HALIFAX: An independent review of Nova Scotia’s forest practices is recommending fundamental changes to the way forestry is conducted throughout the province, putting an emphasis on ecosystems and biodiversity.

The year-long review released on August 21 by University of Kings President Bill Lahey suggests forest practices should be guided by a new paradigm called “Ecological Forestry,” which treats forests first and foremost as ecosystems.

Lahey’s 72-page report includes 45 recommendations to improve forest practices with the key suggestion being the province should explicitly adopt what is known as the triad model of ecological forestry.

“Ecological forestry’s objective is not to protect the environment by eliminating or prohibiting forestry,” he said. “It seeks to combine conservation of nature with a productive and profitable forestry industry. It is a model that is designed to emulate the natural processes, development and life spans of forests.”

The triad model would see forests that are protected from all forestry, such as parks, nature reserves, or wilderness areas. The model also displays forests dedicated to high-production forestry including clearcutting, with the remaining, or as much of it as possible, as forests contributing to both ecological conservation and commercial forestry by having a lighter touch and limited clearcutting.

Spanning over four-million hectares, the province is 75 per cent forested, with 30 per cent managed on Crown lands while 70 per cent is controlled by private landowners, many small woodlot owners.

Lahey is calling for much stricter ecological management, including improved science and more stringent environmental oversight on Crown lands.

“There is too much happening where it should not happen … and the consequences of that is a continuing reduction in the proper functioning of the ecosystems and the biodiversity that are dependent on our forestry,” Lahey said.

Clearcutting is responsible for 65 per cent of wood harvesting on Crown lands, a number in which Lahey’s recommendations predicted would be reduced to 20 to 25 per cent, while the amount of wood taken from Crown lands would reduce 10-20 per cent.

The result would be a shift in increased demand from private lands and would see an increase over-all level of clearcutting in the short term.

On private lands, Lahey called for a comprehensive strategy to bring more private lands into the triad system.

“A comprehensive, multi-faceted, and integrated strategy should be developed for encouraging and enabling private landowners, particularly woodlot owners, to engage in forestry management in accordance with a triad model of ecological forestry.”

Lahey said the report focuses on ecology and biodiversity but it is not against wood production.

“It’s not anti-forestry,” he said. “It combines protection of nature with a productive, profitable and diverse forestry industry.”

Iain Rankin, Minister of Lands and Forestry thanked Lahey for his invaluable work leading the review and said the work now begins for his department to thoroughly review and analyze the report and all of its 45 recommendations.

Lahey’s review was appreciated by NDP Spokesperson for Lands and Forestry, Lisa Roberts.

“This report confirms what we have heard from stakeholders, environmentalists, and community members: we need a forestry industry that is diversified and sustainable in the long term.

“Lahey’s message in this report is clear: significant change is needed to balance the ecological, social and economic values that our forests provide, and the province should provide an example on Crown lands of the best practices of ecological forestry. What we need now is for government leadership to get behind this.”

Rankin will report back to Nova Scotians with a response to Lahey’s recommendations as soon as possible, while keeping stakeholders and the public informed and involved as they move along.

“I am committed to finding the right balance for the long-term environmental, economic and social interests of our forests.”

Lahey conducted the review with a team of expert advisors, attending approximately 80 meetings, receiving more than 250 written submissions, and reviewing relevant forestry documents and reports.