Province, PHP promise no more harvesting of old growth forests

HALIFAX: The provincial government and Port Hawkesbury Paper are promising no more reoccurrences of an incident in which old growth forest was cut in Guysborough County.

The Department of Natural Resources recently assessed 27 forest stands in the Lawlor Lake area of Guysborough County.

The Forest Technical Note entitled “Old Forest Assessment in the Lawlor Lake Area of Guysborough County, Nova Scotia” by Peter Bush concluded that two of the forest stands that were harvested were considered old growth forest, and eight stands harvested were old forest. It was also determined that 11 stands planned for harvest are old growth forest.

Natural resources minister Margaret Miller said the report was commissioned after the department received public complaints. Miller said after dispatching staff to the area, the department found an independent investigator and group to examine the area and determine if old growth forests were cut.

“They did core samples and looked over all of it to see which of those areas met that policy,” Miller explained.

The environment minister had two reactions to the report. The first was concern over the fact that 29 hectares of old growth forest had been cut. The second was gratitude toward those who stepped forward to inform the department.

“Now that we know that so much of this is old growth forest, it will not be cut, it will be maintained and preserved,” Miller stated. “It will be under protected lands, and certainly under the old growth forest policy, it will be kept. Also, old trees and old forest in that category, it also will be kept because eventually it will be old growth.”

On May 18, Port Hawkesbury Paper (PHP) said they reviewed a copy of the report.

“… Port Hawkesbury Paper had completed all required [Department of Natural Resources] pre-treatment assessments, followed all applicable forest harvest approval procedures and ceased operations after concerns were raised,” the company said in a press release. “This new report has identified opportunities for improvements with respect to pre-treatment assessment triggers and PHP is committed to working jointly with the Department of Natural Resources in this regard.”

Port Hawkesbury Paper said it will continue to comply with all provincial policies and procedures.

“Port Hawkesbury Paper is proud to have maintained internationally recognized forest certifications for almost 20 years and every day we take pride in our forest management work.”

Miller said Port Hawkesbury Paper did dispatch technicians to do an assessment, and although the company thought it was doing the right thing, it didn’t meet the old growth forest policy. However, the minister said her department also has to take responsibility.

“Our staff looked at their treatment assessment and also cleared it,” Miller noted. “We didn’t go to the site and look at it, obviously, but from the information we had our licencing, we assumed that it was correct. We both bare responsibility for that.”

Although there have been suggestions of punitive financial measures against PHP, Miller said the best insurance is through education.

“We need to make sure that we stress to all our licencees and to our own employees that we take old growth forests very seriously and for them to be more aware that it’s out there and make sure that these areas are preserved for all Nova Scotians,” Miller said.

Miller added that areas with high concentrations of old growth forest, like the Strait area, will be more closely monitored in the future.

“Beyond that, we have new technology called LIDAR that actually will be able to assess some of these areas,” Miller said. “Through that technology, we’ll be able to determine, not necessarily the age of the trees, but certainly a little about the crown, the cover, the size of the trees.”