Ecology Action Centre

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Government flip-flop on FSC Certification a major step backwards for public forests

March 1, 2016

Matt Miller, Forestry Coordinator, walks through a clear cut in an Environmentally Sensitive Area on Crown lands near Panuke Lake in 2014. An independent audit of the harvest recommended that the Nova Scotia government expand Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification to all Crown lands in Nova Scotia.
Matt Miller, Forestry Coordinator, walks through a clear cut in an Environmentally Sensitive Area on Crown lands near Panuke Lake in 2014. An independent audit of the harvest recommended that the Nova Scotia government expand Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification to all Crown lands in Nova Scotia.

Barely a year after the provincial government committed to expanding Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification to all Crown lands in Nova Scotia, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has suddenly dropped the FSC certification for the Medway District, a 90,000 hectare parcel of lands purchased for the former Bowater mill in 2012.

“At a time when the public and stakeholders have been calling on government to improve forest management practices, dropping FSC certification is a significant step backwards for forestry on publicly-owned Crown lands” says Matt Miller, Forestry Program Coordinator at the Ecology Action Centre (EAC).

Forest management on Crown lands in western NS will now be certified through the weaker Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) certification system, which does not have the support of leading conservation and social groups.

“By dropping the FSC certificate for the Medway District, government can no longer claim that forestry on public lands in western Nova Scotia meets the highest bar for environmental stewardship. FSC is the only system of forest certification that is recognized by environmental organizations across the world. In addition, major companies around the world have stated their preference for FSC-certified fibre” Miller said.

Several studies have encouraged the government to expand FSC certification in the province in the face of a growing divide amongst stakeholders and the public on issues of forest sustainability.

In early 2015, an independent panel was tasked with reviewing DNR’s forest management policies for Crown land. The findings of the Panuke Lake Review Panel called for significant changes that included a recommendation for government to expand FSC certification to all Crown lands in the province.

In addition, the Ivany Report makes reference to certification under Game Changer #5; “A Shared Commitment to Sustainable Development and Regulatory Excellence.” The report recommends “adoption of the most effective and widely accepted certification standards for sustainable resource use, conservation and responsible harvesting practices.” In this context, FSC is the most effective and widely accepted forest management certification system in the world.

Before yesterday’s announcement, the government seemed poised to expand FSC certification in the province, having made numerous commitments to maintain and expand FSC certification on publicly owned Crown lands and even acknowledging FSC as the “gold standard” for forest certification.

In February 2015, in response to the Panuke Lake Review Panel report, former DNR Minister Zach Churchill indicated that the government would be expanding FSC certification throughout the province, a commitment that was greeted with an enthusiastically positive response from the Ecology Action Centre and Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS).

In October 2015 DNR stated that maintaining FSC certification for the Medway District would be a condition of license for the consortium of mills that will soon be given long term access to Crown lands in western Nova Scotia.

In the fall of 2015, EAC raised several concerns with FSC auditors during the most recent audit of the Medway certificate. At this point it is unclear whether or not the findings of that audit will be made publicly available.

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