Bill Lahey’s Independent Forestry Review Report is a long-awaited vindication of what many woodlot owners, harvesters, and environmentalists have been saying for years: we need a forestry industry that leaves a significant portion of forest intact for the next year, the next decade, and the next generation.

We have been exploiting our forest – with too much clear-cutting and planting of monocultures – in an unsustainable fashion.

Lahey’s message is clear: the forests of Nova Scotia are important for economic, social, recreational, and ecological reasons but without protecting the ecological underpinning of the forestry sector, we risk it all. Change must come and the government – on most Crown land – should be a model of ecological forestry. We now need the McNeil government to get behind this.

As NDP spokesperson for Lands and Forestry, I’ve met people across Nova Scotia who practice ecological forestry already, or strive to whenever circumstances allow. They harvest low volumes that have high value, and leave a forest standing. Forestry organizations and businesses like Taylor Lumber, the Medway Community Forest Co-operative, Western Woodlot Services Co-op, Larch Wood Enterprises, Windhorse Farm, the Nova Scotia Landowners and Forest Fibre Producers Association, and the North Nova Forestry Co-operative (to name a few) show that we can accomplish when we diversify our forest products and think outside the clear-cut.

Government has a crucial role in transitioning the economy and making sure no Nova Scotians fall through the cracks along the way. When the NDP was in government, we saw that change was necessary, and through extensive consultations, we charted a new path in the Natural Resources Strategy.

In many ways, Lahey’s forestry review affirms its findings: the future of the forestry industry in Nova Scotia depends on finding a balance and, no doubt, it won’t be easy. While we weren’t perfect, we started taking steps in the right direction.

Unfortunately, McNeil’s Liberals reversed that transition. In 2016, then minister of the Department of Natural Resources Lloyd Hines defended extensive clear cuts on crown land with “new forestry science.” But in Lahey’s review, the old DNR’s science gets a failing grade. No more can it be argued that clearcuts mimic what would happen “naturally” because of forest fires or age.

While clearcutting may be economical for the harvester and buyer – and Lahey argues, justifiable in plantations and in already disturbed forest monocultures – it has ecological and social costs. Clearcutting also requires expensive machines but little labour.

A restorative and ecological approach can benefit Nova Scotians by employing more of them, and benefit us all by providing wildlife habitat, maintaining biodiversity, holding onto fresh water, and sequestering carbon. Carefully tended forests can be harvested year after year, generation after generation, without ever being decimated.

Let’s value the forest and the trees, and embrace change.

Lisa Roberts

NDP spokesperson for

Lands and Forestry