CORBETT LAKE, ANNAPOLIS COUNTY, N.S. -When residents concerned about possible harvest of crown forest at Corbett Lake found out on New Year’s Eve that it was all a big mistake, they could have packed up their maps, GPS units, and social media ecological sites and went home. They didn’t.
Instead, they’ve dug in with every intention of finding out what happened and saving the remaining old growth forest between Corbett and Dalhousie lakes on the South Mountain above Bridgetown.
On Dec. 17, 2018 the Department of Lands and Forestry website that lets people know about proposed crown land forest harvests posted two parcels on its Harvest Plans Map Viewer site. Parcels AP068637B and AP068637D -- 21.48 and 18.88 hectares respectively – were up for public comment until Jan. 19. The proposed harvest method was ‘uniform shelterwood.’
Eighteen residents spent part of Boxing Day walking the parcels just west of the Morse Road and discovered a logging road almost a kilometer long had been built in recent months, and that the south parcel and part of the north parcel had already been harvested.
See Also VOICE IN THE WILDERNESS
See also ANNAPOLIS COUNTY COUNCIL
When they asked questions about the road and harvesting, they got an email response at 4:25 p.m. on New Year’s Eve telling them the whole thing was a mistake.
“AP068637B and AP068637D were originally posted as proposed clear cuts for public comment in 2015,” said Lynne Stewart in an email from the HPMV site. “They were approved as partial harvests in 2018 and harvested in the same year. They were reposted in error this month and will be removed from the Harvest Plan Map Viewer this week.”
In response to questions by The Spectator, Lands and Forestry spokesperson JoAnn Alberstat confirmed the December posting had been in error.
“The information reposted this month was provided by WestFor in error and will be removed from the Harvest Plans Map Viewer this week,” she said at 6:10 p.m. on Dec. 31.
Residents weren’t happy with the email from the HPMV site.
“Needless to say, this cryptic message raised more questions than it answered,” said resident Bev Wigney in a Jan. 4 letter to Premier Stephen McNeil and Minister of Lands and Forestry Iain Rankin.
Wigney helped organize the Boxing Day tour of the two properties that drew concerned citizens from as far away as Clementsport and Margaretsville.
“There are many in this area who watch the HPMV notifications quite carefully and don't recall seeing mention of this harvest,” said Wigney. “We sent emails asking what date the notifications were sent out. We wanted to know more about the process by which the harvest was changed from a proposed clear-cut and approved as a Uniform Shelterwood cut, but as of the hour of the writing of this email, there has been no further explanation offered.”
The Nova Scotia Healthy Forest Coalition, an alliance of organizations and individuals united to raise public awareness of ‘the critical state of our forests and the need for fundamental reform of forest policy,’ said in an alert on its website that the response from LAF was not acceptable.
“LAF did not provide any evidence or supporting documentation that demonstrated that the two stands were posted for public comment in 2015,” it said in a report on the Corbett Lake situation. “Several residents have since requested the 2015 map and forestry data from the PTA (pre-treatment assessment) but have not received any response.”
HFC said that by removing the posting from the Harvest Plan Map Viewer, the department effectively shut down the formal public consultation for the area.
“LAF claimed the area was posted as a clear-cut three years ago and they modified it to a partial cut (a uniform shelterwood - a two stage clear-cut),” the HFC report said. “Citizens of Annapolis County have no way of knowing what the true plans are for the area as the one posted for comment has now been withdrawn.”
The report said many citizens do not trust LAF and believe they mislead the public with no accountability for their actions.
The Healthy Forest Coalition also said information has been unearthed that differs from both the December 2018 posting on HPMV and the claim that the land was posted in 2015 as per the New Year’s Eve email.
