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 Government of Nova Scotia is adopting a new approach to forestry management. Ecological forestry is a fundamental shift that protects ecosystems and biodiversity, supports economic growth, and keeps forests healthy and sustainable.

About ecological forestry

Ecological forestry divides Crown land into 3 zones that work together to balance a range of interests. The 3 zones of the triad model are: conservation zone, high production forest zone, and mixed forest or matrix zone.

Learn more about ecological forestry: Understanding Ecological Forestry (YouTube)

What's changing

The Government of Nova Scotia is taking steps toward ecological forestry. So far, government has:

  • completed and released the new forest practices guide called the Silviculture Guide for the Ecological Matrix (starting June 2022, all Crown harvest proposals must meet most requirements in this guide)
  • completed and released the High Production Forestry Phase 1 Final Report (PDF) which includes criteria for selecting suitable areas for high production forestry
  • established the approach to identify sites across the province through the High Production Forestry Phase 2 Guidance for Implementation (PDF)
  • updated the Old-growth Forest Policy (PDF) to improve protection of these areas on Crown land
  • completed 2 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 forestry systems and policies

Right now, government is working on:

  • 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
  • identifying more Crown lands for high-production forestry using the criteria outlined in the High Production Forestry Final Report and the approach outlined in the High Production Forestry Guidance for Implementation
  • developing research and innovation initiatives for improved productivity and sustainability
  • 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, indicators and design, and implementing 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

Nova Scotia's shift to ecological forestry

Government's new approach to forestry management aims to protect ecosystems and biodiversity, support economic growth, and keep forests healthy.

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. Government 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 is 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 is the smallest of the 3 ecological forestry zones with no more than 10% of Crown land.

Natural disturbance regimes

Government is 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-growth forest policy

Old-growth forests are now included in the conservation zones. Government has updated the policy that identifies and protects old-growth forests on Crown land. The new policy is incorporated into the harvest management approvals process.

Outcomes-based forest management

Outcomes-based forest management aims to manage forests according to expected outcomes that prioritize biodiversity and recognize ecological, social and economic values. To inform this work, the Department of Natural Resources and Renewables has conducted a jurisdictional scan and built a network of experts to identify best practices and 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

This initiative is converting public buildings from fossil fuel heating systems to locally sourced wood chip heating systems. Phase 1 is now complete with 9 buildings (at 6 sites). This includes two district heat systems. Government is looking to identify more suitable buildings for conversion as part of phase 2.

Learn more: Nova Scotia's Wood Heat Initiative (YouTube)

Species at risk program renewal

Government is working with 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: Species at risk recovery update

Silviculture program review

The Department of Natural Resources and Renewables 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.

Ministerial Advisory Committee

The Ministerial Advisory Committee advises the Department of Natural Resources and Renewables on policies and priorities related to implementing recommendations from the Forest Practices Review, including implementing ecological forestry on Crown land. It was created to enhance transparency, consultation and collaboration with stakeholders. Members represent diverse interests, expertise and perspectives in forestry in Nova Scotia. In time, the committee's role and membership may evolve to reflect other areas of natural resources management.

Committee members:

  • Jane Barker, Co-director, Mersey Tobeatic Research Institute
  • Kirsten Campbell, Research Nova Scotia
  • Mac Davis, private wood lot owner
  • Angie Gillis, Associate Executive Director, Confederacy of Mainland Mi'kmaq
  • Greg Herrett, Chair and CAO, Municipality of the County of Cumberland
  • Breck Stuart, General Manager, Westfor Inc.
  • Chris Tufts, Vice President, Tufts Forestry Services Ltd.

The Ministerial Advisory Committee works closely with the department's Forest Biodiversity Science Advisory Committee on ecological forestry.

How to participate

To ask a question about ecological forestry in Nova Scotia or provide feedback, email