Extracts from NS Legislature, COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE ON SUPPLY, APRIL 3, 2023
The extracts are of sections that pertain primarily to the implementation of the TRIAD.
Resolution E15 – Resolved that a sum not exceeding $142,579,000 be granted to the Lieutenant Governor to defray expenses in respect of the Department of Natural Resources and Renewables, pursuant to the Estimate.
THE CHAIR: I will now invite the Minister of Natural Resources and Renewables to make some opening comments and introduce the members of your team, should you choose.
HON. TORY RUSHTON:
Thousands of Nova Scotians make a living in the forests. In fact, hundreds are multi-generational foresters. These people care about keeping our forests healthy. They are making sure this sector is sustainable for the long haul. That’s our goal too – conserving biodiversity, nurturing healthy forests and good forest management for a sustainable industry. That’s where the triad model of ecological forestry comes in. As you know, this model was recommended by the independent forest practices review. Building this model on Crown land is the first item in my mandate letter. It’s a bold, new approach to forestry management in Nova Scotia. The model includes the conservation zone, the mixed-use zone, and the high-production zone.
The first zone we established is the conservation zone. That is 35 per cent of Crown lands conserved in protected areas and old-growth forests. This zone may grow as we work towards our goal of protecting 20 per cent of Nova Scotia’s land and water mass, but it will never shrink.
The second zone of the triad model that we established is the matrix or mixed-use zone. It makes up 55 per cent of Crown land. It is where timber harvesting is done with low-intensity practices. As of June 1st of last year, all but a handful of grandfathered harvest plans are following the new guide for this zone. To help with the adjustments, we’ve been offering more training for the forestry industry.
In January, we put the final zone in place. The high-production forest zone will be no more than 10 per cent of the Crown lands. High-production forestry is an efficient method of growing crops of spruce. It’s a lot like agriculture: you plant, grow, harvest, repeat. Because you are adding nutrients to the soil and using faster-growing seeds, your crop is ready for harvest in about half the time. This method will mainly be used on Crown lands that have already been used for forestry or agriculture. It will not be done in places like parks and protected areas, old-growth forests or sensitive habitat, amongst others.
We released the first three areas of the zone in January. By the end of this year, we’ll identify areas throughout the whole province. From there, licensees will work on establishing sites for tree farms, as we refer to it. This will take time. There’s only so much you can harvest and so much you can plant in the run of one year.
Together these zones are bringing Nova Scotia into a modern, advanced approach to forestry management and conservation. They give the sector enough access to timber on Crown land to be successful. We can also be sustainable, promote biodiversity, and move towards our protected areas of goals.
One of our next steps is to consult on the draft forest stewardship planning guide. This guide will provide licensees with the direction for the 20-year management plans. Those plans will ultimately be subject to an environmental assessment.
We’re offering opportunities for others to learn and adapt to these practices as well. We encourage that with annual silviculture funding.
Our provincial parks and protected areas promote biodiversity and conserve wildlife…That’s why we’re working on protecting at least 20 per cent of Nova Scotia’s total land and water mass by 2030. We’re working on this with colleagues in the Department of Environment and Climate Change, and with Mi’kmaw on Indigenous, protected, and conserved areas.
When you add up parks, protected areas, and lands managed under the Crown Lands Act, only 35 per cent of Nova Scotia’s land mass is in our hands. The vast majority of land is private. We need to be careful managers of Crown land to accommodate many
things: parks and protected areas, forestry, mining critical minerals to support clean energy technologies; and clean energy technologies themselves like wind turbines and solar gardens – and there’s a range of other uses.
On the money front, we’re doing that by focusing on critical minerals. Some examples are lithium, rare earth elements, tin, and zinc. They are essential raw materials for technology such as wind turbines, solar panels, and electric vehicles.
We’ve been consulting with stakeholders on a new critical mineral strategy for Nova Scotia
Another innovation that will drive our green economy and help us reach climate change goals is green hydrogen.
We’re going to get off coal and reach 80 per cent renewables by 2030.
CARMAN KERR: Thank you to the minister and staff for being here tonight. I don’t have much time, so I’ll jump right into it.
Within the Medway Community Forest Co-operative, the Nova Scotia Community Lands Trust, was developed, and developing and upholding the working forest community easements. The new trust will offer landowners an option to preserve the forests they steward. They’ll maintain the economic benefits through harvesting forest products, and they’ll provide access to carbon offset markets.
Tied to the property deed in perpetuity, the easement will require a certified forest management plan, and will prohibit intensive forest management land conversion and subdivision.
The Nova Scotia Working Woodlands Trust has supported a launch from several supporters, including the Forestry Innovation Transition Trust, the Canadian Wildlife Service, private land stewardship stakeholders, and over 10,000 acres of interested landowners, yet it is halted by delays within this department for being designated as an ineligible body in the Community Easements Act.
My first question to the minister is: Please explain in detail the steps required and the timeline for reviewing the application, and designating NSWWT as an eligible body in the Community Easements Act.
TORY RUSHTON: Yes, the applications go through the department. This is something that was in the Lahey review as well – about community working for us and such. When all the documentation is in place, that’s when the application actually gets under way and is started. That was only about six months ago. The initiative started awhile before, but the actual process started only about six months ago. It is still under review with the department.
