Application of EA or EA type of process to FULAs (Forest Utilization License Agreement) was seen by Prof Lahey as a critical “to bring transparency and accountability to the [planning] process and to mitigate the concerns about how DNR internally manages its competing responsibilities”. Yet, there has been no mention of an EA or equivalent process in NRRs recent announcement that its FULA with Port Hawkesbery Paper has now been extended to 2043. I asked Prof. Peter Duinker, the chief architect of the EA process, “What happened to the EA?”. Evidently he has the same question.
I saw the NRR Press release Port Hawkesbury Paper Agreements Extended, Renewed (NRR Feb 8, 2023) and wondered immediately what happened to the EA (Environmental Assessment) process that I understood from the Lahey Report was supposed to apply to such agreements in future.
I figured a person who would know and might answer my question would be Dalhousie University Emeritus Professor Peter Duinker. Prof. Duinker proposed the EA process when he served as an Expert Advisor to Independent Review of Forestry Practices (see Addendum to Lahey Report, pages 99-100), clear recommendations were made to implement such a process in the Lahey Report, an Environmental Assessment project team was formed within L&F to move it all ahead and finally Prof Duinker served as a member of the consulting team contracted to develop the process.
To my surprise, Prof Duinker has the same question – I received this response shortly after I wrote to him:
Jan 10, 2023
Sure, quote me verbatim.
First, a reminder of Lahey’s recommendation #20 (emphasis mine):
“20. The forestry management planning process for Crown lands should be conducted under a legislated environmental assessment process, either as a Class II environmental assessment under the Environment Act or in a process that emulates the Class II process under the supervision of an independent third party (or panel) under the authority of the Minister of Natural Resources or the Ministers of Natural Resources and Environment. This process should be required before the issuing or renewal of forest utilization agreements. One of the objectives of this assessment will be to ensure that forestry on Crown land will adhere to the principles of, and contribute to the objectives of, ecological forestry, as embodied in the strengthened framework for ecosystem-based forestry and the outcome-based accountability to be applicable to areas of Crown land managed for high-production forestry.”
The consulting team of which I was a part filed a “final draft” of the Forest Stewardship Planning Standard with DNR sometime in the middle of 2021. Like many interested parties in the province, I await its release for public review. I have no factual understanding of why such a public review may be held up. An EA process or an EA-like process would need to have a development proposal in hand that would be the subject of the EA, and I see the Forest Stewardship Plan as equivalent to a development proposal. With no Standard in place to guide planning, a Forest Stewardship Plan cannot be created. Meanwhile, Port Hawkesbury Paper got a renewal this week of its Forest Utilization License Agreement. This is clearly not the order of events that Lahey saw as logical, and I agree with his assessment.
Peter N. Duinker, PhD
School for Resource and Environmental Studies, Dalhousie University
Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada B3H 4R2
Co-Principal, Sylveritas Ltd.
I have to admit that I don’t understand all of the nuances of Prof. Duinker’s comments, but it’s clear that questions need to be asked of NRR Minister Rushton/The Houston Government and of PHP (Port Hawkesbury Paper). Clearly, at one point earlier on in the Houston Government tenure, PHP intended to go through with the process, as laborious a it might be – see figure at right and Draft Nova Scotia Forestry EA Process surfaces (NSFN post May 21, 2021)
These are questions I have:
- Why was the EA type process not conducted?
- Did the government or PHP or both get impatient with the process?
- Did NRR/PHP figure no one was really concerned with it anyway? I suggest that could be the case, otherwise there would have been some mention of a developing EA in the NRR News Release. It seems that no one besides myself writing on nsforestnotes.ca (and subsequently on versicolor.ca/nstriad) has been asking any questions about the Forestry EA. I attribute that mostly to poor communication about the Forestry EA Project by L&F and ongoing under NRR/the Houston government – there was never more than a pittance of information about the development of an EA type of process released to the public by L&F/NRR/the EA Project Team on their Ecological Forestry website.
As well, I think the public perception has been that regardless, the main venue of informing the public about forestry plans for Crown lands was and would continue to be the Forestry Maps tool and notices sent to subscribers (see Harvest Operation Maps). While there was still criticism of that process, following the tabling of the Lahey Report in Aug of 2018, several groups with ecological & social concerns about ongoing forestry practices on Crown lands public were becoming quite proficient in monitoring the harvest plan notices and in some instances following up with their own investigations of the Crown land sites, and as appropriate, appealing the plans, and in some cases taking direct action to stop imminent harvesting.* There were some notable ‘successes’, and I think some sense had/has developed that ‘the process is working for us’; combined with the lack of public information and discussion of the EA process, perhaps that accounts for a general lack of public concern about the EA process. *See for example Nova Scotia Old Growth Ground Zero and AP068499 Beals Meadow on NSFN.
On the other hand, the EA process was clearly seen by Lahey as accomplishing a lot more than simply replacing or supplementing the Forestry Maps process and to be a vital component in the implementation of his recommendations.
