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The NDP announced last month that they will, finally, keep their promise to stop the practice of whole-tree harvesting.  Some three years since they made this committment, it’s a welcomed if rather late announcement.  Take a moment to let Natural Resources Minister Charlie Parker know that you support this ban, and remind him that he still needs to rein in clearcutting (which the NDP has yet to do anything about): energyminister@gov.ns.ca.

Does it make sense for Nova Scotia to ban this practice, rather than regulate it?

Nova Scotia’s forest soils are relatively fragile, and are more at risk of productivity decline due to whole-tree cutting than the other Maritime provinces or New England states.  Nova Scotia’s soils vary from place to place within the province, but on the whole Nova Scotia has a lot to lose due to whole-tree harvesting.

Nova Scotia also has a diverse and complex land-ownership pattern across the province.  Enforcing the rules of a regulated whole-tree harvesting program would be a major expense and a logistical nightmare.  The Department of Natural Resources has not had a great success rate enforcing the meagre forest harvesting regulations already in place.  According to the Department’s 2012 Accountability Report, only 26% of forestry operations are in compliance with the existing Wildlife Habitat and Watercourse Protection Regulations (inadequate as they are!).

Furthermore, whole-tree harvesting regulations would most likely be enforced only after the damage of an illegal harvest takes place.  It’s difficult to believe that regulated whole-tree harvesting in Nova Scotia would effectively prevent damage to wildlife and forest soils.  The damage done by whole-tree harvesting takes days to create, but decades if not centuries to repair.

The Department of Natural Resources listed several studies in its discussion paper on whole-tree harvesting.  Conspicuous by its absence is the very study that the Department commissioned to investigate the impact of whole-tree harvesting on Nova Scotia’s soils.  What were the results of this study?  We don’t know, as the Department has yet to release the study.  However, one of the researchers published part of the study for his Master’s thesis.  The Department allowed this student to release the results for the soils found within Kejimkujik National Park — most of these soils would not sustain even one whole-tree harvest.  The message is clear: whole-tree clearcutting leaves Nova Scotia with a less productive forest.  Taking whole-tree harvesting out of the forestry tool box is the only sensible choice for Nova Scotia.

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