May 15, 2012
The day before it was to be introduced, EAC Wilderness staff became aware of a proposed bill to amend the Crown Lands Act – legislation that governs activity on publicly owned Crown lands which hasn’t been changed or updated in over 20 years. Bill 87, the “Good Forestry Management on Crown Land Act” was introduced with much fanfare, as evidenced in Natural Resources Minister Charlie Parker’s remarks during the bill briefing last week;
“The proposed amendments stem from the message which the province heard loud and clear from Nova Scotians during the extensive consultations that led to the natural resources strategy. Nova Scotians want government to change the way their natural resources are managed to ensure they are used sustainably. People want a change. And we are providing that change.”
This is quite a misleading introduction, because, despite its name, there is actually nothing in the bill that is specifically designed to ensure “Good Forestry Management on Crown Lands” at all. The Bill simply extinguishes the old Stora Act and the associated large Crown land lease and will give the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) minister authority to enter into long-term license agreements and sub-license agreements for harvesting wood on Crown lands with companies. That’s it. The only mechanism for improved environmental performance lies in the as-yet-undefined terms and conditions for those licensees which the minister would now have the authority to set. But this is totally discretionary. There is nothing in the Bill to compel the minister to set environmental or any other terms and conditions.
Although we did not specifically object to these minor tweaks (it’s actually much better than the 50 year leases they used to give out to big forestry companies) we did feel strongly that any bill called “The Good Forestry Management on Crown Land” Act which is introduced under the pretext of responding to the natural resources strategy must have a lot more in it than simply a small tweak to the way Crown land is given to forestry companies for harvesting.
Knowing that government would not accept a large suite of amendments (prescriptive ecological provisions, etc.), EAC focused on simply asking them to imbed the one, most important and overarching principal they committed to in the government’s own final Natural Resources Strategy - the commitment to involve the public in how our Crown lands are managed. (View our submission here). The specific clause we asked to have put into the act is the exact same one that’s in the Wilderness Areas Protection act. It simply requires government to consult the public on how our Crown lands are managed.
Unfortunately our amendment was rejected by government. Public consultation, we were told, will be dealt with later on. We can now add this to the long and growing list of as-yet-unfulfilled promises made by the Dexter government when it comes to the implementation of the Natural Resources Strategy.
So far changes to laws, regulations and most importantly, on the ground harvesting practices amount to zero. Clearcutting, high grading and whole tree harvesting continue across Nova Scotia unabated despite the overwhelming public call for significant change during the Natural Resources Strategy review process.
View EAC's Submission to Law Amendments Committee