CORBETT LAKE, N.S. - When concerned residents walked a piece of Crown forest on the South Mountain Boxing Day, they were amazed at the eight-foot circumference black birch trees. They were just as amazed that a logging road had mysteriously appeared since mid-July when the two lots they went to look at are merely in the public comment stage of the province’s proposed harvest process. And one lot looks like it’s already been cut.
“It’s supposed to be able to be commented on until the 19th of January but we see evidence that they may have already started,” said Sue Skipton, one of 18 residents who converged on Neaves Road and expected they would arrive at the right coordinates and have to rely on compass and GPS to navigate through the woods. “Why is there already a road in here leading to this area when it’s still under comment?”
The two parcels, AP068637B and AP068637D, are 21.48 and 18.88 hectares respectively and are located between two lakes – Corbett and Dalhousie -- just west of Morse Road. The comment period on the Department of Lands and Forestry Harvest Plans Map Viewer site is until Jan. 19. Go to https://nsgi.novascotia.ca/hpmv/.
“I’m definitely questioning why they would put in a road already,” said Randall Fredericks who brought a clipboard and map. He points to the spot on a map. The yellow indicates the two proposed harvest sites.
He’s also curious why a partial harvest was done recently to the west side of that road on part of the north lot AP068637B.
“Typically when harvests of any type are done on Crown land there’s consultation with the public,” Fredericks said.
And then at the end of the road, parcel AP068637D looks like it’s already been harvested. Fredericks and biologist Donna Crossland went back out to the site after the Boxing Day walk and went to the bottom of the south parcel and she confirms that lot has already been harvested despite lack of public consultation.
Work looks like it was carried out in the past few months, and Crossland isn’t questioning the quality of the harvesting, which most agree was well done, but rather the public had no chance for input and that the comment period is still open.
Those out on the Boxing Day walk agreed the partial harvest on the south end of parcel AP068637B looked good, and if it was left as it is now it would flourish. But the fear is that the type of proposed cuts could see the chainsaws back in three to 10 years to take the rest. The proposed cut is called ‘uniform shelterwood.’ Much of the wood is harvested and the remaining trees are cut down once foresters are satisfied new growth is well established.
Crossland led the tour of the proposed parcels, pointing out trees and habitat features that spoke of lots of wildlife.
“This is a late successional shade-tolerant stand, meaning these trees grow in the shade of one another very well,” Crossland said of the north parcel. “It’s made up of the species that would have once dominated Nova Scotia’s forests historically – the sugar maple, the yellow birch, the red spruce, the American beech tree. Those were the dominant species we saw in there. Some red maple as well.”
Late successional means the forest changes continually as trees mature and die, creating habitats for dozens of wildlife species.
“There’s a lot of regeneration on the forest floor,” Crossland said. “We’ve got multiple age classes, and what’s astonishing is that some of it really is old growth. Those are old growth stands. We have a lot of wildlife cavity trees – the beech trees and the yellow birch. There’s food here for wildlife. We’ve got lots of signs of wildlife. It would be nice if we could do forestry but do it in a selective harvest way – sustainable. Not take all of it. We need to have a canopy, a continuous canopy of trees while still doing forest activity.”
Gem of a Forest
“On our Boxing Day walking exploration, in just a matter of minutes, I knew we were dealing with a real gem of forest biodiversity,” said Bev Wigney. “The range of tree species and age of trees, and the amount of mosses, lichens, and ferns tell me that that's a super site. There must be all kinds of forest plants, birds, insects, amphibians, reptiles and mammals in that forest.”
Wigney is a life long naturalist and has a long history of accompanying noted biologists from the CMN, CWF, and OMNR, photographing specimens during field work over the past two decades.
“I know my stuff -- be it herpetology, entomology, botany, or whatever,” she said. “In any case, I know a hawk from a handsaw -- so I know very well when I'm in a biodiversity-rich place -- and the north parcel of Corbett-Dalhousie is just such a place. It should not be harvested.”
She said if those parcels were anywhere within a day's driving distance of a city like Ottawa, sited as it is on Corbett Lake, it would have been turned into a conservation area or perhaps even a Provincial Park long ago.
“It is at least as deserving as some of the other regional sites such as Mickey Hill Pocket Wilderness,” she said, “actually, it's probably even more deserving.”
“There’s a lot of larger, older growth trees,” said Skipton who helped Wigney measure the larger trees. “There’s still a lot of wild animals out and about.”
The biggest tree she and Bev Wigney got the tape around that day was more than eight feet in circumference. That’s 30 inches in diameter at chest height.
Skipton calls the West Dalhousie/ Morse Road area the Forgotten Land. “We’re out of sight, out of mind,” she said.
Skipton has been speaking out against clear cutting in the area for the past four years. Cuts have been continuing almost non-stop and going up the Morse Road from Bridgetown to West Dalhousie some of those cuts go right to the side of the road. The Harvest Plan Map Viewer shows hundreds of hectares of crown land approved for partial harvest or clear cuts in the area since 2016.
She may finally have some support in voicing her concerns with like-minded Wigney, Fredericks, and Crossland joining together to explore what’s happening and pushing for less damaging and more sustainable forestry practices.
“I think that we here in Annapolis County should get to work protecting the north parcel of ‘Old Forest’ and the sugar maple stand that is within it,” Wigney said. “I believe we will see some action at the county level very soon. I hope we can work together to support some kind of conservation measure for this parcel.”
Wigney said she and other concerned citizens are investigating further.
“A couple of us have already drafted and sent a letter of notification to the Premier, Minister of Lands & Forests, and our local councillors – (Warden) Timothy Habinski and Gregory Heming, informing them of our findings and that they should expect to hear about this in the media in the very near future,” she said. “We have requested that they take action on this matter.”
Habinski had hoped to convene a special meeting of council to discuss the proposed crown land harvests but the earliest council can meet is Jan. 3. Habinski said he’s aware of the findings of Wigney, Skipton, and Fredericks, including the new road and the apparent harvesting that has already taken place.
The Spectator has contacted the Department of Lands and Forestry with questions pertaining to the new road and the apparent harvesting that has already taken place. Staff were in the process of obtaining information but were unable to provide it before press time.
NOTE: The Department of Lands and Forestry issued the following late in the day Dec. 31:
AP068637B and AP068637D were originally posted as proposed clear cuts for public comment in 2015. 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.
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