National Forest Week, Op-ed
NOTE: The following is an op-ed piece by Natural Resources Minister Lloyd Hines.
Forestry is among the top economic drivers in our province, employing 11,500 people and generating $800 million in GDP last year.
Today, through progress and the use of best practices, our forestry decisions are based on science and the assessment of each individual forest harvest site. That means we assess the tree and plant species, wildlife habitat, soil and terrain condition, and more. It is known as ecosystem-based forest management.
As we recognize Forest Week (Sept. 18-24) it is important to acknowledge forest management in our province has evolved to this improved approach over time and we have become more open and accountable about the management of our forest resources.
Nova Scotia is one of the few provinces posting proposed harvest maps and asking citizens to comment on forest harvests before decisions are made (https://nsgi.novascotia.ca/hpmv/). We believe in being transparent and doing things in a responsible way. People should know how government is managing public lands. Government began posting harvest maps in 2014 when then Natural Resources Minister Zach Churchill introduced them, and we continue to make improvements so people are better informed.
"The status quo is not an option" was the clear call of the natural resources strategy, The Path We Share, five years ago after much public input. It is just as true today, and we will not revert to the old ways of managing our forests.
Things have changed since the natural resources strategy was released. The volume of timber harvests is half of what it was in the early 2000s, which has reduced pressure on our forests, and all aspects of biodiversity are being taken into account. What's been missed lately in public discussion is that clearcutting reductions have not been abandoned -- this will occur using the ecosystem-based method, and it is a wiser way to achieve reductions.
Having a destination in mind is not the same as having a roadmap in hand. There is more than one way to get there as the terrain changes along the way. It is logical to be flexible. We also need to consider that close to 65 per cent of our forests are privately owned and we can only promote but not prescribe how those lands are managed.
Relying on science first for harvesting decisions, we can better ensure that our children and our children's children's children continue to enjoy and make a livelihood from our forests. As minister, I am committed to unlocking the value of our forests; their great economic and recreation values. I am proud of the progress and learning we have experienced in managing our forests in recent years.