Old Growth?

Longtime forest advocate Donna Crossland writes ... This stand of 'old growth' white pine features a forest structure we do not expect to see when we think of old growth, yet it was included in the previous Old Forest Policy and we are left to assume it is part of the 8 % old growth in the new Old Growth Forest Policy.

The government department entrusted to protect old growth -- the Department of Natural Resources and Renewables (DNRR) -- states that it has fully achieved 8 % protection of old growth in all ecodistricts across the Nova Scotia landscape.

These white pines were planted during the late 1970s-early '80s to restore an old field located at the entrance of Kejimkujik National Park and National Historic Site next to a helicopter landing pad.  

Old fields are difficult to return to natural forest condition, with soils that bear the mark of the farmer's plough for centuries following agricultural abandonment, devoid of natural pit and mound topography and native biodiversity, and riddled with invasive earthworms that alter natural decay processes when they rapidly mix forest duff and incorporate leaf litter into the soil.  

It will likely take two centuries or more for it to resemble a natural forest, if ever achieved at all.  

Should this white pine plantation be considered part of the 8 % old growth?  Would you rather see some other stands that much more closely resemble old growth included in the 8 % that are not currently protected?

We have only until Wednesday, December 8th to submit comments on the revised 'Old Growth Forest Policy' by the DNRR.  You may submit comments by email to ecologicalforestry@novascotia.ca.  

And with the criticisms by William Lahey last week over lack of genuine progress toward implementing a more ecological approach to forest management, you may wish to include sending your concerns to Minister of Natural Resources, Tory Rushton, mindnr@novascotia.ca.  Minister Rushton is taking this week to consider how the government may responds to their lack of progress toward ecological forestry and continued clearcutting.  

'Mature climax' trees are being harvested while the department claims to have protected a sufficient amount of old growth to answer biodiversity needs.  Meanwhile this white pine stand on National Park lands has nothing to do with DNRR's achievement or management of old growth.

Old Growth Policy - My Submission


Submission by Tom Rogers to : ecologicalforestry@novascotia.ca
Due by December 8, 2021

1. LEADERSHIP -- You currently have many things working for you as you develop the Old Growth Policy
Now is the time to forge a visionary policy.  Think big. Believe you can do it.  Act.

  • a lot has been written about groups trying to define what is/isn't "Old Growth"
  • if the goal is long term conservation, does it really matter if something is "Old Growth" or a "Mature Forest"?  Eventually the Mature Forest will become "Old Growth"
  • I would suggest the general public does not distinguish between "Old Growth" and "Mature" forests (see #3)
Give yourself room to deal with the spectrum of forests that are part of your conservation lands.

3. AUDIENCE -- who is the Old Growth Policy for? (and perhaps more importantly, who should it be for?)
  • the stakeholders you consulted all tend to be larger groups and are well represented by industry
  • from my experience, forestry people tend to at best acknowledge that 'old growth' is significant because it has made it to an old growth stage and at the worst see it as wasted opportunity
  • I would suggest a large (largest?) audience is the general public who use the forest every day
  • the current version of the NSOGFP is difficult to understand for a person not familiar with forestry
a. The policy should have a version understandable by the general public
b. Get the word out ... tell everyone involved with forest about the NSOGFP (Woodland Conferences, Woodlot Owner of the Year, presentations at the AGMs of the Stakeholders, articles in Atlantic Forestry, etc.)

4. PROTECTION -- from invasive species
  • hemlock currently are an important part of our old growth forests
  • the hemlock woolly adelgid is slaughtering them
  • it is rapidly moving eastward across the province
  • without hemlock, our Old Growth forests are very different
a. Immediate action is required
b. Show leadership.  Tell (and show) Private woodlot owners how you will deal with HWA on Public Lands.  Be specific.  Take action.

