In Support of Biodiversity

It took public pressure to get the Lahey Report (“An Independent Review of Forest Practices in Nova Scotia“) off the ground but once completed, it contained summaries like this one:

My conclusion is that ecological forestry must be pursued on Crown and private lands with a combination of tools that are responsive to both the opportunities and limitations associated with each category of landholding. For Crown land, this means robust use of the Crown’s direct authority over Crown land to require – on an ambitious timeframe – that forestry on it be conducted ecologically. For private lands, it means a comprehensive, multi‐faceted, integrated, and collaborative strategy for encouraging and enabling private landowners, within broad parameters set by statute and regulation, to manage their lands in accordance with the concepts of ecological forestry within one (or more) of the legs of the triad.

University of King’s College president Bill Lahey’s final report with its 45 recommendations landed on the government’s desk in August 2018. In response, Premier Stephen McNeil’s Liberals consulted with the public and industry stakeholders before producing a first draft of Bill 4, the Biodiversity Act, in March 2019, but it was shelved a month later by Lands and Forestry Minister Iain Rankin who promised “more consultation.” Fast forward to the recent Liberal leadership race which Rankin won on a platform that included greater applied environmental wisdom — including a promise to implement Lahey’s recommendations.

Clearcut on NS crown lands.

WestFor clearcut on Crown land off Hiking Trail Road, just north of St. Margarets Bay. (Source: Ecology Action via YouTube)

Sure enough, on 11 March 2021, Premier Rankin tabled a revised version of the Biodiversity Act, which contains pro-active, constructive mechanisms to address biodiversity loss, including education and collaboration with community groups. It calls for a State of Biodiversity report, and public consultation on regulations stemming from the Act. It includes enforcement tools that would allow government the option to intervene (if needed) to save biodiversity in specific circumstances, such as protecting endangered species (like Mainland Nova Scotia Moose) and preventing the introduction of invasive species. The current Act improved upon the March 2019 version as a result of public consultation and stakeholder input (in 2019, 2020 and 2021). The Act passed first reading in the legislature which meant there would be two further readings and public input before it could become law (on 1 October 2021).

In response, the forest industry formed the Concerned Private Landowners Coalition (CPLC) and outright lied to the public about what the Biodiversity Act included.


Imagine my surprise when I opened up my newspaper and saw a full-page, color ad headlined “Calling All Private Landowners” and then in huge green letters “STOP BILL 4 BEFORE IT STOPS YOU!”

The ad continued:

They say it’s about the environment, but it isn’t. Bill 4 puts control of your lands in the hands of Halifax activists and politicians.

Could this false, abusive, truculent, scurrilous, offensive, Trump-style rhetoric demonstrate fear on the part of industry that we may, in fact, be on the verge of enacting environmentally based laws? These expensive ads leave the reader with unwarranted, negative views of activists who are, in fact, well-educated, motivated, environmentally conscious citizens looking to make our province a better place to live, as does the Biodiversity Act tabled on March 11. The newspaper ads were divisive, accusative and false but many landowners who read them didn’t bother reading the Bill itself. They panicked and contacted their MLAs to complain about what they believed Bill No. 4 would do, thanks to those industry lies. And as a result of those calls, the Liberals removed key, meaningful portions of the Bill.

Had these panicked landowners been encouraged to read the Biodiversity Act, they would have understood all the details of Bill No. 4, but they chose to listen to the CPLC instead.


Marcus Zwicker, general manager of WestFor Management, a consortium of Nova Scotia sawmills, said that the kind of restrictions activists are calling for would cause the industry to grind to a halt and create a shortage of forestry products. In a SaltWire opinion piece, he argued that with proper forestry management, moose habitat can actually be enhanced:

[W]e continue to believe that a responsible forest industry can be balanced with the need to protect our natural environment, including endangered species such as the mainland moose.

Forestry and the mainland moose can co-exist and thrive here as they do in many other areas throughout Atlantic Canada and across North America.

Yellow Birch (Betula alleghaniensis)

Photo of a Yellow Birch in Westport, Nova Scotia, by Tom Rogers (CC By-NC). The photo was submitted to the Giants of Nova Scotia website.

Zwicker must think the public are idiots; certainly no rational biologist/scientist would ever believe his statement. The whole point is that they are NOT being responsible. Zwicker also believes in harvesting Nova Scotian trees to be chipped and shipped to foreign countries and burned as fuel in biomass energy plants. He won’t acknowledge those biomass generators are extremely inefficient and worse than burning coal. This is one more reason why approximately half of Nova Scotian forests have been harvested since large-scale mechanization was introduced in the 1980s. With over 50% of global biodiversity already lost, we simply cannot allow this Bill to be killed by industry fears and lies.

Biodiversity loss is happening in Nova Scotia at an ever-increasing pace and we need a coordinated approach to address the issue. If passed, Bill 4 would provide one piece of that puzzle. However, we risk having no Biodiversity Act at all if lies about it prevail. The revised version of the Act has been worked on for more than two years, and now includes some of the elements recommended by a number of educated foresters as well as input from the forestry sector.

The Act would be the first of its kind in North America, and is a critical step in protecting the natural spaces and ecosystems we all love and rely on. Decision-makers need to hear that you support it so they can act on public support rather than following an industry that is lying. You may want to read Bill No. 4 to acquaint yourself with its details and then write or phone your MLA or the minister of lands and forests  (Chuck Porter, phone: 902-424-5935) or the premier (Iain Rankin: 902-424-6600).

Please help save our forests.

Featured photos of endangered Nova Scotia species (clockwise from top left): Blanding’s Turtle by Andrew C, CC BY 2.0  via Wikimedia Commons; Harlequin Duck by Peter Massas, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons; Mainland Moose, NS Department of Lands and Forestry website; Thread-leaved Sundew by NoahElhardt, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons; 


Paul Strome

Paul Strome worked 12 years as an educator in the Northwest Territories/Nunavut where he experienced the culture, language and geographic parameters of Indigenous people. He has petitioned the government at every opportunity to bring about the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People. As an elder and David Suzuki Ambassador he has championed the Blue Dot Movement in Unama’ki (Cape Breton) and in recent years was the Atlantic regional representative for the Council of Canadians.