Harvesting plans for Crown land won’t change with Northern Pulp closure, says forestry minister

Although the loss of Northern Pulp has removed a major market for low-grade wood in Nova Scotia, the province’s Lands and Forestry minister says there are no plans to reduce the amount of harvesting scheduled for Crown land.

“At this time it wouldn’t be appropriate to start scaling back the supply of our sawmills,” Iain Rankin told reporters after a cabinet meeting on Thursday.

Rankin said sawmills around the province still need fibre to make products and the process his department uses for assessments and approvals for harvesting has not changed.

But some sawmill owners have also expressed concern about a potential glut of chips and byproducts in their yards, now that Northern Pulp has closed, which could jeopardize their business.

Even with the province’s largest chip buyer out of the game, Rankin said some mills have had success sending chips to Port Hawkesbury Paper, at least for the short term, or to sites in New Brunswick.

A tender is also coming soon for a district heat pilot project, although that wouldn’t come close to consuming all the chips available.

‘Nothing has changed in the forest’

The minister said the province’s forestry transition team is also working on other initiatives to try to ensure mills have places to send their chips and other low-grade products.

Shelburne County resident Shelly Hipson said she’s disappointed but not surprised by Rankin’s comments.

In recent years Hipson has been part of a group of citizens pushing the province to move to a more ecological approach to forestry. That push contributed to the commissioning of the Lahey Report on forestry practices in the province.

Opponents say the provincial government is still not fully committed to ecological forestry. (CBC)

But even with that report’s call for less clear cutting and more consideration for forest health, Hipson said the amount of pending and approved cuts on Crown land in the last 18 months suggests there still is not a full commitment to ecological forestry.

“The numbers speak for themselves,” she said.

“We’re no further ahead than we were 2½ years ago when the premier said they were going to have Professor Lahey do the report.”

If Northern Pulp is no longer around to buy chips, Hipson argues the province should be reviewing recently approved cuts to determine if they’re actually still required.

She argues that the broadness of the concern is reflected by recent calls from some municipal councils to stop harvests in their own communities until the Lahey Report is fully implemented.

“And the likelihood of it being implemented is close to zero,” she said. “Even though we have paid for two reports that say we need a dramatic reduction in clear cutting, nothing has changed in the forest.”

Rankin has said he remains committed to implementing all recommendations in Lahey’s report.

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