N.S. forestry review extended until April

Natural Resources Minister Margaret Miller has extended the time frame for the Independent Review of Forest Practices. The review, launched on August 30, will be completed at the end of April.

University of King's College president Bill Lahey, who is leading the review of forest practices, requested the extension, as more work is required 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. "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.

Written submissions have arrived in many forms: Some are formal submissions written in the style of policy documents addressing multiple issues, while many are informal emails dealing with very specific issues, often based on personal experience.

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

The review will soon receive advice from the Forest Biodiversity Science Advisory Committee of the 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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