HALIFAX - People in communities around the province can be part of the future of forestry through a new community forests program that meets another commitment in the province's natural resources strategy.
Community-managed forests will be places for commercial forestry, tourism, recreation, habitat protection, environmental education and research. Municipalities, forestry businesses, wood co-operatives, not-for-profit organizations, and other community-based groups can all manage the forests on leased Crown land.
"By allowing local communities to manage forests on Crown lands, the province is ensuring new opportunities for families close to home," said Premier Darrell Dexter. "Everyone can have a say in the way their forests are used, not just be consulted, but be truly engaged in the decision-making process and share in the benefits." Initially, the province will explore the concept by seeking expressions of interest from groups in southwest Nova Scotia, as recommended in the Bowater Transition Advisory Team's report, released Friday, Dec. 7.
"The province is following through on the transition team's recommendation," said Charlie Parker, Minister of Natural Resources. "This will allow our communities to have control of the way their forests are used, to protect forests, enjoy them, and gain from them, in keeping with the natural resources strategy."
The province will work collaboratively with the Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi'kmaq Chiefs to ensure that interested Mi'kmaq groups and entrepreneurs are fully involved in the community forest model. Nova Scotia's Mi'kmaq communities have long been advocates of community forests.
"Across Canada, community forests have revitalized rural economies and directed much-needed funds towards community priorities," said Amanda Lavers, executive director with Mersey Tobeatic Research Institute. "These priorities include maintaining community halls, providing high-speed Internet, supporting day-care facilities, creating eco-tourism opportunities and protecting drinking water. "Community forests are governed by people living in the community, so their profits are prioritized according to their needs."
There are 125 community forests in Canada. The model is successful in British Columbia, Quebec and Ontario.
"We endorse community forest management as a way to engage people in good management of forests for the products and jobs they create and the opportunities for communities they allow," said Kent Dykeman, area forestry manager for LP Canada, which operates a mill near East Chester.
Applications for expressions of interest from Nova Scotian communities or groups are now being accepted. They will be reviewed, leading to requests for detailed proposals in southwest Nova Scotia.
Proponents must describe how their proposals will respect Mi'kmaq land-access rights for traditional activities and culturally important sites.
Details on the community forest model and where to send expressions of interest are available at www.novascotia.ca/jobshere .