NN on old Forests

Nina Newington on Save Our Old Forests

‘Working on an “abbreviated transcript”.

Thank you very much for having me here and for the work that the society does.

I’m going to talk mostly about the Goldsmith Lake Wilderness Area both for itself and as an example of what a group of citizens can do in trying to protect an area.

Save Old Forest Campaign

I’m going to start with our overall campaign, focusing at the beginning on Annapolis County, but the Save Old Forest campaign has now spread; I think we have got petitions going in half of the counties of the province including Halifax County.

So if you haven’t signed it yet, there’s a petition  and if you’re up for collecting signatures, take one of those sheet; there’s an address to send it to at the bottom.

So this campaign grew in large part out of the feeling of just desperation and frustration at what’s happening to the planet and  the crises of climate [change] and biodiversity loss,  of nature loss… and trying to think of something that we can do.

A really obvious starting place  in Nova Scotia and in fact many places of the world, is really, to try and protect forests. And particularly to try and protect the Old Forests.

So this grew out of a conjunction of the Arlington Forest Protection Society which is a small nonprofit in Annapolis County and a rather grandly named but really quite loose and ragged group called The Citizen Scientists of Southwest Nova Scotia because I had to come up with a name.

So, and that [on the slide] by the way, is a Blackburnian Warbler;  it’s one of the species of birds dependent on Old Forests. XXXXXXXXIt has had the most catastrophic decline of all of the old species in Nova Scotia between and it’s had a 75 CHECK % decline in its population and the map that study reveals very clearly that that’s linked to the loss of old forest habitat.

So the loss of habitat, I think many of you know that there’s been a tremendous amount of clearcutting in particular over the last years. This is from Global Forest Watch; it’s a satellite map showing Forest Cover Loss in Annapolis county; that’s the pink patches -many of those will grow back as young Forest but it’s loss of forest and it’s often loss of Old Forest over the course of the next years; this is what happened.

So when we’re talking about the need to protect Old Forest there’s just not that much left. I looked at the similar map for Halifax County and it’s pretty pretty much the same when you go to the eastern half of the province of the county.

So when you see something like this there’s two things happening with that clear cutting: one is for degradation meaning the forests have become younger and simpler and support less biodiversity; and the other thing is habitat fragmentation which is one of the major causes for biodiversity loss. You look at this and you can see that it’s basically been chopped to heck and how something like the Mainland Moose would travel through that landscape is a real question.

So when we’re talking about protecting, we’re really talking about protecting Old Forests but also trying to put together contiguous areas even if they include some younger forest so that you start to have patches that are beginning to recover and already have some level of biodiversity, seed trees and a species base.

On Nova Scotia’s commitment to Protect 20% of our land and water

4.04  So the good news, the PCs ran on the promise of protecting 20 %; they outstripped the liberals who were promising 17%. They obviously both knew that people actually care about this, and to their credit when the PCs came in,  they put that electoral pledge into legislation.

Unfortunately they’ve done not very much at all since then.  So there’s the commitment… at the moment Nova Scotia has about 13 % of land and water protected which is actually better than any other Maritime Province; there’s about another 1% that’s sort of in the queue, ‘has already pretty much been approved for protection but has been sitting there for a very long time.Tt should be easy pickings but it’s just winding its way remarkably slowly and none of this seems to have grasped the urgency of the crisis that we’re facing.

But the remaining 6% to get us to that 20% is quite substantial – it’s 330,000 hectares; that’s the equivalent of three Tobeatic wildernesses – it’s a lot of land. If it’s protected will move another… if it all comes from Crown land, and most of it will just for financial reasons,  it will move another 18% of Crown land into protection.  CHECKED TO HERE.

So it’s a very important goal. It’s modest compared to the global biodiversity framework that was signed in Montreal last December where 186 countries pledged to protect 30% by 20130; so it’s not a crazy goal, it’s a it’s a moderate one that the government has made a legal commitment to and we really need to hold them to that.

6:09 So one of the questions is, well what are you going to protect? So which Forest should we protect? Basically we need to protect the oldest forests that we can, for the very simple reason that forests take a long time to develop lots and lots of different habitats; and there’s really no substitute for 100 years – you can’t make it happen quicker.

So a complex forest with lots of nooks and crannies, otherwise known as micro-habitats, is going to be able to support many more forms of life than a young simple Forest.

In Nova Scotia, people tend to, I noticed when I say “Old Forest” they go “Old Growth!”, and that’s actually not what we’re talking about. For one, well there are a couple of reasons but the main one is in the latest iteration of the Nova Scotia’s Old Growth Forest Policy, all old growth forest on Crown land is afforded protection as soon as DNR recognizes it as Old growth; there is a bit of a provisor which we’ll get to later.

