NDP Committment to Wilderness Protection Questionable At Best
March 4, 2010
Not long ago we sat down with independent foresters in Guysborough County to discuss their industry. The concerns they expressed are ones we not only share, but ones we’ve heard from people across Nova Scotia in recent months.
These are people trying to make a living in Nova Scotia’s forests. People who want to ensure that sensitive lands are protected and that unsustainable harvesting practices are stopped. They want rural Nova Scotia to be the primary beneficiaries of rural resources. We agree.
These hard working Nova Scotians showed us examples of how current government policies are biased towards unsustainable harvesting practices. They demonstrated how small independent foresters are being squeezed out from crown lands to the detriment of the economic future of counties such as Guysborough. These foresters watch as higher value hardwoods are destroyed in the rush for lower value pulp wood, and regeneration of multi-age, Acadian forest becomes all but impossible on many sites. Ultimately this will be to the detriment of all Nova Scotians, but more specifically will almost certainly lead to unemployment for many independent foresters.
Moments before we sat down to meet in Guysborough, the NDP made a shocking announcement. They had purchased almost four thousand acres of continuous coastline at Apple Head in Cumberland County from Wagner Forest Nova Scotia Ltd. While we applaud the notion of securing coastline for public ownership, the NDP made a mockery of the good intentions of this announcement by agreeing that Wagner could clear cut the land before the province hands them $9 million in tax dollars. With the NDP’s blessing Wagner will clear cut using the most devastating type of forestry – whole tree harvesting. This type of harvesting almost always results in non-natural regeneration. By the minister’s own admission it will take up to 40 years to come back. By that argument we wonder whether the minister also feels Nova Scotia’s parks should be clear cut for a quick buck given that they too will grow back in 40 years.
In the past week the NDP government announced yet another forest industry deal. This time they loaned Northern Pulp $75 million by adding tax dollars to the Industrial Expansion Fund (IEF) – a politically controlled pot of tax dollars that the NDP previously called a slush fund. Northern Pulp will use much of the loan to buy half a million acres of forest land at $175 per acre. The NDP will then buy back 55,000 acres of that land for preservation at the higher price of $300 an acre. Protecting lands makes sense. Paying a premium for lands bought with taxpayer dollars does not.
The NDP had an option to acquire those lands for the same price Northern Pulp paid. It made the choice not to do so. Instead they chose to increase costs for taxpayers at a time when this province is in a financial crisis. As well, the NDP made the conscious decision not to impose sustainable harvesting and stewardship practices as a condition of the Northern Pulp loan. In the end our tax dollars have gone out the door with no strings attached.