Long-awaited N.S. forestry review still not forthcoming

by Charles Mandel

The long-awaited forestry review is going to be a bit longer yet.

Bill Lahey, the president of University of King's College and who is leading the review, posted July 9 on the website for the Independent Review of Forest Practices that he is currently reviewing feedback on the draft report from legal advisors in international law.

Lahey reports that he, with his team, is in the process of considering changes - if any - to the report and supporting document.

"As previously indicated, when completed, the final report will be released simultaneously to the public and to the Minister," Lahey wrote.

The review launched last August 30 already received one time extension, with then Natural Resources Minister, Margaret Miller, indicating that it will be completed at the end of April, 2018.

Lahey had requested the extension, citing the need for more work to complete the report.

"It's clear to me that Professor Lahey is being very thorough, and that is most important when we're dealing with the sustainability of forests and the forest sector," Miller said in a news release earlier this year. "The issues are complex and we need to get it right."

The review will provide recommendations to improve how Nova Scotia balances long-term environmental, social and economic interests in managing the province's forests.

So far the review has received more than 170 written submissions. While the majority deal with the forestry practices aspect of the review's mandate, many focus on the review's mandate to consider market access issues.

As well, Lahey has held more then 60 meetings involving over 140 groups and individuals.

The review also received advice from the Forest Biodiversity Science Advisory Committee of the former Department of Natural Resources on the biodiversity issues or questions it believes the review should address or consider as it formulates conclusions and recommendations on forestry practices that will balance economic, social and environmental values.

Premier Stephen McNeil promised a forestry review during the last election and later halted the signing of long-term forestry agreements on Crown land.

For months, private woodlot owners have voiced concerns over their inability to move fibre, particularly pulpwood, on the market.

Meanwhile, environmentalists have criticized the amount of clearcutting on Crown land and their proximity to ecologically sensitive areas.

Much of the blame has been directed at WestFor Management Inc., a consortium of 13 mills with access to approximately 500,000 hectares of western Crown land, most of which Bowater previously managed.

WestFor is looking to sign a 10-year Forest Utilization Licence Agreement and is currently operating on an extended interim lease with the province.

However, the province will not be signing anymore long-term agreements until the review is complete.

This isn't Lahey's first foray in the provincial government. He has previously served as deputy minister for the Departments of Environment and Labour, and helped craft a series of recommendations around aquaculture with fellow law professor Meinhard Doelle. The latter recommendations are commonly referred to as the Doelle-Lahey report.

The province is paying Lahey $30,000 to conduct the review, as well as any additional expenses deemed necessary.

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