Update 18: November 2008

Hello Woodlot Owners!

The neighbor back on the hill made another visit the other night, and in the course of discussion made an observation—or was it an accusation: “I was back in your woods looking for you. The place’s a mess. You must be getting lazy.” The words stung, even if he had meant it in jest.
“What do you mean? There’s nothing wrong…”

But he had the evidence: “Some trees are cut and just laying there. Some trees that should be cut, aren’t. Deadfalls aren’t taken; brush isn’t piled up. Some places you cut out holes in the woods, and other places you didn’t cut trees that were big enough to take. There’s no pattern to it.”

OK, his meaning was becoming clear. The woods did not look tidy. A few more comments and it was clear that the site had not been cut the way he would have cut it. Or my father or grandfather either, apparently. He was right. And yes, the place was and is messy. There are open spots, to encourage regeneration. Some thickets have been left, for wildlife. Cavity trees were not harvested, and some trees had been left standing for no more reason than there were very few of that kind of tree on the lot. Coarse woody debris is strewn around. Seed trees have been left standing.

There is a strange thing that happens in the woods during harvest, because there are more factors than economic values telling the land owner what needs to be done. And more costs than just the cost of harvesting that have to be accounted for. After making slow, careful decision after decision about what is right to do with each tree, a kind of “feeling” for the forest develops. An understanding about what the forest needs, what it tolerates, what it likes, seems to settle upon the thinking harvester. And tidiness is not one of the forest’s needs.

Voluntary Planning

Three NSWOOA directors, including President Lorne Burrows, attended the Oct. 26 Voluntary Planning session workshop in Truro, to discuss and evaluate their report What We Heard, which is a look at major themes and perspectives distilled from comments and written submissions generated by their province-wide public meetings. Sixty people, including citizens, woodlot owners, activists, DNR types, mining industry reps and the various mills, attended. This was one of three such meetings designed to workshop five main themes: sustainability, balance, diversity, and transparency. No actual recommendations were discussed or points debated. And no weight was given to the themes, or numbers of respondents supporting each view, and so on. It was also not revealed how many meetings individuals or industries attended.

The next step is for a committee to review all the input data and Voluntary Planning’s synthesis of this data, to formulate recommendations. Composition of this committee is not known, or how one would achieve a seat on it, but in the interest of transparency—one of the VP themes—its meetings necessarily need to be open to the public, and its comments balanced to represent the proportion of individuals who attended from each of the types mentioned above. There are strong reasons to require this new board to keep DNR and Industry to a minority position on this committee. Confidence in the process seems much more shaky to many of the participants, and one wonders what will happen next.

Biomass and the NSWOOA

The NSWOOA announces that it has resigned its seat on the government’s biomass working group, charged with developing guidelines for biomass harvesting in Nova Scotia. Wade Prest, our representative on the group, announced his resignation, and the NSWOOA’s withdrawal from the process on October 20.

The NSWOOA will not be associated with any reports, rules or regulations produced by this group, and strongly urges those who continue with the process to conduct a review of existing research on biomass removal and forest health, to conduct research to see how it applies to the Nova Scotia situation and the Acadian Forest, and to apply the precautionary approach.

Outreach Project

The Uneven-Aged Management Outreach Project is coming to an end, but before closing up shop the Outreach Team has asked us to pass on some great news. Because of the outstanding response to the project, NSDNR allocated an additional $153,000 to funding under the Category 7 program, bringing the total funding available to almost $600,000. Some funding is still available for work to be completed by March, 2009, so if you have a site that would qualify, haven't already applied for funding, and are interested in doing some quality-improvement work this winter, please contact Association for Sustainable Forestry Coordinator Rebecca Aggas at (902) 890-4685 or rjaggas@ASForestry.com. Information on the program, including the Outreach Project’s 6-page handout on uneven-aged management and the Category 7 program, can still be downloaded from the ASF's website at http://www.asforestry.com/Category7program.htm

The Outreach Team also wants to thank NSWOOA members for your help in making this project a success. The Outreach Project was contacted by approximately 400 individuals and families. About 200 people attended the workshops. Newspapers, magazines and radio stations all over the province carried stories about the project, the Category 7 program and uneven-aged management. And allocations of Category 7 funding more than tripled, rising from $180,000 as of the end of 2007 to $575,000 as of late October 2008. Thanks to the information the project received from woodlot owners and contractors during the course, the team was able to submit a detailed report to the ASF and NSDNR emphasizing the tremendous interest and support for uneven-aged management among woodlot owners and forestry contractors throughout the province.

We hope that this report will encourage even more support for uneven-aged management—not only funding but also additional outreach activitiesin future years. None of this would have been possible without your interest and participation in this project.

Early Notice

At its November meeting, the NSWOOA Board of Directors has chosen the date and location for our Annual General Meeting. It is April 18th 2009, at the Masonic Hall in Great Village. If you have any suggestions for speakers or themes and activities, please forward them to us at our email address or to our contact phone number.

Balsam Fir

(Excerpted from Jamie Simpson’s book Restoring the Acadian Forest: A Guide for Woodlot Owners in the Maritimes, P41. The book is due to be published this month. Meanwhile, Jamie is taking orders for the book at this email address (price will be $20, including shipping.)

Balsam fir is far more abundant, dominant and wide-spread in the forest than it was a few generations ago.

Forest cutting practices often create conditions favorable to balsam fir. High-grade cutting removes species that grow with balsam fir, such as white pine, red spruce, hemlock, cedar and hardwoods….Clearcutting, too, promotes balsam fir by creating growing conditions in which the aggressive fir seedlings gain advantage over seedlings of other species. Balsam fir has rather large seed and fir seedlings have strong root systems that access water more easily than spruce seedlings do, giving balsam fir the advantage in the relatively dry conditions of a clear cut. Finally, because forests are often cut before they are ecologically mature, tree species that would normally gain dominance over balsam fir trees by simply outliving them are cut before they have a chance to grow old, further perpetuating balsam fir on harvested land.

Lines of Communication

Members are encouraged to contact the Board of Directors, the Executive and other members through our email address (nswooa@gmail.com) 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 or in your community or area. We try to keep you informed through these updates, mail outs, our column in Atlantic Forestry Review, the Annual General Meeting, and this website.