Environment featured

Op-ed: For our forests to survive, minister Rankin must begin to practice what he preaches

South Coast Today, used with permission

In a recent op-ed piece (SouthCoastToday.ca, July 3, 2019) Lands and Forestry minister Iain Rankin admitted that “Today, we still use clearcutting as the default approach far too often”.

In a rare moment of candor, the minister is absolutely correct.  Clearcutting eliminates most forest wildlife, including associated endangered species and their habitats, degrades forest soils and releases carbon reserves.  Environmentalists, biologists and other experts have been warning about this for years, most recently professor William Lahey in his 2018 report on current forestry practices in Nova Scotia.  

It doesn’t require an expert to recognize the damage clearcutting causes.

Yet, despite Minister Rankin’s stated opposition, it continues unabated.  Why is this? Is he powerless to stop it? 

Of course not.  Recently, the minister stopped clearcutting in Annapolis, saying  “Over the past few days I have heard from concerned community members and recently received information that points to there being species at risk in the proposed harvest area…”

So why doesn’t he stop it in other areas?  Is this because he hasn’t “heard from concerned community members” elsewhere?

Not at all.

In a CBC interview on March 25 he acknowledged receiving a letter from 1275 signators requesting he meet with community members regarding the clearcutting in Shelburne County.  And how has he responded?

Other than a few brief disrespectful and dismissive comments again on CBC, he hasn’t responded at all. So, more than three months later, he hasn’t even had the common courtesy to answer the letter.

But, he did find time to meet with grade nine students in Shelburne, which raises an obvious question: why would he choose to meet with them and not the adults who in such great numbers requested a meeting? 

An even bigger mystery is why minister Rankin would argue in his SCT op-ed for being “Thoughtful, respectful and working together”.  Does he consider failing to meet with  concerned citizens “thoughtful, respectful and working together”?

Of course not.

While the citizens in Shelburne County don’t know where they stand with the minister, perhaps they should take comfort from his statement that “I realize that leaving our partners in the dark evaporates trust and faith.  That’s why I will always welcome respectful feedback that focuses on this very important task”

So let’s take him at his word and offer this feedback. 

“Minister, we welcome your op-ed and the message it conveyed.  But, in all honesty we must tell you that we need to see more. While it is encouraging to see you “talk the talk” it is far more important that you begin to “walk the walk”. 

We want to believe what you say, but we need to see more than just words, since the biggest threat to Nova Scotia’s crown land forests stems from your continued unabated licensing of their wholesale destruction by clearcutting. 

You and you alone can stop this.  But your words are constantly contradicted by your actions, further evaporating the trust you claim to want to establish.

Your continued doubletalk only serves to further the destruction of our forests.

By matching your words with action, you can save the public forests.”

Community Forests Shelburne County is an ad hoc citizens group advocating an end to clearcutting on Crown Lands in Shelburne County pending a thorough and proper review with the community.

With a special thanks to our generous donors who make publication of the Nova Scotia Advocate possible.

Subscribe to the Nova Scotia Advocate weekly digest and never miss an article again. It’s free!