indicators and design and implement a pilot to test the concept
  • Reviewing the existing Crown and private silviculture programs to ensure alignment with ecological forestry
  • Incorporating public feedback into new and revised guides, policies and processes

How we are approaching the shift to Ecological Forestry

There are several areas of work underway:

Environmental Assessment -- A new framework is being developed that will support the review of Crown land forest stewardship plans submitted by applicable Crown forest agreement holders either as a Class II Environmental Assessment under the Environment Act or in a process that is similar to the Class II process. The Department has engaged NorthWinds Environmental Services to develop a guide for the preparation of 20-year forest stewardship plans.

Silviculture Guide for the Ecological Matrix -- The Silviculture Guide for the Ecological Matrix (SGEM) outlines the types of forest practices that can be used within matrix areas on Crown lands. The triad model prioritizes biodiversity conservation through lower impact forestry and reduces clearcutting where this guide will be applied.

High Production Forestry -- Work is underway to define how and where high yield timber production can take place on Crown lands. Approved sites will be available to produce high-value forest products in long-term cycles, using evidence-based techniques and technology. This will be the smallest of the three ecological forestry zones.

Natural Disturbance Regimes -- Studying how to better align forestry practices with naturally occurring elements that affect forests such as fire, wind, and insects. Two peer-reviewed papers are available:

Old Forest Policy -- Old-growth forests will be included in conservation zones. The Department is updating the policy that identifies and protects old-growth forests on Crown land. The new policy will be incorporated into the harvest management approvals process.

Outcomes-Based Forest Management -- Designing an approach to manage forests according to expected outcomes that prioritize biodiversity and recognize ecological, social, and economic values. To inform this work, the Department has conducted a jurisdictional scan and built a network of experts to identify best practices/options for implementation in Nova Scotia.

Reporting on the State of the Forest -- Nova Scotians and many others want to know more about the state of the province’s forests. The Department will design a new user-friendly online resource.

Small Scale Wood Energy Initiative -- Converting more public buildings from fossil fuel heating systems to locally sourced wood chip heating systems. Phase 1 is now complete with nine buildings (at six sites). This includes two district heat systems. Government is looking to identify more suitable buildings for conversion as part of Phase 2. Learn more about Wood Heat Energy

Species at Risk Program Renewal -– Working with our partners to update the management system and create a new framework to ensure the protection of species at risk. Recovery plans have been completed for all remaining species that fall solely under provincial responsibility. The department has reviewed and updated all other existing plans, and 100% of existing recovery plans are current. Learn more about species at risk.

Silviculture Program Review -- The Department is reviewing the existing Crown and private silviculture programs to ensure alignment with ecological forestry. To inform this work, the Department is researching silviculture programs in other provinces, in the United States and European countries.

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