NS Triad

The “Nova Scotia Triad”,   the topic of this website,  refers to the Triad System of Forest Management as recommended in An Independent Review of Forest Practices in Nova Scotia (aka, the Forest Practices Report, the Lahey Report), submitted to government and the  public of Nova Scotia on Aug 21, 2018.

In a nutshell: “Triad forest management is a form of zoning under which land is allocated into extensively managed, intensively managed, and reserve zones, with management tailored in each zone such that all objectives are met collectively across the landbase. ” (Montigny and Maclean, 2006).

As applied in N.S., the extensively managed zones are termed the “Ecological Matrix”, the intensively managed zones, the “High Production Forestry (HPF) sites,  and the reserve zones, the “Protected Lands”.

It is not surprising that Triad Forest Management was a key recommendation of the Independent Review: two members of the Advisory Group for the Independent Review,  Robert Seymour and Malcolm Hunter*  developed the concept of Triad Forestry, introducing it  at the national convention for the Society of American Foresters in 1991.
* Currently, Seymour is Professor Emeritus of Silviculture at the University of Maine; Hunter is Professor Emeritus of Wildlife Ecology, also at the University of Maine.

Triad Forest Management has attracted  wide interest, but has been formally implemented in only a few jurisdictions; Nova Scotia’s implementation of the systems on 1.8 million hectares of Crown land is the “largest scale implementation of the triad” yet (Austin Hines, Sep 2020). Prof Seymour  continued to be involved with the implementation of the Triad in N.S. after the Lahey Report was submitted.


As of July 2, 2022, only one aspect of the Triad has been put in place: the management practices for the Ecological Matrix are described in the Silvicultural Guide for the Ecological Matrix (SGEM). The Guide was published in July 2021. As of June 1, 2022, most new harvests on Crown land must follow this guide.

Some Protected forest lands already exist.

The HPF Phase 1 Final Report (July 2021) describes the practices for HPF (High Production Forestry) and how HPF sites will be selected but the actual sites where HPF will be practiced have not been announced.

Approximately 1/3rd of forested land in Nova Scotia is Crown land (federal and provincial), while 2/3rds is privately owned, most by smaller land holders.


From Austin Hines, 30 years of triad forestry: an interview with Dr. Robert Seymour (Sep 2020):

I asked Dr. Seymour to describe triad in his own words. “Triad is just a generic word for a three-part thing,” he responded. “We tend to get into these win lose arguments about the right kind of forestry, but this is a fallacy, there isn’t any one right kind of forestry.” Triad, he explained was proposed as an alternative based on the belief that people benefit from having multiple types of forestry practiced across the landscape.

“The origin of the idea was dissatisfaction with the way things were,” Dr. Seymour continued. He explained that there was increasing pressure to manage for non-timber objectives like biodiversity. “[Dr. Hunter] was an early advocate for ecological reserves as benchmarks. If we are going to manage for biodiversity it is arrogant to think we know how to do that, so we need natural benchmarks for comparison.” The problem, Dr. Seymour explained was producing enough wood for the timber industry while being able to set aside some forests as reserves. “I had done some work suggesting Maine was facing wood shortages, [but] if [managers] practice intensive, forestry on a small number of areas, they could get higher production. Why not ratchet up management in some places and back off in others? It’s just more efficient.” The rest of the forest would buffer reserves from intensively managed areas and support wood production at a lower rate but also support biodiversity and other ecological values. These “matrix” forests could make-up the bulk of the landscape.

“The concept is pretty straight forward,” Dr. Seymour explained. “It tends to be accepted by the public because it is a win-win deal. Triad has something for everybody. The biggest challenge is understanding that the matrix is not a ‘low management area,’ it is as intensive or more intensive than the production area. It takes a lot of work and knowledge to manage under ecological forestry. The matrix should contribute as much or more than [reserves and plantations] to societal goals, both in terms of conservation values and timber production.”

Dr. Seymour went on to explain, “ecological forestry includes autecology but more significantly it incorporates disturbance ecology.” He suggested silviculture under ecological forestry in the matrix should mimic nature disturbance severity and return intervals and provide a complete range of habitats. “Nature knows best, and [ecological forestry] follows nature’s templates for management.”

“It’s hard to get people to acknowledge that ecological forestry stands are working too!”

Despite the importance of the ecologically managed matrix to the triad, Dr. Seymour claimed it is the hardest part to find support for. “There is very little public constituency for the ecologically managed matrix. In the public eye, land is either harvested or it is preserved, and it is difficult for people to understand the benefits of ecological forest management. It’s hard to get people to acknowledge that ecological forestry stands are working too!”

Despite the challenges, the triad has had a significant influence on forest management around the globe over the last 30-years. Drs. Seymour and Hunter first presented the concept at the 1991 Society of American Foresters national convention in San Francisco and based on the reception published a bulletin describing the triad. “Usually you print 50 copies of these bulletins and retire with 40 of them in a box,” Dr. Seymour explained, but more than 2000 copies of the triad bulletin were distributed in the first year. The triad approach has influenced forest management policy in Maine, Chile and Australia. It has shaped the management of private timber companies. Just this year, Nova Scotia has begun the largest scale implementation of the triad approach in a plan for managing approximately 1.8 million hectares of provincial forests.