But basically, if it’s recognized as Old Growth, it is given what’s called Policy Protection; it’s not quite as good as Wilderness Area protection but it’s basically solid protection.

7:35 So what we’re more focused on is the forest that’s going to become Old Growth if you leave it alone for 40 years, so basically we’re saying Forest over 80 years and that’s a threshold that DNR/the Department of Natural Resources and Renewables also uses.

So how much of that 80 year old forest do we have left? The Old Growth, under 1%, but 80 year old forest, there’s some discussion.

8:16 This is using Nova Scotia’s Forest Inventory Statistics, this isn’t an environmental group that came up with this and according to those statistics, as you see, in 1958 a quarter of NS’s forest were over 80; by the time you get to 2003 that figure was 1.5 %.

So the we really truly don’t have good statistics. DNR has lately come out saying, oh no no no there’s way way way way way more than that. And so much more that almost anybody who knows their way around the woods here is going, ah I don’t think so, including people within the Department of Environment.

So might it be as much as 20 % of our Forests? Maybe it’s probably not that many, but how do you look at it if we’re going to protect 20 % of lands and Waters and a pretty good chunk of that should be Old Forest, we pretty much need to protect the Old Forest that’s on Crown Land.

We probably aren’t going to be able to do that on private land and in Nova Scotia only a third of the forests are on public land. 2/3rds are in private hands; some of those are small woodlot owners who look after them and some, about half, are big industrial forestry concerns that are pretty deeply devoted to clearcutting, so what happens on the public lands is very important.

9:51 Unfortunately, while the government has made this pledge, they’re also quite busy approving plans to log the old forests.

This is an example drawn pretty much in the center of that rabid clearcut image I gave you of Annapolis County… that sort of Wishbone-shaped Lake in there is Goldsmith Lake, and it was a lake that quite a lot of people who care about nature had been keeping an eye on because we knew that it was quite special in a number of ways.

that all come back to… but it was also an area that had not yet been chopped up quite so badly.

So we were pretty horrified when we saw this plan because the plan is to log about a thousand over a thousand , acres. I should say this the logging proposed is not clear-cutting this is thanks to the Lehey Report; this is the Ecological Matrix, however, [when they say] “we only take a third of the trees in the Ecological Matrix” is turning out not to be true because many of the prescriptions don’t count the extraction trails which take a quarter of the forest before you even start camping.

So really most of them are taking at least 50% and at that point you’re really not doing the kind of eological forestry that allows the forest to retain its Old Forest characteristic and its biodiversity; you’re back to letting so much light in that we change the structure of the forest.

We were pretty dismayed about this and I’m going to come back to that with some more thoughts.

a very clear, very simple ask

11:51 But one of the directions that we took in just our general thinking about the state of our forests was how can we come up with a very clear, very simple ask that will address this issue and this was sort of the minimal version that we came up with.

This one is for Annapolis County we also decided to go county by county because in part the forestry industry has sort of convinced the government it’s really only a few kind of radicals in Annapolis Co. who care about this.

this is what the forest industry tells them. So we figured if we had County after County submitting these petitions it would be hard to peddlel that line.

They need to be paper petitions because that’s what the legislature recognizes in Nova Scotia and that’s actually fine because it means that people have to talk to each other; they don’t sit at home and click a button and I mean generally politicians recognize how much work something is, you know an email is is worth a lot more them to click on a button, and a visit to an MLA is with many more times than that because it takes more effort and they understand that that represents more concern on the part of their constituents. So doing things that are a bit more difficult is actually a good thing to do.

13:18 So now I’m going to come back around to the Save our Old Forest campaign and the petitions, when I get to the end and talk a little bit about what’s happening outside of Anapolis County.

This is going back to the image of the clear cutting in Annapolis County; so all of those pink areas are areas that were clearcut between 2001 and 2022, and the outlines that we’ve drawn in there are really looking for areas that will either haven’t been cut to heck yet, or are necessary stepping stones or wildlife connectivities.

13:59 So the other areas that don’t look as if they’ve been cut yet it’s because they’re already protected. So that area in the top right hand corner is Cloud Lake Wilderness, and down in the sort of lower along the bottom is the edge of the Medway Wilderness Area.

So we’re really looking at how do you connect those areas as well as how do you protect areas that have valuable Old Forest within them?

Then the one that looks like a dinosaur about to eat the others is around Big LaHave Lake; the other two I’ve been a little more focused on, they are sort of closer in for us to get to.

14:46 The one, sort of at the top, is Beal’s Brook and that’s where we had the Last Hope camp for six months and where we really learned about the use of lichens; we were were able to stop the logging in the area that we were focused on after we had identified enough Species at Risk Likens to take 60% of the cut block off the table.