On EAs, From the Lahey Report, Conclusions (bolding inserted)
77. The rationale for requiring FULA holders to complete a legislatively mandated forest management plan through a Class II environmental assessment – or a process akin to that kind of environmental assessment – is multi-faceted. It is explained in greater detail in the paper on environmental assessment and forestry by Professor Peter Duinker, found in the Addendum to this report. Such a process will fill a gap in the management system for forestry on Crown land with a process like the one followed in some other provinces. It will ensure that the public has an opportunity to have input at a level and scale where the decisions are made that will guide many harvesting decisions over a wide landscape and over multiple years. It will bring important elements of independence, transparency, and participation to a process that is now seen to be compromised by the double mandate of DNR, the self interest of forestry companies, and a high level of opaqueness. Further, it will help to ensure that ecological forestry principles, concepts, and methods are incorporated into the plans that guide licensees in their harvesting planning and activities and in their operational decision making at the stand level.
78. A legislated forestry management process conducted as a Class II environmental assessment – or in a comparable process under an independent third party (or panel) – has the potential to accomplish a range of objectives:
a. It will bring transparency to the management of Crown land for forestry production and provide the public with a meaningful opportunity to contribute to Crown land management at a strategic level of decision making.
b. It will help to ensure that forestry is conducted on Crown lands in ways that are compatible with the full range of values applicable to the management of public lands, with the activities of other users of Crown lands, and with activities taking place on neighbouring lands.
c. It will help to embed the principles and values of ecosystem based forestry (or of ecological forestry) into the plans that will then inform operational planning and harvesting decisions.
d. It will bring a significant measure of institutional independence from DNR to the planning of forestry on Crown land.
e. It will create opportunities for stronger and continuing relationships between operators and their stakeholders and mechanisms for ongoing dialogue with those stakeholders through the process of a plan’s ongoing implementation.
f. It will facilitate and enable customized application of the principles of ecosystem based forestry to account for relevant regional differences.
g. If done properly, with openness and transparency and based on strong science, it will reduce the pressure for intense scrutiny by DNR or the public of individualized harvesting decisions.
So this all raises another question for NRR/Houston government/PHP: precisely what is to be the public process for reviewing the harvests on lands managed under FULAs going forward? All that is said about it in the News Release is this Quick Fact: “the company must still go through the Integrated Resource Management process for approvals to harvest on Crown land”. Searching ‘Integrated Resource Management process’ on novascotia.ca doesn’t help much.
I have fielded a question about the recent NRR announcement – are people concerned about it? – and indeed there are serious concerns, if not about the EA, about the harvesting on PHP lands in eastern Nova Scotia. In particular questions are being raised about the
Lake Ainslee area harvesting revealed by a Forestry Maps announcement on January 10, 2023.
For myself, following the “forests and forestry file for NS” and actively participating in public engagement processes fairly intensively since 2008 and more casually since the 1970s, it all has the feel that “we’ve been here before”. Public uproars about over-harvesting/forest degradation are followed by government reviews and promises to reform and many documents… but in the end, it is mostly the language that changes.
The current government has gone one step further than its PC, NDP, and Liberal predecessors during that period by pretty well expunging the public history of these processes. A case in point: the 2012 FULA with PHP while still listed in searches on novscotia.ca is no longer available on that site. (With a little searching, it can be found on the web archive). Nor can a lot else be found in the now very stripped down DNR/L&F/NRR website, for example documents related to the Natural Resources Strategy process. It seems that the Strategy for Improving Openness, Transparency, Collaboration and Accountability at the Department of Lands and Forestry (2019) has gone by the wayside.
A more positive take on it all is given in a CBC News Report:
N.S. agreements aim for balance on ecological forestry, economy
Tom Ayers · CBC News · Posted: Feb 10, 2023 Byline: “Government, Port Hawkesbury Paper and Ecology Action Centre say renewed deals meet goals of 2018 Lahey Report”
The article notes that “Under its forest utilization licence, the paper company can harvest up to 275,000 tonnes of timber annually from Crown lands, which is down from 400,000 tonnes”.
PHP manager of business development Geoff Clarke is cited as saying: “Port Hawkesbury Paper agrees with the changes…Taking less Crown timber will mean a shift to the private sector…”It’s the way it has to be, It’s part of the premise to look more towards the private lands to make up the difference of the drop in the allowable harvest off of Crown land. It shouldn’t have an impact on the amount of fibre that’s available.”
NRR Minister Rushton is reported to say that ‘the full implementation of the so-called triad model of forest management recommended by Lahey.’
All of which still leaves still me and apparently Prof. Duinker with the question
- What happened to the EA?
I also wonder about ongoing/future agreements related to WestFor management of Crown lands in southwestern NS.
And the comments by Geoff Clarke raise another question for me:
- If the harvesting is simply shifted to the already highly harvested and ecologically degraded private forestry lands in eastern NS to spare some of the Crown lands, are we really accomplishing anything at all in regard to reversing losses in Forest Biodiversity, and using our forests to help mitigate climate change in Nova Scotia?
