Clearcutting and the environmental degradation of Nova Scotian forests has been at the forefront of debates about the province’s forestry practices for decades now. What is the best way to create a sustainable and environmentally conscious forestry industry that is still economically viable? To understand the current political climate in Nova Scotia in regards to this issue, it’s important to look back at the history of clearcutting in the province. Here is a brief overview of clearcutting practices and government forestry legislation in Nova Scotia, and how it has impacted the industry today.

The Politics of Pollution: The Environment Versus Big Business

The environmentalist Doug Macdonald argued in his 1991 book The Politics of Pollution that neoliberal economic policies were changing the way that we reacted to issues of environmental protection and climate change. Neoliberalism is the belief that the markets should be as free from government intervention as possible. This political ideology, argued Macdonald, has prevented the forest industry in Nova Scotia from making a serious effort to adopt any of the environmental protection policies created by the government since the 1950s and 60s.

In 2008, the government enacted public consultations to discuss the proposed Natural Resources Strategy, a plan created to help curb climate change and make the Nova Scotian forest industry more sustainable. What the public noted was that older forests were being rapidly cleared to make way for younger ones—a trend that put the biodiversity and natural sustainability of Nova Scotian forests at risk. Based on this assessment and further research, the Department of Natural Resources John MacDonell in 2010 committed to reduce clearcutting to 50% of forest harvesting in the province. By 2014, however, clearcutting still accounted for 88% of all forest harvesting in Nova Scotia.

Critics argue that the main reason clearcutting continues to be popular throughout the province despite the mountains of evidence that suggests it’s a non-sustainable practice is because it’s the fastest and most economically advantageous forestry practice for absentee investors who are seeking the largest short-term gains for their investments. Unfortunately, the environmental sustainability of the province has been ignored in favour of the economic interests of big business, most of which isn’t locally based.

Over the next few years, the importance of environmental sustainability is likely to become even more critical. With the right preparation and support, it’s possible to grow a sustainable woodlot that is also economically viable. For more information about sustainable woodlot practices and for environmental and financial consultation for your woodlot, contact the industry experts at H.C. Haynes today.