INVERNESS: What is happening to the forests in Nova Scotia?

That was the question posed at the panel discussion taking place on April 2 at the Inverness Fire Hall. The event was hosted by the Inverness County Chapter of the Council of Canadians, and three speakers offered their insights on clear cutting and its impact on climate change and forest ecology.

The speakers included Bob Bancroft, Carrie-Ellen Gabriel and Albert Marshall.

Photo by Grant McDaniel
Mi’kmaq elder Albert Marshall offered his observations on clear cutting during the meeting on April 2 in Inverness.

“We have an inherent responsibility to ensure these areas will never be compromised,” said Marshall, a Mi’kmaq elder from Eskasoni with a long history of activism for environmental protection.

“We are interconnected with our land, so how much longer can we ignore what she has been subjected to?”

Marshall was the final speaker of the afternoon, and he earned a standing ovation after his presentation.

Holding an Honourary Doctorate from Cape Breton University, Marshall founded the Integrative Science program at CBU based on the philosophy of Etuaptmumk or “Two-Eyed Seeing.” He and his wife Murdena are responsible for creating the concept. Two-Eyed Seeing refers to seeing from one eye with the strengths of Indigenous knowledge and from the other eye with the strengths of Western knowledge. Combined, both eyes are used for the benefit of all.

Speaking just before Marshall was Gabriel, a PHD candidate at Dalhousie University’s Earth Sciences department. Her research examines the destabilization of organic matter in the characteristic soils of the Acadian forest. The destabilization is a consequence of forest harvesting, and her work also deals with clear cutting’s effects on carbon storage.

Gabriel gave the 100 or so visitors to the hall an in-depth review of her work and how it factors into the larger issue of climate change. Through her study of environmental sciences, she said there is no question that climate change is caused by human efforts, and clear cutting is one of the causes.

“An immediate shift is necessary to adapt to and mitigate climate change,” she said. “We have a responsibility, a social responsibility and a human responsibility, to do better.”

Bancroft was the first speaker of the afternoon. He’s a well-known figure in terms of forestry, as the president of Nature Nova Scotia, a former regional biologist for Eastern Nova Scotia, and an operator of a wildlife/forestry consultancy. He’s also a frequent contributor to CBC Radio, and was inducted into the Nova Scotia Forestry Hall of Fame in 2013.

“There is nothing in nature, even fire, that has any resemblance to what happens [with clear cutting],” he said, noting that reforesting efforts are themselves problematic in that they have a way of turning complex forest systems into monocultures.

“They focus on one or two softwood species that are very ill-suited to climate change,” he said. “We’re converting complex forest ecosystems into single-specie monocultures.

“The minister calls this nature-based and ecosystem management. I call it ecosystem dismemberment.”