TUPPERVILLE, N.S. - Concerned residents and municipal officials who urged the province to halt a proposed harvest of trees on Hardwood Hill got an early Christmas present Dec. 17. The 20-hectare parcel of Crown forest was taken off the chopping block and appears to be safe from the previously planned partial cuts.
“I’m really pleased about the decision that was made. I think it’s an example – a very good example – of community activism at it’s best and a responsive provincial government,” said Annapolis County Warden Timothy Habinski who wrote to Premier Stephen McNeil and Department of Lands and Forestry Minister Iain Rankin Nov. 22.
He wanted a halt to the proposed patch cuts until alternatives could be found. He said the proposed approach to harvesting is not viable economically or environmentally.
One of those community activists said he was pleased with the decision but said he and others in the community aren’t resting on their laurels.
“I’m feeling very excited, ecstatic even,” said Randall Fredericks who had met with McNeil and voiced his concerns. “There’s been an air of celebration in the general community. People are happy. Excited. It’s a major milestone, a major breakthrough.”
Fredericks said he received word Dec. 17 from McNeil’s constituency office in Middleton that Hardwood Hill was removed from the harvest list.
Fredericks had also circulated a petition to halt the cut and gathered about 140 signitures.
Fredericks said the meeting with McNeil went very well.
“He listened very intently. There were five of us in total – myself and four other concerned citizens from basically the immediate area around Hardwood Hill,” Fredericks said. “We all spoke and made our concerns and proposed solutions heard. We left a care package for him about Hardwood Hill, kind of our concerns and proposed solutions amalgamated in a paper format to take with him, because we had a lot to say in a short period of time.”
McNeil told them he would get in touch with the Department of Lands and Forestry about the matter.
“The Department of Lands and Forestry got back to him and I received a message from his office, the MLA office, yesterday (Dec. 17) basically in which his secretary relayed the message that the Department of Lands and Forestry said that the planned harvest on Hardwood Hill had been scrapped.”
McNeil said the group came to him. He’d had emails from other people about the issue and noted it had gone through the normal process. The department looked at it, assessed it and made a decision based on what they’d been doing on other parcels.
“I don’t want to leave the impression that I as the Premier stopped it,” McNeil said. “It was not the case. It was the fact that I made sure the information given to me was given to people (in the department). But it went through the normal process and Randy and his team did a great job of continuing to put it on the radar of the community and laying out why it was important that the cut consider all options -- and that’s what they did.”
Local resident Bev Wigney worked with Fredericks to opposed the proposed Hardwood Hill harvest.
“I'm pleased with the outcome with Hardwood Hill. I think it was the only sensible outcome,” said Wigney. “That said, much as I'm pleased, I'm concerned that there may be other forest parcels that are just as deserving but are going unnoticed and undefended by interested citizens. That's very worrisome, especially in light of what happened with the Coolen Lake forest this past week.”
In the Coolen Lake case in Lunenburg County an already assessed old growth forest ended up on the department’s Harvest Plan Map Viewer proposed harvest list by mistake.
Wigney said it's been exciting to see how much interest there has been in some of the environmental issues raised over the past few weeks.
“It's great to see so many coming together using social media – the Facebook page people are using to network -- has 184 members as of this afternoon,” she said Dec. 20. “A couple or so people are joining each day lately -- most from in or around Annapolis Royal.”
She said they’re concerned about many issues including clear cutting, debris washing up on beaches, the effluent pipe at Pictou, and habitat for species at risk.
“I think we're finding a way to use social media as a way of working on projects together,” she said. “Hopefully, in the new year, we'll be able to build on the momentum and start working on actual projects like holding bioblitzes (species biodiversity surveys) on chosen sites, and nature workshops to help people know what exists around us.”
Fredericks said a handful of questions his group posed in their meeting with McNeil have yet to be answered. Although the harvest has been halted, those question would apply to any future harvest plans.
“Things like when the proposed cut would occur, what equipment would be used at the site, what the end use of the trees harvested would be, how big the clumps harvested would be, and more specific to this site as well -- the road leading up to the site was in fairly bad condition – who would actually be paying the cost to fix it up,” he said. “Would it be taxpayers? Would it be private companies?”
Fredericks said residents won’t be sitting back after their significant victory.
“As citizens we need to remain an active part of the planning process,” he said. “As you’ve probably heard already, several new proposed harvests were announced yesterday, one of which being a known old growth forest of special significance in Lunenburg County.”
He said because of social media activism, that parcel was moved from the proposed harvest list.
“Iain Rankin responded to it and essentially said it should never have gone up in the first place, which is good to note,” Fredericks said. “Other new proposed harvests are still up at this point and myself and others are in the process of actively analyzing each one.”