Province announces $12 million for two projects aimed at developing a more sustainable forestry

·5 min read

Moves to a more ecological forestry in Nova Scotia received a boost recently when the province announced funding of $12 million for two new projects.

Trustees of the Forestry Innovation Transition Trust announced the funding on Oct. 15.

The Family Forest Network (FFN) is receiving more than $9.8 million for a five-year pilot project designed to assist private woodlot owners to adopt and maintain sustainable resource management practices, while the Forest Economic Task Force (FETF) will receive more than $2.6 million to develop a roadmap to sustain and grow the province’s forestry sector.

The trust is a $50 million fund formed by the province of Nova Scotia in February 2020. It is meant to grant funds to projects that focus on accelerating new opportunities within the forestry sector to enhance environmental, social and economic values and the adoption of new ecological forestry practices.

The funding for the projects is “gated” and will be released once certain goals and deliverables have been met according to a timeline.

The FFN research project will include a large-scale pilot of ecologically sensitive forest treatments to a wide range of privately-owned woodlots across the province. There will be a special emphasis on restoring degraded stands to their natural diversity and productivity.

The network consists of 11 organizations that encompass an estimated 12,590 small woodland owners. It was the first and largest group of forestry service providers to publicly endorse and practise the recommendations of the Independent Review of Forest Practices in Nova Scotia, commonly referred to as the Lahey report.

The project will involve 200 private woodlot owners who are willing to have research done on their land.

Andy Kekacs, a spokesperson for FFN, said among the initial tasks will be to hire a project scientist who will help them design a research project involving the parcels of land and their owners. They will also be seeking woodlot owners who are interested in getting involved in the project.

“We will then identify 30 to 50 ecologically sensitive treatments that might be done on a variety of forest stand conditions, soils and other factors throughout the province and implement those treatments, where appropriate,” said Kekacs, who is also the executive director of the Nova Scotia Woodlot Owners and Operators Association.

The FFN is the starting point for woodland stewards who want to learn more about the forest practices that mimic natural processes, promote biodiversity and restore ecosystem health.

The organizations within the FNN will be taking on certain tasks, leaning on their expertise.

Among the organizations involved in the project is the Mersey Tobeatic Research Institute (MTRI), led by co-director Jane Barker, who was previously the forest stewardship lead at MTRI and is also a woodlot owner.

“The idea is that this is an overarching research project that initially the Nova Scotia Woodlot Owners and Operators will oversee,” she said. “The idea of FFN is that it incorporates partners from across the province who are already doing great work, but this will coordinate everything more fully.”

Barker suggested that although participants will be coming from different directions, combined the group is a “rounded, whole package.” She added there is a conscientious effort on behalf of all entities to incorporate more Indigenous values.

MTRI’s expertise or “plug-in” is species at risk and biodiversity.

“It’s working within the already ecological forestry type of harvesting or management that the foresters will be doing. We will look at structural features, wildlife features or features that benefit wildlife on their woodlot,” said Barker. “We will look at things like age diversity of the trees, species diversity, the importance of deadwood, the importance of wetlands and kind of flagging hotspots for wildlife and making recommendations.”

Other groups represented include Community Forests International of Sackville, experts on carbon sequestration. The Nova Scotia Community College is involved and will bring training and education to the table.

Barker and Kekacs both agreed that woodlot owners are concerned about the long-term future for their lands and most want to learn more about preserving the land for future generations.

“I think there is a real thirst for help when it comes to forest management. It is well researched that land-owners really care about wildlife and biodiversity on their woodlots, but there’s maybe a lack of help and support for that kind of thing,” said Barker.

“In the meantime, more species are being listed as at-risk and our biodiversity is dwindling, so I think there is a real need for restoration and helping landowners do the right thing on their land.”

While it’s a five-year pilot project, the goals are long-term. According to Kekacs, the hope is that the research brings forward a need for a centre for these kinds of issues as they relate to small private landowners.

He noted the Maritimes have a much higher percentage of land owned by private owners than the rest of Canada.

“Our contention is, and what we’ll pitch to the federal government, is that the unique characteristics of ownership in the Maritimes merit a regional centre,” he said.

Incorporated in November 2020, the FETF will use its funding to oversee an industry-led, collaborative approach to identify key economic challenges, market trends and opportunities for the industry over the next two years.

Kevin McBain, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, LighthouseNOW Progress Bulletin

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