By Tom Miller
When Nova Scotia’s Department of Natural Resources released its Natural Resources Strategy in 2011, there was some reason to be optimistic.
According to the government’s website: “The Path We Share, A Natural Resources Strategy for Nova Scotia 2011-2020 is a10-year plan for Nova Scotia’s natural resources that provides for positive change. It sets a clear direction for where we want to be in the future to ensure Nova Scotia’s natural resources (specifically, biodiversity, forests, geological resources and parks) are sustained for our collective economic, environmental and social benefit.”
The plan has 23 goals including research, education, habitat protection, recreation, shared stewardship, and an ecosystems approach to sustainability.
You can imagine our disappointment and dismay when after two years of discussions we received a rather terse rejection of our proposal for a community forest project on a small parcel of Crown land that borders that of our Friends of Redtail Society, a Society that is dedicated to re-storying the human relationship with the forest.
To that point we had been rather optimistic about the plan we were putting forward. We felt that we were providing the Crown with a unique opportunity, which would bring citizens back into relationship with Crown land. We felt that our proposal better supported the province’s Natural Resources Strategy than any other we were aware of, and that our vision for including the community in the opportunities that would emerge fit well with the goals of the Ivany Report.
The proposal requested an initial one- to three-year period with which Friends of Redtail Society would conduct the observation, analysis, and community input necessary to develop what we proposed as the “MacKay Brook Community Forest and Ethical Land Relationship Plan.”
We anticipated the plan would provide for extractive and/or non-extractive activities on the land, all of which would have to be consistent with Nova Scotia’s new Natural Resources Strategy, applicable legislation, and the deep ecology values that are at the core of Friends of Redtail Society. We asserted that this initial phase of one to three years would be just the beginning of our vision, which was to create a 250 to 300 year plan for this forest.
The proposal went on to outline the variety of land uses that would be explored in the planning and assessment phase. These included habitat protection; recreational, social, educational, and research opportunities; as well as timber and non-timber opportunities.
We made it clear that the maintenance of healthy living systems would be the standard by which all decisions would be adjudicated, and that our approach would be holistic, meaning that we regarded the flora, fauna, air, water and soil as stakeholders, and the principal partners in the plan. To our knowledge this land-centred (rather than human-centred) starting point is a unique approach.
Naturally, we wondered if our proposal had even been read, since the rejection letter totally mischaracterized what had been proposed.
The most telling part of the response is here:
“The new Government has made a commitment to improve the economic viability of the Province…. Using our Crown lands in a sustainable way to promote economic and social benefits is part of that plan. At present the Government is working to address a significant fibre shortage being experienced by Port Hawkesbury Paper (PHP). The wood on the Crown lands you have identified are within the PHP license and are needed to meet fibre requirements.”
From this it was obvious to us that the industrial bias of the department had precluded any fair assessment of our goal of using the small Crown block to promote economic and social benefits for our community.
We are disappointed to have it so clearly confirmed in black and white that our Crown land has been hijacked by industrial forestry, aided and abetted by the DNR.
Equally disappointing is the confirmation that the other forest values spoken of in the DNR strategy – recreational, educational, and social – are merely window dressing. The primary requirement of Nova Scotia’s forests is to produce fibre – fibre must be ceaselessly liquidated.
Nova Scotians deserve a much better understanding and appreciation of the forest by those that have been entrusted with its care.
We remain entirely committed to achieving our goal – to remove this land from industrial forestry.
This land is of particular interest and concern because it borders the brook, and rises to an elevation higher than that of Friends of Redtail land, meaning our land is downstream from whatever occurs there, and making it very central to the watershed.
Our view is that the small size of the parcel and distance from PHP lower its value and significance to the other parties, and surely these 300 acres, a good portion of which is grown-over blueberry patches and pasture spruce, cannot be critical to PHP’s fibre needs. This piece is, however, very critical to Friends of Redtail and the surrounding community as a new way forward in our relationship with the forest and land in general.
Tom Miller is Chair of Friends of Redtail Society’s Board of Directors