With more than three-quarters of Nova Scotia's land in forest, how we use and manage that land has a profound influence on the sustainable prosperity of the province.
This idea — that the health of a community is intertwined with the health of the forest in it and surrounding it — is fundamental to the concept of community forests that Peter Duinker, professor in the School for Resource and Environmental Studies, Faculty of Management, is developing with the province.
“We all need to share in the responsibility of managing our forests,” says Dr. Duinker. “That means working together to develop and manage our natural resources in a way that enriches the community and sustains the forest.”
In August 2011, the province called for the establishment of community forests on Crown land in its natural resources strategy The Path We Share. Community forest was defined as “any forest land managed by a local government, community group or First Nation for the benefit of the entire community.”
While community forests are abundant in Ontario, Quebec, and British Columbia (where the definition hails from), there is limited experience implementing them in Nova Scotia.
Sustainable development, conserving ecosystems
To help develop a home-grown plan, Dr. Duinker, with funding from the Government of Nova Scotia through the Nova Forest Alliance, and with assistance from student Kris MacLellan, organized and ran a community forest forum at Dalhousie in June. The forum brought together woodlot owners, experienced forest managers and interested citizens from across the province to explore how the rural communities across Nova Scotia could share in the responsibility of developing and managing community forests.
With the pulp and paper industry facing challenges, it's paramount to think outside of the box in terms of how to conserve forest ecosystems while creating sustainable economic value.
“We can no longer have just a few large companies and expect this sector and the relevant communities to thrive,” said Charlie Parker, minister of natural resources, at the forum. “We need a better mix in our forestry sector – small, medium and large, local, national, multinational.”
Professor Duinker’s recommendations to the province include developing alternative models to market forest goods and services (e.g. carbon-credit marketing and bioenergy) and partnering with educational institutions to turn forests into outdoor classrooms.
The forum report, Advancing the Conversation on Community Forests in Nova Scotia: Proceedings from the June 2012 Forum on Community Forests, notes that the participants are optimistic about community forest ventures, expect strong leadership from the province, industry and municipal governments, and are keen to engage in an ongoing dialogue involving diverse and interested parties to ensure that the community forest agenda moves forward.
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