“Conducting searches on the internet, citizens discovered the natural peninsula between Corbett and Dalhousie (lakes) was posted for public comment FOUR years ago on Nov. 18, 2014 with a public input deadline of Dec. 8, 2014,” the group said in its report. “The area posted was not for a clear-cut as LAF stated but for a partial cut again, a uniform shelterwood … and the area was about twice as large as posted in December 2018 and included almost the entire peninsula. None of this was mentioned by LAF. It seems that citizens have again been misled and misinformed by LAF.”
“It seems quite apparent that there's a serious problem here, having to do with a failure in public consultation,” said Wigney in her letter. “The sad part of all of this is that, what appears to be a very ecologically significant forest, will ‘pay the price’ for this failure to consult adequately with the community.”
Wigney calls the almost-untouched northern parcel a ‘gem of a forest’ that in other provinces might already have been turned into a protected conservation area. She said some trees may be over 200 years of age and provide a vital part of a matrix of rich biodiversity that can’t be replaced.
Wigney said that in the ‘uniform shelterwood’ harvest method in effect at Corbett Lake, some of the taller trees are allowed to remain standing, while the larger percentage of merchandisable trees are removed.
“Within as little as three years, another cut can be made to remove the remaining tall trees -- so, in effect, this being nothing more than a somewhat delayed form of clear-cutting,” she said.
Her fear is that foresters will be back in as little as three years to finish the job they started and all those legacy trees will be gone.
“So, instead of fulfilling their ecological purpose as towering trees in one of the only remaining forests of this age and type in our county, the remaining legacy trees will eventually be harvested for a poor economic return,” she said. “Sad. Very, very sad. Is this forest with its towering canopy of legacy trees not worth more as wildlife habitat and as a vital means of carbon sequestration?
Also sad is the fact that we will be losing a wonderful forest -- one that could have been enjoyed by the people of this area.”
She said being located so close to the communities of Bridgetown, Annapolis Royal, and Lawrencetown, it’s a forest that could be enjoyed for hiking in summer, launching canoes in Corbett Lake, snowshoeing and x-country skiing in winter, nature study and perhaps even an outdoor camping place for Scout and Guide troops.
Wigney said to see the northern parcel at Corbett Lake cut down as ‘merchandise’ would be seen as a gross failure in conservation.
“Are we not better than this here in Nova Scotia,” she asked. “I ask that all of you give consideration to the future of this forest. Is it really worth destroying one of our exceedingly few remaining ‘old forests’ -- a stand of 21.5 hectares -- in order to make a few more bucks? Must this tiny oasis of biodiversity be destroyed when there are so many thousands of hectares of ‘other forest’ being harvested to fill the demand for ‘product?’ Why is it so important that every last bit of forest be earmarked as a piece of merchandise?”
Morse Road resident Bleu Rae has watched what she calls the ‘rape’ of the South Mountain all around her and said on Wigney’s ‘Annapolis Royal & Area - Environment & Ecology’ Facebook group “I still want to save what’s possible of South Mountain. I am well aware how awful it is as it’s my home and I see, but I want it halted, now, no more trucks hauling it out overnight.”
The Nova Scotia Healthy Forest Coalition said it’s “clear to the public that LAF cannot reform itself and has little interest in forestry reform. The time is now for the Premier to get serious about forestry reform by fully implementing the (Bill) Lahey Report and reforming LAF.”
It said Annapolis County has been devastated by clear-cutting with few benefits locally. “There are only a small number of natural forest patches remaining – all of which are targets for harvesting by the status quo.”
“We request the Premier to freeze all the remaining patches of established forests that are potential targets for forest harvesting on crown land (including the Corbett Lake peninsula) until the ecological forestry framework is in place supported by the science community and public input, followed by the development of a new and publicly acceptable land use plan for the western crown lands,” the coalition said.
Go Online: https://nsgi.novascotia.ca/hpmv/.
Go Online: www.healthyforestcoalition.ca
Lahey Report: https://novascotia.ca/natr/forestry/Forest_Review/
On Facebook: Annapolis Royal & Area - Environment & Ecology