Environment featured

DNR drops acclaimed forestry certification program in Western Nova Scotia

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – The Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has dropped Forest Stewardship Council certification on a large tract of land in Western Nova Scotia.

The Medway District is part of the lands government acquired from the failing Bowater Mersey company in 2012.

The decision to relinquish the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification for the Medway District is based on duplication in certification, states DNR Minister Lloyd Hines in a news release.

Currently the lands are certified by both the FSC and the Sustainable Forestry Initiatives (SFI).

What the news release doesn’t mention is that many environmentalists consider the SFI certification to be the weaker of the two by far.

ForestEthics, a US environmental organization, looked at the two certifications and deems FSC to be much more stringent.

FSC averaged four times as many major non-conformances per audit and six times as many minor non-conformances as SFI audits, ForestEthics claims.  

“It’s a major step backwards for forestry on public land,” Matt Miller, forestry program coordinator with the Ecology Action Centre tells the Nova Scotia Advocate.  

“Not only are they dropping the FSC, which is the strongest, only widely accepted forest certification system in the world, but they seem to be endorsing the SFI, which is not as robust.”

Stepping away from FSC endorsement is puzzling because in March of last year then-minister of DNR Zach Churchill told CBC Radio that he intended to pursue FSC certification on all public lands in Western Nova Scotia.   

In the interview Churchill called the FSC the “gold standard for environmental certification systems for forestry operations.”

So what changed?

Chris Miller, National Conservation Biologist with Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) questions the timing of the announcement.

In October last year the DNR Assistant Deputy Minister went on record saying that a newly formed consortium of 12 mills would have to maintain FSC certification in order to keep its license in Western Nova Scotia.

And now the government claims that the FSC certification is no longer necessary.

Chris Miller believes that maybe the FSC audit identified serious flaws in forestry practices in the Medway District.  

“The FSC audit was initiated in September. We’re now in March, but the results of that audit have not been made public yet,” Chris Miller says.

The Nova Scotia Advocate submitted questions to DNR earlier today, including a question about the state of last Fall’s FSC audit. This story will be updated when we receive a response.