NSWOOA Update 10: January 2008

Hello Woodlot Owners!

Picture this: It was a warm sunny day in early hunting season in, probably, the mid eighties. Twenty-eight "townie" teenagers were following Maurice Bruhm and their grade 11 Economics teacher around Maurice's sawmill in Cornwall, Lunenburg County, and then on a tour of his woodlot. In their hands, the kids carried a sheet of questions which would elicit information from their guide and provide the substance of their field trip report.

For those of you who knew Maurice Bruhm, it will not be hard to conjure up his thick Lunenburg County "Dutch" accent, or his quiet, thoughtful way of speaking. In fact, Maurice spoke so quietly and unassumingly that the visitors had to be very still and to listen intently to catch his words.

At one spot, Maurice stopped by some flagging tape tied to some shrubs. No one knew what the plant was. "Labrador Tea," said Maurice. "I don't know what to do about it. It was pointed out to me that it was there, so I marked it to keep it from being destroyed. We tend to destroy things if we don't know they are there. So I marked them." Such were his lessons.

At the next stop, Maurice showed the students a particularly fertile area, a ridge of good soil that grew trees very well. He explained that he had harvested trees there a number of times in his life time, and his father had before him, and that there was as much wood on this land now as there had ever been. This was his lesson in selective harvesting.

The third stop was another stand of mostly conifers, about six to seven inches in diameter. Without even the hint of a smile he quietly stated that he was going to wait until there was 100 board feet of lumber in each tree before he cut them and milled them. There were no comments from the students, as they jotted this information on their fact sheets.

Later, when questioned alone about his bold statement, Maurice claimed that he couldn't resist testing to see if the youngsters understood the concepts he was getting at. And, it seems, he was enjoying his joke on them. Youth seldom has a sense of the passage of time that comes with working with the forest. He smiled at it all.

Sadly, Maurice passed away a few years later, a great loss to his family and the community. As for his visitors, doubtless their lessons that day have informed them of forest management issues thereafter. More of our youth should have the opportunity to be guided by the Maurice Bruhms of this province.

You Are Invited…

On Tuesday January 22 at 7:00 pm there will be a meeting of interested directors and NSWOOA members at the Community Room in Elmsdale Superstore.

The purpose of this meeting is to decide upon the content, form and vision of the NSWOOA's presentation to Voluntary Planning's Natural Resources Strategy Project Committee, which is going to make recommendations for a long-term strategy for provincial forests, biodiversity, and other natural resources. (For more information about this process see the Voluntary Planning website .) The NSWOOA was one of several organizations that called on the provincial government to put Voluntary Planning in charge of developing a new natural resources strategy. It is expected that the session on January 22 will produce a document that will be presented to our Annual General Meeting for discussion and possible adoption.

This is a very important issue and opportunity. Please make an effort to attend.

Uneven-Aged Management Outreach Project
By Flora Johnson, NSWOOA Member Services Coordinator

As many of you already know, we have begun work on an exciting new campaign to promote uneven-aged management techniques among woodlot owners and contractors. The Uneven-Aged Management Outreach Project now has a telephone number (902-673-2278) and email address (outreach@asforestry.com) . We hope all NSWOOA members will call or email us so that you can receive our packet of information materials and be notified of upcoming educational sessions.

Please note that the Outreach Project telephone number given in the last update unfortunately had to be changed after the update was sent. If you called that number and did not receive an answer, please try us again at 673-2278. We apologize for the inconvenience.

Outreach Project staff are putting the finishing touches on a survey that we hope to administer to woodlot owners and contractors who contact us. Please help us make sure we collect information from as many woodlot owners and contractors as possible, particularly ones with an interest in uneven-aged management. Just email me at the outreach@asforestry.com, and I'll be happy to either send you a copy of the survey via email or call you and ask you the questions in person.

Also in the planning stages are workshops and field days to be held all over the province. Stay tuned for updates about these as they are planned.

The Uneven-Aged Management Outreach Project is being conducted by NSWOOA under a contract with the Association for Sustainable Forestry with funding from the Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources. Our partner in delivering services under the contract is Picea Forestry Consulting and Woodlot Management of Bridgewater, NS. I would like to express my personal thanks to Patricia Amero, Registered Professional Forester and one of the owners of Picea, for her hard work and dedication to this project.

AGM Planning Has Begun

At the January 10 Directors meeting, the initial planning for this year's AGM began with the decision to hold the meeting in the Elmsdale area on Saturday, April 12. Decisions are tentative at this stage, but the character of the event is taking shape.

The overall theme is value woodlot products and value added wood products (as opposed to large quantities of low valued products). Of course there will also be the business meeting and such to be done.

Morning events will probably include a presentation on the Category 7 Outreach Project and a presentation/discussion of our forestry practice submission to the Voluntary Planning review of provincial natural resources policy. Be sure to be there to have your input heard.

The afternoon will probably see a tour of a sawmill, with the opportunity to ask questions of the mill managers, wood buyers and so on.

Depending on the size of the facility chosen for the meeting, booths may be available for members and others to display their products and advertise services. If you are interested please contact us at nswooa@gmail.com so that we may gauge interest. As well, we invite members to supply business cards and pamphlets for those attending to pick up at the registration desk.

As mentioned, plans are only tentative at this point, but the meeting seems to be shaping up to be a really valuable event to attend. Stay tuned for additional information—times, locations, etc. Information will be posted on this website, and you will receive a notice about the meeting along with a request to renew your membership if you haven't already.

