Two Forestry Studies Released: Alternatives to Clearcutting, and Questioning Herbicides | Ecology Action Centre

Two Forestry Studies Released: Alternatives to Clearcutting, and Questioning Herbicides

The cover of one of two reports recently released by our forestry program

May 20th, 2010

The Ecology Action Centre released two studies today on critical forestry issues: one on clearcutting, and one on herbicide use.  Results from the studies call into question the assumption that clearcutting and herbicides are an inevitable component of forestry in Nova Scotia.

“If we want to try a different approach, the science shows that we can reduce clearcutting and herbicide use without sacrificing jobs or the economy,” says Jamie Simpson, co-author of the reports, and forester with the Ecology Action Centre. “In fact, the research shows that Nova Scotia stands to gain in terms of jobs and timber yield by encouraging more non-clearcut harvest methods.”
The forest harvesting study examines all of the research carried out in eastern Canada and the US that compares clearcutting and non-clearcutting methods.  Forest growth and yield, employment, forest regeneration and profitability were all examined.

“While it’s obvious we’d be better off ecologically, it’s encouraging that transitioning away from clearcutting on certain sites can actually generate higher timber yields, and better quality timber, from the same amount of land.”
The report cautions that the results of the study do not apply to every forested area in the province, but are applicable to those sites that are suitable for uneven-aged management, and those suitable for restoration to such conditions.  Currently, clearcutting accounts for 85-95% of all land cut in Nova Scotia, amounting to roughly 500 square kilometers of clearcutting per year.

“It’s not an easy transition for everyone to make,” recognizes Simpson.  “It requires a commitment to learning new practices and investing in more sophisticated management planning.  Sometimes it requires different machinery as well.  But our research shows there are definite benefits.”

The second study addresses herbicide use in Nova Scotia.  “We wanted to know whether it is possible to stop using herbicides, and still get good growth of commercial tree seedlings?” explains Simpson.  The answer, according to the study, is yes.

“There’s a perception among some that if you don’t spray herbicides, you can’t grow trees.  Our study shows that herbicides are useful if you want to grow softwood plantations,” says Simpson, “but if you want to grow a mix of commercial tree species, both softwood and hardwood, there’s no need to use herbicides.  You can easily get excellent regeneration of trees without spending money on herbicides.”

The study recommends the government stop paying for herbicide spraying.  “We see no good reason to spend public money for this,” says Simpson.  Some 10,000 hectares of forest land were sprayed with herbicide in 2008, costing government over $2 million.

“Both these studies are especially useful given the recently released natural resources strategy recommendations,” says Simpson.  “The report gives clear direction to move away from clearcutting, and from forest herbicide use.  Our studies should be helpful in making an informed and intelligent shift in forest management, as per the recommendations of the Natural Resources Strategy Report.”

The studies are available here:

Forestry Report Forest Harvesting Study
-May 20, 2010
 Forest Herbicides as a Vegetation Management Tool Forest Herbicides as a Vegetation Management Tool
-May 20, 2010