The provincial trust fund for forestry innovation is betting big on a project that aims to prove the economic viability of a more sustainable approach to managing Nova Scotia's woods.
The Family Forest Network is getting $9.8 million for a five-year pilot project that will involve ecologically sensitive forest treatments on about 200 small private woodlots around the province. The funding was announced last Friday.
Andy Kekacs, a member of the network's steering committee, said the group will spend the next six to nine months reaching out to landowners and looking for people interested in participating.
"It really represents a new era for forest stewardship in our province," he said.
"This is a departure from the practices of the last 50 years and a move toward saying that we can do economically viable forestry that also considers other values and protects them in the process of creating some income."
Efforts to expand markets
A big part of the work will be exposing contractors to an approach promoted in the Lahey review of forestry practices, which called for a major reduction of clear cutting on Crown land.
The funding will help contractors become more comfortable with the costs of the work and how to make it financially viable, said Kekacs.
"Right now, Nova Scotia's forest production system is built around clear cutting, and we're suggesting that there's a different way to do things consistent with what Bill Lahey recommended three years ago. And the number of contractors who are willing and able to do that at the moment is fairly small," he said.
Friday's announcement also included $2.6 million for the industry-led Forestry Economic Task Force.
Allan Eddy, a member of the task force and business development manager at Port Hawkesbury Paper, said they'll spend the next two years building a plan for the sector that considers new and different economic opportunities.
Putting things in a Nova Scotia context
Eddy said the lumber boom during the pandemic highlighted the need for value-added products and the opportunities that could exist. In particular, Eddy said they're looking at how wood could replace the use of other products, such as petroleum.
"Virtually anything that can be made from petroleum can be made from wood and wood products," he said.
"But it's not just as simple as saying, 'Well, there's this technology or there is this product and look how much money it can make.'"
Eddy said the group must also understand how any opportunities work in the context of Nova Scotia's wood supply, capacity to meet demand, size of the workforce and social concerns.
"That whole range of questions are things that we're going to be looking at," he said.
The $50-million trust was established in the wake of the shutdown of the Northern Pulp mill. To date, nine projects have received a total of $22.8 million.
The next round of applications for funding runs until Nov. 15.
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