I do want to point out that they don’t need the government to actually do the easements. They can have two lawyers actually do the easement for themselves on the outside of that. It’s actually not a step that they need government to take place in.
CARMAN KERR: Has the department spoken to this group about the other options?
TORY RUSHTON: There have been ongoing conversations back and forth from the department to that group.
CARMAN KERR: I’ve got a lot of questions for the Minister of Environment and Climate Change at this point. I’ll switch it over to high production. The landscape level assessment process is being applied to all eco-districts, last year and again this year. As assessments are completed and maps and information are released, there was talk of an online high-production forestry map. Is that online?
TORY RUSHTON: Is it just recently announced? No, that part is not online yet. As we move through this year, it’s our hope to have the whole matrix and the high production on that map viewer, once it’s established. Or – I don’t want to tie that to it – another link where you can actually go and see where the zones are allocated for the high production.
CARMAN KERR: I’m sorry, to the minister, I didn’t hear that last bit – no, but?
TORY RUSHTON: I’m just being corrected. The first three sites are actually on the map viewer now. The rest of them, as they come into works, working with the licence holder and the areas that are named, the rest of them will be on the map viewer as we allocate those sites.
This isn’t going to be a flick of the switch. It’s going to take a few years to get to that 10 per cent mark, but we do have a commitment to the sector that we’re going to work with them, hand in hand, to make sure they’re going to the right areas, for the right reasons, with the right aspects
CARMAN KERR: The minister just mentioned it will take a few years to get to this 10 per cent, or no more than 10 per cent. Does that mean three years or does that mean more than that?
TORY RUSHTON: Just to give you an example, we’re going to do as long as it takes. To give you an example of where we’re at right now, we’re at 0.5 per cent with those first three allocations, so it is going to take some time. I know the sector would love to have it done in two years. Others would like to see it prolonged even longer.
Obviously, it is going to take some time, but we are certainly committed to making sure that we allocate the proper lands, and not do it too speedily to allocate the wrong lands. It will be 10 per cent, it will be no more than 10 per cent. As we add more Crown lands through acquisitions or such things, you could see the land grow, but it will never be more than 10 per cent of the total Crown lands.
…If you put it all in a harvest year this year and allocate all 10 per cent, and it was ready to harvest every 30 years, you’d harvest 10 per cent of that land every year. So it has to be allocated throughout the whole process of a growth cycle, if you will. I think I’ve said that right. Hopefully the team is listening and won’t correct me later.
Lahey’s Recommendation No. 18 states that “DNR must ensure, as an immediate priority, that the Endangered Species Act is fully implemented on Crown land, including the completion of recovery plans that identify and make provisions for protection of core habitat for species at risk.” The department’s process for reviewing harvest plans has struggled with identifying important species at risk. One example would be Goldsmith Lake, in my back yard, in my constituency. Several members of the public have flagged the ecological importance of the forests there. It seems to have fallen through the harvest plan viewer process.
I think the Wildlife Branch at one point indicated that it will take time and more resources to develop better modelling. How does the department plan to address the documented – I’ll call them failures – of the Integrated Resource Management system to identify that habitat of legally protected species?
TORY RUSHTON: In that Goldsmith Lake harvest plan, in the original application, there were pieces of land that were actually removed because of what we knew. As people went out in public and saw that the process actually did its job and started to remove those pieces – as the public started going out and visiting – we had staff and sometimes contractors go out to identify what was being reported back to the department. We mitigated that by actually applying the policies that needed to be applied for what was found, such as the lichen, and extended the boundaries around where they could harvest.
That original application actually had pieces of land removed from the application because of what we knew on the ground.
CARMAN KERR: Will the department require an environmental assessment, as recommended by Lahey and agreed to by the province, when deciding whether to renew Northern Pulp’s utilization licence agreement – this July, I believe.
TORY RUSHTON: Sorry, I missed the very first part of that question.
CARMAN KERR: It’s around the environmental assessment requirement as recommended by Lahey, agreed to by the province, when deciding whether to renew Northern Pulp’s utilization licence agreement, I think by July.
TORY RUSHTON: Yes, it is recommended. I think it’s number 18 in the Lahey recommendations. Actually, I believe you said that. Now that I’m saying that, I remember it.
That is a process that is in the works, in collaboration with the Department of Environment and Climate Change, to set up those standards. Will they be enacted by the end of July of this year? I can’t commit that they’ll be finalized and finished, but that is the goal of this department – to get to the environmental assessment process. I actually made reference to that in my opening remarks, that eventually we want to get to that EA process and implement number 18, if you will.
CARMAN KERR: The question begs, why wasn’t that process in place before Port Hawkesbury Paper’s licence was renewed?
TORY RUSHTON: Very simply, it was a 20-year deal and there was an option to renew it at 10 years. That’s when Port Hawkesbury Paper actually did. They came in and made the application to have it extended out for the 10-year review.
CARMAN KERR: Does the minister have a target for protected areas in this mandate over the next two years?
TORY RUSHTON: In collaboration with the Department of Environment and Climate Change, our commitment was to finish off the Parks and Protected Areas plan and to develop the next stage plan for this calendar year, and start working on it right away. That was the mandate that was given to this.