INVERNESS: Last Sunday saw locals gather at the Inverness Fire Hall to mull over concerns related to forests.

“Basically, we’re looking to make people aware of what’s going on,” said Johanna Padelt, media contact person for the Inverness County Chapter of the Council of Canadians, Canada’s leading social action organization.

“People are seeing a lot of clear cuts around them. They’re aware that there are truckloads of logs going down the road. I live on Route 19, and I see them every time I go out. Because we are a group that’s concerned about protecting the environment, this is the sort or awareness rising that’s part of our mandate.”

Padelt said the panel included a number of participants from various sectors to give a very fleshed-out conversation. Locals were able to ask questions and participate in that conversation as well. Padelt provided information on how to contact government officials and panel members, if they wish to continue the conversation.

“We’re hoping this will be the first of a number of panel conversations on the same topic, and each time there’ll be different panellists taking part.”

The guest speakers included Andrew Fedora, Leader in Sustainability and Outreach at Port Hawkesbury Paper; Kari Easthouse, of the Nova Scotia Landowners and Forest Fibre Producers; Allan Eddy, Associate Deputy Minister, Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources; Sam Ainsworth, horse logging forestry operator and member of Save the Margaree Watershed; and Bob Bancroft, President of Nature Nova Scotia, former Regional Biologist for Eastern Nova Scotia.
The panel created a lot of buzz, Padelt said, noting that she’s heard from people all over about the event.

“I think people are very concerned about our forest because our forests are disappearing as we speak,” she said.
“We had a lot of other names on our list as panelists, but five is kind of the max for a panel like this. So, we thought we’d see what happens and then we’ll figure out what the next panel should be. We just want to get a dialogue going and take some action.”

The Council of Canadians is one of Canada’s leading social action organizations. There are 60 chapters in Canada, and the council advocates for things like clean water, fair trade, green energy, public health care, and other issues. The group has national campaigns going on, but each chapter can zero in on what’s happening locally.

“This is our own issue that we put together for this forestry conference,” she said.

All five speakers were allotted a 10-minute presentation with discussion to follow. Fedora outlined Port Hawkesbury Paper’s practices and operations, and Easthouse talked about clearcutting and some options that can be put in place to encourage woodlot owners to engage other practices.
Ainsworth drew attention to the importance of locals holding the Department of Natural Resources’ feet to the fire, as well as private industry, in terms of keeping woodland sustainable.

“I plead to you all: go to where the cutting is being done, observe it for yourself, educate yourselves, and let others know what is happening to our forests,” said Ainsworth.
Eddy offered the view of the Department of Natural Resources.
“Thirty three per cent of crown land is currently protected or under plans for protection,” said Eddy. “There is a significant part here that’s been set aside strictly for natural process.”

Bancroft was the final panelist to speak, and biomass and waste wood were the focus of his discussion. He said the current state of Nova Scotia’s forests might be the final chapter of a 300-year story.