For the trees
Work to shape an improved forestry of the future for Nova Scotia has begun.
One of the first things this NDP government did was launch the largest public consultation on the state of Nova Scotia's natural resources in order to produce a strategy for the future. That plan is called The Path We Share. We heard loud and clear from many Nova Scotians that the status quo was not an option; that pictures of massive clear cuts, like the ones Chris Benjamin pointed to in his recent article ("Our wasted forests," February 7), were unacceptable.
We listened to Nova Scotians, and that's why we brought in changes to improve the way our forests are managed.
The article's satellite photos of lands in the Sheet Harbour area show areas of clearcut from 1985 to 2010. The photos don't lie.
However your readers aren't told that in 2010 our new government was just bringing in new rules to protect our forests; rules that were designed to begin to undo the impact of lax and non-existent forestry regulations of previous Liberal and Conservative governments. Most notable among the changes was that clearcutting would be reduced to no more than 50 percent of the harvest over the next five years. That's down from almost 95 percent of harvest that went unchecked for decades.
Unfortunately, the article also makes a glaring mistake by suggesting that Premier Darrell Dexter reacted to provide assistance to the Port Hawkesbury mill impulsively and without careful consideration. The fact is the premier's announcement came after more than a year of careful consideration of the impact the mill's closure would have had on the workers and their families who relied on that operation for good, stable jobs.
Our government also looked closely at the impact on the rest of the forestry industry, which employs hundreds of contractors, truckers and harvesters.
Unlike the Liberals and Conservatives, who would have stood by and watched as another rural community went under, the NDP refused to turn its backs on rural Nova Scotia.
The plan for the mill happened to come at the one-year mark of the province's natural resources strategy---a plan designed to move Nova Scotia away from the very ways of the past that Mr. Benjamin describes in his article.
Mr. Benjamin implies that the province made concessions but the fact is the negotiated agreement with the new mill owners includes many conditions to benefit the province. These include provincial control of land uses, increased revenue and incorporation of new environmental, Mi'kmaq and public consultation requirements.
It allows the province to remove lands for environmental protection, without any compensation to the company---a move that would have cost thousands of dollars under the old Stora Act.
Our government is turning away from the damaging practices of the past to a well-managed forestry of the future. We agree with Nova Scotians that the status quo is unacceptable.
When Nova Scotians told us to buy back the former Bowater lands instead of letting them fall into the hands of a foreign company, we listened and purchased all 550,000 acres of prime forestry lands. When Nova Scotians told us they wanted to have more of a say in how their forests are harvested, we listened and created Nova Scotia's first community forests pilot program to put control back into the hands of the local communities.
By taking control of the former Bowater lands, protecting our environment, and focusing on community benefits, we gain the opportunity to build an industry focused on the future. The industry is turning a corner, and our NDP government remains committed to making forestry as important a part of our future as it has been in our past. —Charlie Parker, Minister of Natural Resources for Nova Scotia
Tom Forrestall is to be congratulated for the time, hard work and artistic merit that went into his 35 Days In Israel watercolours that are being displayed this month at the Nova Scotia Archives.
He is also to be commended for exercising his right to free expression and for providing interested patrons with ample opportunity to view his work. —Kris Larsen, Halifax