It was a pretty Monumental effort and we came there from December 2nd to June 22nd. not this last winter but they one before.

15:23 But the one I’m going to focus on is is the leftmost and there is Goldsmith Lake within it.

So after we recovered a little bit from coming home from Last Hope Camp, in October we finally got ourselves organized to roll out and start documenting what was there because people had been in and out in a few places but we hadn’t really gone in any kind of concentrated ways to begin to look.

And you know I should say this is always a funny mix so Jinny Proulx on the left is you know quite an authority on native plants, she’s in her 80s at this point… so we had some people with a tremendous amount of knowledge; her daughter Lisa on the right end has also a tremendous amount of of knowledge of native flora and fungi and so on. But she’d also been bitten by the lichen bug and started in learning about them during Covid, so she was kind of a few steps ahead, and when we did workshops at Last Hope to start teaching people how to identify lichens, she promptly went out and found two more Species-at-Risk during the workshop.

1636: So that was pretty excellent…we set off through the forest and you know this is alovely October day and oyster mushrooms, and you know, the pleasures of being out in the woods and then somebody noticed some extra light off to the left, and we discovered that somewhere between the time when those Harvest plans had been put up for comment and many of us had made comments and said please don’t cut in here, this is an area that should be protected; and when we were out there in October, that clearly the Harvest Plans had been approved and the Westfor Consortium that manages cutting on Crown land in Southwest Nova had come in and put this enormous logging load in.

17:28 This is something they’ve been doing. This is 30 m from side to side by two kilometers long; it’s basically a six hectare clearcut which by the way doesn’t count towards what they remove from the Harvest Crown areas. We have reports of 40 m wide roads. I mean this is… it’s just a wood grab.

But it’s also quite devastating to one of the rarest things around, which is places with enough of what’s called interior forest habitat, where you don’t have wind blowing in and sunlight affecting the humidity levels, affecting the shade.

18:09 it’s just it’s really ecological vandalism.. the road itself is 30 CHECK WITH NINA meters wide I talked about this to DNR and “oh we do ask them not to make more than 20 wide” and the report I got back basically was that they wrapped the knuckles of the contractor. So there’s no consequence to it. so needless to say we felt pretty sick. But you know what are you going to do, you going to turn your back on the clearing and go into the woods and start seeing what’s there.

This is another of our lichen hunters, Ashley, who’s turned into…really, an amazing stubble llichen expert.

Pretty quickly we were into Old Forest verging onto Old Growth Forest that’s certainly older than 80 years old. There are two patches on the west shore of Golsmith Lake that are recognized by DNR as Old Growth Forest, Basically it turns out that that Bowater Mersey told them it was Old Growth. This land was all owned by the pulp and paper Mill Bowater Mersey, and when they went bankrupt, NS taxpayers bought it back and thought that it was going to be conserved and looked after… and there would be a gentler hand on it.

But it’s really questionable whether Westfor has had a gentler hand.. I don’t think so. They leave 20 meter buffers, Bowater left 30 meter buffers around water courses. Bowater left some areas of old trees and Legacy trees. It’s quite dismaying.

20:04 Based with all of that proposed logging one of the things that we did in short order was put together a proposal to protect the area. I drew this map … I was able to talk with John LeDuc who had been the head of the Protected Areas branch of Department of Environment for many years and was credited with really having got any protection going in Nova Scotia.

He had already submitted a proposal to protect this area and Beal’s Brook and Big LeHave Lake and another area. He had written to the minister objecting strenuously to those loging proposals; none of it apparently made any difference. So what I was told is that you can put in a proposal to protect an area and it has no real force but it’s on file and it sort of has to be dealt with when somebody plans to go in and log.

21:12 So better than nothing, plus we had this commitment to protect 20 % Which has not yet laid out any route for what that means. they have promised to plan to make a plan by the end of this year but we’ll see.

21:27 There’s no real process, so we just said the heck with it and went ahead and put in this proposal to protect this and Beal’s Brook and Big LaHave. We did some documenting but at this point we had found, this is November 10th, we had found five Species-at-Risk by then: a blue felt lichen a black ash, and three frosted glass whiskers. We’ll get to them.

21:55 So lichen hunting. This is uh Francis Anderson who was a public librarian and when she retired she decided she would teach herself the lichens of Nova Scotia, and boy did she… she’s co-written probably the most useful book for anyone out in the woods looking at Lichens called the Common Lichens of Northeast and North America with Troy McMullan who’s a reallichen expert in Ottawa.

22:23 This is the frosted glass wisker that I just referred to. There are a number of Species-at-Risk in NS. At Last Hope we found one of these and Black Foam Lichen which is much bigger and easier to find.