Membership Renewals

Please remember that membership fees are our main source of income, and this is renewal season. Memberships go with the calendar year, and almost every one of us has to renew for 2008. If you have friends or neighbors who are interested in the issues and concerns that we deal with please invite them to join our ranks. You should soon receive a renewal notice from Flora, our membership coordinator, by email or by regular mail. Flora will also be sending a renewal form with the newsletter/notice of meeting for the AGM, for those who have not yet paid.

Membership renewal forms can be mailed in directly. We will also accept memberships at the Annual General Meeting on April 12.

An Interesting Request

Director Austin Parsons, who teaches architecture, has received the following request from a student, and passes it along to us: "I was wondering if you could direct me to a directory of sustainable woodlots in the province--specifically in Colchester County. I've been hunting around on the internet but am not coming up with much."

Austin explains that he does not know of any directory, or for that matter, if anyone has an agreed upon definition of a sustainable woodlot. He remembered that Kim Thompson had compiled the Eastern Shore Wood Directory, but not much more came to mind.

It seems that there is a need for various directories around the province, as we often get queries from woodlot owners and others for a directory of FSC products, of portable sawmills, of particular products, of horse loggers, of silviculture contractors, and, of course, contractors who will do multi-age multi-species harvesting.

The Standing Tall Campaign for Environmentally Responsible Forestry has compiled a list of woodlot owners supplying FSC-certified wood. If any members out there have knowledge of a directory that would be of use to Austin's student, or other directories that cover any of the other categories, please advise us by email. We will pass the information along. Perhaps we could compile a directory of directories.

Conservation of Working Land

Note: There has been interest lately in conservation easements attached to lands, or other methods by which owners can protect their forest land from practices they deem unfit, after they are deceased. There are a variety of methods and institutions available, and some are more suitable in some instances than others. Jennifer Scott's article below details one method. Hopefully we will receive details on other methods and pass them along as well. Incidentally, Rupert Jannasch, cited below, is a NSWOOA member.

Two Nova Scotia farms protected by conservation easements
By Jen Scott

Working land is land that is worked to produce food or forest products. This kind of land might be worth protecting because it is important for food production, it contributes to biodiversity, it has been well taken care of for generations, or it has valuable woodland that should not be clearcut. The land might be threatened by urban sprawl, or by economic conditions that would make it tempting for the landowner to sell off parcels, or clearcut the woodlot.

How can we protect important working land? One way is to use a conservation easement--a legal document that is attached to the deed, placing restrictions on the use of the land even if the property is sold. The easement is negotiated with the landowner, then registered with the province. A designated "eligible body" takes on the responsibility of ensuring the landowner adheres to the terms.

The Ecology Action Centre (EAC), based in Halifax, has been added to the Eligible Body list under Nova Scotia's Conservation Easement Act. Through its agriculture-oriented sub-group called Heliotrust, the EAC now holds easements with two farms in Hants County: Avonmouth Farm and Red Fox Co-op. EAC does not own the farms, but as the easement holder, it has an interest in ensuring the 300 acres are managed in an ecological manner, according to the terms of the agreements. To that end, a community-based monitoring system will be developed.

These two conservation easements are structured to protect the farm and woodland from subdivision and development, but they are for "working" land, as opposed to "wild" land. This is an important distinction, as it recognizes the stewardship responsibility of the farmer. The land must be managed in an ecological manner, no matter who owns it.

In signing the conservation easement, the farmer gives up some of the real estate value of the farmland, because it cannot be sold for non-farm purposes. This makes the land more affordable for the next person who wants to purchase it for farming.

The real estate value of a farm is a function of what people would be willing to pay for it. This makes farms closest to urban centers, and those with particularly beautiful attributes, the most vulnerable to speculative hikes in value. Theoretically, the value of the conservation easement is roughly equivalent to the difference between the market value of the land and its productive value as a working farm. In negotiating what it would pay the owners of Avonmouth Farm and Red Fox Co-op, the EAC obtained independent appraisals from a farm economist and a real estate professional.

Both farms have woodlots, but woodlands on Avonmouth Farm are a significant part of the farm operation. Rupert Jannasch took over Avonmouth in 2003, and has been developing various horticultural and forestry enterprises. He says he is pleased with the easement agreement, but he points out that an agricultural landowner who trades away development rights is assuming a degree of risk. "Consider a scenario in the future when a landowner, a farmer, no longer wishes to or is unable to farm," says Jannasch. "He still owns the land, but sold a conservation easement 20 years earlier prohibiting other uses. No young farmers are waiting to fill his shoes. Perhaps new food safety regulations make it impossible to produce food, or there is no longer a willing labor force. . . . What does the landowner do?" Such uncertainties must be weighed against the benefits of protecting the land.

A government program or a larger charitable organization with significant financial resources would be able to achieve the same objective by purchasing agricultural acreage and leasing it to farmers, but in the near future there are no prospects for this in Nova Scotia. For now, the protection of farmland depends to a large extent on landowners' commitment to the principle.

Heliotrust has set up a special conservation fund, with the interest to be used for monitoring conserved land and covering any legal fees that may be necessary to ensure compliance with the terms of easements in the future. The EAC hopes to increase the fund in order to protect more working land. Charitable receipts are issued by EAC for donations. To contribute to the working land conservation effort, specify that the donation is for Heliotrust's farmland conservation fund.

News and updates from Heliotrust may be found at The Heliotrust Journal.

Lines of Communication

Members are encouraged to contact the Board of Directors, the Executive and other members through our email address or by phone (902-633-2108). Please feel free to use these methods to keep us informed of what is going on in your woodlot, in your community or area. We try to keep you informed through these updates, through newsletters and mail outs, our column in Atlantic Forestry Review, the Annual General Meeting and this website.