5. PROTECTION - from people
  • my wife and I have been driving many sketchy dirt roads in SW Nova Scotia over the last three years
  • so many clearcuts
  • what's growing back is not high value Red Spruce forests
  • all those forests you are rolling into Protected Places ... at some point there will be pressure to remove them from conservation for development or forestry.  Intense pressure.
Hire the best lawyer you can afford so the final NSOGFP makes it very difficult to allow development of Old Growth Forests

  • with over 60% of Nova Scotia's forested land owned by private individuals, there has to be some overlap with public land policy
  • private lands will likely be part of future candidates for Protected Places
  • I don't think it is unfair to say some (many?) private woodlot owners question government policy
Be consistent, set the bar high and stay above it.  And be patient, this is going to take a while


Nova Scotia is calling for Comments on it's Old Growth Forest Policy with submissions accepted until December 8, 2021.

This week on our social media, we will be asking questions about our Old Growth Forests and invite you to jump in.

On Instagram : www.instagram.com/giantsofnovascotia

On Facebook : www.facebook.com/giantsofnovascotia

More info:

To Save the Hemlocks at Sporting Lake

During October 2021, an eclectic group of volunteers took an arduous journey to Nova Scotia's most remote inland wilderness to save a mature hemlock forest from imminent death.

Sporting Lake Island is located in the Tobeatic Wilderness Area, accessible by a day-long, multi-portage canoe trip.  

Commercial forestry started in Nova Scotia in the 1630s and four hundred years later most of our forested land has been cut over.  Sporting Lake is what happens when a forest is left alone.  Some of these Giants are 500 years old.

Hemlocks provide many important roles in the forest, for example their dense canopies provide habitat for a variety of birds and protection from the snow for mammals like deer.  Often found along waterways, they filter and slow water runoff.  And anyone familiar with hemlock knows the wood is very heavy -- it stores a lot of carbon, an important trait at this point in time.

The hemlock killing bug -- HWA (hemlock woolly adelgid) -- first discovered in SW Nova Scotia in 2017 has infested the hemlocks of Sporting Lake Island.  

HWA is very prolific and typically kills the hemlock within 5-10 years.  

At this time, the only way to protect a hemlock from HWA*** is by inoculating  (CORRECTION : should say "injecting the stem of") the tree with a pesticide.  Holes are drilled into the trunk of the tree where a pesticide is injected.

***HWA is affected by extreme cold, many nights of -20C will slow it down.  Unfortunately, this is not the trend with our winter temperatures.

A passionate, eclectic, ad hoc group came together to try and save the hemlocks at Sporting Lake Island.  

Arborists, scientists, foresters and a diverse assortment of volunteers made the challenging trip to undertake the labour intensive process of injecting the stem of every hemlock.  

Over a three week period, over 2,000 trees were treated.

So what happens next?  

Groups involved with the Sporting Lake project are working on best practices to deal with HWA on private and public land.  I'm planning an update with details in the New Year.

Stem injection of the hemlocks at Sporting Lake Island will provide valuable information about using this technique for individual and small groups of trees.  But stem injection is not a solution for the forests of Nova Scotia.  

There are some promising solutions long-term five years out.  So its very important to slow the spread until the long term solutions are available.  

1- Early identification of an infestation is key.  Know what the enemy looks like -- cotton like balls on the underside of a hemlock branch close to the stem

2- Make sure we do not accidentally move HWA to a new location -- either by moving infected firewood or by contacting the bug in an infected area and transporting it to a new location.  

So please -- acquire your firewood where you burn it.  

And if you are in an area known to have HWA (like Keji Park), before you leave the park wipe down your gear, clothes and pooch with a lint brush and brush off your footwear.  

It's the new normal to prevent the spread of invasive species.

* * *

Awesome effort by everyone involved in the Sporting Lake project.  To accomplish so much on such a short timeline is a tribute to the passion people have for our forests ... and that is encouraging

More about Sporting Lake : https://novascotia.ca/nse/protectedareas/nr_sportinglake.asp

More perspective on the project : https://www.saltwire.com/atlantic-canada/opinion/john-demont-how-the-power-of-people-saved-a-stand-of-threatened-nova-scotia-hemlocks-100654779/