Forest fires rage in Nova Scotia, Premier bans forest activities, but not those of forestry 1Jun2023

In Nova Scotia, forestry operations are not  required to pause during nesting season, or even to reduce the risk of igniting a fire during the worst fire season ever.

Halifax area weather June 2 onward
Click on image for larger version

UPDATE June 4, 2023: A  significant rain break beginning late June 2; much better control achieved by June 4 – see NRR News Release
UPDATE June 3, 2023: Liberal leader calls for a halt to all forestry activity until Nova Scotia gets rain
UPDATE June 1, 2023: Nova Scotia wildfires put timber harvesting on hold
Bill Spurr Saltwire, June 1, 2023 “Wildfires in Nova Scotia are damaging employment at the same time they’re destroying homes…“Loggers on Crown land are permitted to work at night due to the lower temperatures and lower wind speeds, which significantly reduce the chance of uncontrolled starts and spreads of fire.”
UPDATE: Also view “Safety is our top priority,” unless you’re a logging company, then the profit motive is by Linda Pannozzo in the Quaking Swamp Journal, May 31, 2023

Evening sun, Halifax area on May 28, 2023. Forest fires are raging in the province – See NASA

I just read a letter by Annapolis Valley naturalist Bev Wigney sent yesterday to  Premier Houston and NRR Minister Tory Rushton in which she appeals to them to to “shut down forestry operations completely, with *no loopholes*”.

I  had read yesterday the headline and first few lines in the news about the ban:

‘For God’s sake, stop burning’: N.S. premier bans all activity in forests, urges residents to abide by burn ban (CTV Atlantic news May 31, 2023)… Premier Tim Houston has banned all activity in forests as of Tuesday, and says the wildfire damage is “extensive” and “heartbreaking.”

I  felt encouraged the premier had acted so forcefully in this instance so I wondered if Bev Wigney had made a mistake – the headlines had announced that all activity in forests is banned.

She didn’t.

At the bottom  of the CTV Atlantic article, the  following info is given (also view NS Government Press Release), bolding inserted:


Under the new restrictions on activity in the woods Nova Scotians can access beaches, provincial and municipal parks, but trail systems are off limits and camping is allowed only in campgrounds. The restrictions apply to crown and private land. Private landowners are free to use their own properties, but cannot host others in the wooded areas of their property.

Forestry, mining and any commercial activity on crown land is also restricted. Forestry companies working on crown land can only work between 8 p.m. and 10 a.m.

These restrictions are in place until at least June 25. 

My reaction, borrowing a few words of emphasis from the Premier: For God’s Sake, Mr. Premier,  forestry can surely take a break until after we have had a good rain!

The Ovenbird nests on the forest floor  in the forest interior. It is hard to spot, even by bird-watchers. Ovenbirds are very vocal when you get close to it… but would not likely be heard above the noise of forestry vehicles and machinery. Similarly, nests of many other species are not be  readily spotted and avoided during forestry operations.

It’s not the first time Bev Wigney has railed against the timing of forestry activities. She has repeatedly led the call by birders and other naturalists in NS for a quiet period during nesting season.

So far thats been to no avail under the McNeil/Rankin Liberal Governments, or under their successor,  the Houston PC Government – and under successive federal governments, re the Migratory Birds Convention Act.

View BW’s Letter to Honourable Minister of Environment and Climate Change Canada, Steven Guilbeault, May 10, 2022.

So  forestry activity continues in the forest of Nova Scotia, the birds and the fires notwithstanding.

Bev Wigney’s Letter  of May 31, 2023 : (bolding inserted)

Hon. Minister Rushton
cc: MLA Carman Kerr (Annapolis)

I’m writing to state what should be obvious to everyone who is familiar with current forest conditions. *Everyone* needs to be out of the forests until such time as weather conditions change and the risk of wildfires ceases. Allowing entry with heavy harvesting equipment and logging trucks into any forest, whether on Crown or private land, whether by day or night, and whether with a permits to do so or not, is foolhardy and asking for the kind of trouble that no one needs at this time. It is incredulous that forestry is permitted to continue when the forests are dry as a bone. Mosses are so dried out that they are crispy like tinder. Typical slash such as chopped up branches are desiccated and easily ignited.

Are you not aware of past fires that have been started by machinery malfunctions that caused fires that couldn’t be extinguished by the crews and led to wildfires? Many of us are well aware of at least one very bad fire in recent years that started this way, and it is common knowledge among people living near forests that there have been other similar incidents even though the cause was downplayed.

Further, do you not know that steel tracked machinery driving over granite — which is just about everywhere in Nova Scotia forests — can produce sparks that can easily start a fire? Do you not think that at least some of the heavy equipment operators and logging truck drivers might be smokers? I have been out to cut blocks and cigarette butts, oil cans and other trash are often seen discarded on the ground. Why is it that we are being so trusting of forestry workers, but don’t have similar trust for hikers, dog walkers, anglers and others to be careful?

Is it any wonder that the big logging companies in New Brunswick have built custom water tankers on forwarding machines for wildfire fighting in case of incidents and other risks during forestry operations? Why do you think such machines are necessary if there is no risk even during less risky times? And yet here we are, a province without such machines and even having to depend on water bombers and other aerial support from *other provinces* as we have almost nothing of our own. If we don’t have the proper equipment to operate safely during high risk fire conditions, we shouldn’t even be in the forests at all.

All of us are being asked to stay out of the forests. I think we can all appreciate why and I have heard few complaints from fellow citizens. We have DNRR wildfire crews pushed to the limit. We have volunteer fire departments having to travel far out of their home bases to spend time fighting fires, leaving our own communities without proper protection. We all understand the extreme danger. So, why are we further endangering all of our communities by allowing harvesting operations to continue in the forests right around our rural homes? There are already reports of harvesting continuing unabated in broad daylight on private lands here in the Annapolis Valley. Apparently there aren’t enough DNRR staff to check on the safety of these activities. This is all incredibly irresponsible and it has to stop before we have *yet another* catastrophic fire burning out of control with no one available to contain it.

I ask you to shut down forestry operations completely, with *no loopholes* that are allowing “some operators” to carry on risking all of our lives and properties.

Bev Wigney
Admin for Annapolis Environment & Ecology Group (1,400 members)



Forest fires started by ‘machine tracks’ prompt calls for temporary ban on logging
Emma Smith, Phlis McGregor · CBC News · Posted: Jun 25, 2020. “Nova Scotia government says it’s monitoring conditions, but won’t commit to halting forestry activity”

NS Forest Fires 2023
Page on this website

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Post on May 19, 2023

Sep 11, 2018: Forest fires on the upswing in Nova Scotia
Post in Nova Scotia Forest Notes, Sep 11, 2018

Naturalist writes impassioned letter to Nova Scotia Premier McNeil to cease roadside clearing operations during nesting season, appeals to others to also write 30Jun2020
Post in Nova Scotia Forest Notes, June20, 2020 View more posts related to birds and forestry

Letter: Walking on eggshells – Migratory birds and the forestry industry
By Lindsay Lee – April 29, 2021 in NS Advocate “”A 2013 study estimated that forestry operations in our province destroy up to 160,000 nests each year.”

On Avian Mortality Associated with Human Activities
In Avian Conservation and Ecology Dec 2013. Page lists related research papers in this special issue of Avian Conservation and Ecology.

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