Perhaps we are. But without publicly accessible, detailed and preferably independent accounting, we really don’t know.
Apologies for a lengthy rant and thanks to Prof Duinker for being very forthcoming in his response to my question. – david p
Jan 10, 2020
I saw the NRR Press release re: Port Hawkesbury Paper Agreements Extended, Renewed and wondered immediately what happened to the EA process that I understood was supposed to apply to such projects.
I plan to write a post about it on versicolor.ca/nstriad – my successor to nsforestnotes.ca, hence the question to you as an advocate of this process re: Lahey Report, and subsequently as a consultant in its development.
Any comments appreciated; as you would agree I would cite you ver batim.
– david p
David G Patriquin
Professor of Biology (retired)
MORE EXTRACTS RELATED TO EA IN THE LAHEY REPORT
“Environmental Assessment” is cited 20 times. I think these paragraphs (written by Bill Lahey) provide a good sense of the intended use and importance of EAs:
3.8 Conclusions on the Department of Natural Resources
141. Judging by what I heard in this Review, there is a general lack of trust and confidence in DNR shared by people who otherwise strongly disagree on forestry practices and other forestry issues. Those opposed to how forestry is currently conducted argue that the department is beholden to industrial interests, pointing to its failure or refusal to implement the commitments contained in the natural resources strategy and the number of former Bowater employees who are now in senior DNR positions. Those in the forestry business complain of the politicization of the decision-making process, both in making policy that lacks scientific basis and economic realism and in making public opposition (or its absence) the litmus test for approving forestry operations on Crown lands. On both sides, there is sharp criticism of DNR’s science and of its tendency to do science in‐house, with limited resources, without engagement with external academic experts, including through the peer review process.
142. Some believe a departmental realignment of responsibilities is needed, with
responsibility for stewardship of Crown lands in one department, such as Environment or a DNR without responsibility for forestry, and responsibility for the business of forestry in another, such as Business. The rationale is to eliminate the conflict of interests embedded in DNR’s current mandate for stewardship and economic development. I question whether I have the mandate or the evidence to make such a recommendation. I am skeptical of what it would achieve, even if it could be done in alignment with the mandates of other departments, which is debatable. If the underlying diagnosis of the problem is accurate, it could simply replace the hierarchy within DNR between the stewardship and forestry mandates of the department with a hierarchy between the department that is responsible for stewardship and the department responsible for the business of forestry. Also, what is needed is an approach that achieves integration among the ecological, social, and economic aspects of forests and forestry. Further fragmentation of authority between departments will not make that easier but harder.
143. I have instead concluded that forestry on Crown lands should be governed by a forest
management planning process under which “FULA holders” will be required to develop a
forest management plan for the lands they are to manage through a Class II environmental
assessment under the Environment Act or a process under the supervision of an
independent third party that emulates such an environmental assessment. In either case,
there should be a written report to the deciding minister or ministers and a decision with supporting written reasons from the minister or ministers. The requirement for such plans
developed through a public process is a level of forest management on Crown lands –
required in other jurisdictions – that is missing in Nova Scotia. It is a level that should be instituted however forestry is to be conducted on public lands, but it is especially important if Nova Scotia is serious about conducting ecosystem-based forestry on a landscape basis. Other provinces use environmental assessment, or a process like
environmental assessment, to conduct this level of planning, including using it as a vehicle to facilitate the public’s participation in forestry at a strategic planning level. Doing so in Nova Scotia under the authority of the Minister of Environment creates an opportunity to bring transparency and accountability to the process and to mitigate the concerns about how DNR internally manages its competing responsibilities.
144. The other opportunity created by such a process is to reduce DNR’s micromanagement of forestry on Crown lands. It would do this by making it clear that the industry is responsible for conducting forestry, including silviculture, in accordance with a forestry management plan transparently developed with public participation through a process overseen by an independent third party, not DNR or industry. Above, I lay out the advantages of extracting DNR from operational decision making, except as a regulator. Here, I only reiterate that it would on the one hand increase DNR’s opportunity to be an effective policy maker and regulator and on the other hand allow industry to achieve efficiency and operational predictability.
SOME RELATED POSTS & PAGES ON NS FOREST NOTES, & ON VERSICOLOR.CA/NSTRIAD
Nova Scotia Government: ‘Triad forestry model is complete’ but Landscape-level Biodiversity plan and EA component are still lacking 18Jan2023
Post on versicolor.ca/nstriad Jan 18, 2023.
What’s left to do to implement the Forest Triad in Nova Scotia by 2023? Plenty 13Jul2022
Post on versicolor.ca/nstriad Jul 13, 2022.
Draft Nova Scotia Forestry EA Process surfaces 21May2021
Post on NSFN May 21, 2021
Page on a section of NSFN reviewing the public consultations related the the Lahey recommendations.
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