Cape Breton Highlands National Park
There is an interesting, if terrifying, statistic that I became aware of last week – while the Nova Scotia Government goes along with forest practices like clear cutting and managing the forest for “optimum bio-mass” (they actually use the term “fibre-basket”), the Acadian forest that used to cover this Province is disappearing at an alarming rate.
It seems that the folks charged with managing the forests give a lot of sway to the companies engaged in harvesting them. For Conservationists like me, that creates a huge issue. Mainly, that's because the forests are then cut at the “optimum 50-70 year cycle” (optimum for a spruce tree that is), the longer growing trees like hardwoods and some softwoods are simply never re-grown. This, of course, means there is habitat loss for many, many species that depend on mature, long growth forests.
Further, it seems as if some are using “facts” that simply reinforce the convenient explanation – a forest expert said in a report accepted by government that Nova Scotia “naturally” has been burned over many times. Implying that harvesting for the short cycle is actually somehow “natural” when the truth is, early settlers caused much of the devastation this researcher cited.
For example, here in Port Maitland and Beaver River there was a huge fire in 1820, started by the early settlers who were clearing fields but the fire got out of control and burned most of the village of Beaver River. Yes, the forest here was burned, then, but not by nature, it was by man.
In any case, all one has to do is go to Cape Breton’s Highlands National Park and stand at the Lone Sheiling. Set in a small forest that never got cut, one can quickly see the difference between this forest and what most of the Province now looks like. Huge 350 year old maples shade the forest floor, and many, many animals find that habitat to their liking.
The forests need our help, and people need to become aware of what we’re losing by permitting so much clear cutting. We need to make more folks aware of this, we need to make those in charge aware that we know. We need to save the forests and the habitat they provide for many species, several of which are endangered, threatened or at risk.
We’ve got work to do.