The Nova Scotia government has advised foresters who have been pre-approved to cut on Crown land they have until June 1 to start cutting or they will have to use more eco-friendly cutting practices as the province shifts to an ecological forestry model recommended four years ago.
Natural Resources Minister Tory Rushton called it a "fundamental shift in how forestry is done in the province."
"There are going to be some hiccups along the way," said Rushton. "But I've been very adamant that we have one chance to get this right, and I certainly want to take the time to ensure that we're moving at the right pace, in the right direction on this."
Those who have blocks that are 10 hectares or less will be exempt from the new rule. Rushton said the number of parcels that could be exempt amounted to "a very small percentage of Crown lands."
Since February, foresters who applied for permission to cut on Crown land have had to submit plans in line with the new practices recommended in the Lahey report on forestry practices. Those who had received permission prior were exempt.
William Lahey, who authored the 2018 review, issued a blistering assessment last November of the province's progress in implementing his recommendations.
"None of the work underway on [report] recommendations has resulted in much if any actual change on the ground in how forestry is being planned, managed, or conducted, and I have no indication of when any of it will," Lahey, the president of the University of King's College, said in his evaluation.
Rushton said these changes to the rules would start to change things in forestry.
"I don't want to speak for Prof. Lahey, but I think this is going to have a huge impact of what he was certainly looking for, as is changes on the ground," said the cabinet minister.
Ray Plourde, senior wilderness co-ordinator at the Ecology Action Centre in Halifax, said he was happy to see the government set the June 1 deadline.
"It finally shows some on-the-ground progress and the government deserves some kudos for that," said Plourde. "It's a shame that it's four years after the Lahey report to get here."
As for the exemptions, Plourde suggested it would not further exacerbate the rush to cut trees under the old rules.
"They have been rushing to cut under the old rules for quite some time," he said. "So actually it's just good to see that now there is a date horizon very soon where that should come to an end."
According to information supplied by the provincial government, harvest plans have been approved for an average of about 10,000 hectares of Crown land each year in the past five years.
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