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Intact forests in Nova Scotia disappearing

HALIFAX - A new report released by Global Forest Watch Canada (GFWC) shows that only 17% of the landmass of Nova Scotia remains as intact forest.

"This is an alarming and shocking figure", says Chris Miller, a senior conservation biologist with the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society based in Halifax. "The Nova Scotia government needs to act quickly to ensure that the largest remaining intact forests are protected".

The GFWC report shows that protected areas play a key role in ensuring Nova Scotia has intact forest in the future.  In many locations in the province, the only intact forest that remains larger than 500 hectares in size occurs inside the boundaries of protected wilderness areas.

"Protected areas are clearly playing an important role in ensuring Nova Scotia has intact forest in the future", says Miller.  "With the very high rates of forest harvesting occurring in the province, basically if it\'s not protected, it will be cut.  It\'s not a matter of if, but when".

The GFWC report shows that the public lands within, and adjacent to, the Chignecto Game Sanctuary are the only cluster of intact forest in Nova Scotia that does not yet have a core protected area.

"The single most important thing that the Nova Scotia government can do right now to protect intact forest in Nova Scotia is to identify a candidate protected area boundary for public lands at Chignecto that includes the significant majority of intact forests", says Miller.

In October 2009, the Nova Scotia government announced its intentions to create a "large" protected wilderness area at Chignecto, but has yet to release a candidate protected area boundary showing which lands will be protected and which lands will be made available to the forest industry.  The government is now five months late in releasing the boundary.

CPAWS is calling on the Nova Scotia government to protect the significant majority of public lands within and adjacent to the Chignecto Game Sanctuary as a legally-protected wilderness area.  The Wilderness Areas Protection Act allows for public use, including recreation, hunting, camping, and fishing inside protected wilderness areas, but prohibits industrial activities such as clearcutting, road-building, seismic testing, and open-pit mining.

The GFWC report shows that there are still significant opportunities to protect intact forest in Nova Scotia, but some areas are experiencing steep declines in the amount of intact forests.  Between 2000 and 2007, Annapolis, Guysborough, and Shelburne Counties suffered the greatest loss of intact forests, totalling over 42,000 hectares.

A report released by GFWC in 2009, examining rates of anthropogenic change in Nova Scotia, shows that over a half-million hectares of forests have been cut down in Nova Scotia since the 1990\'s, with the highest rates of disturbance occurring in Central Nova Scotia.  During that time period, 27% of the forests of Colchester County were cut down and 20% of the forests of Pictou County.

When the Nova Scotia government releases its revised Natural Resources Strategy it needs to make sure that changes to forest practices in Nova Scotia don\'t push the problem of clearcutting and forest degradation deeper into our last remaining intact forest areas.  Concurrently, the Nova Scotia government also needs to release its proposed expansion of protected areas to achieve its legislative committment of legally-protecting at least 12% of Nova Scotia\'s landmass by 2015.

In 2009, CPAWS and other conservation organizations, along with the biggest forestry companies operating in Nova Scotia, submitted a proposal to the Nova Scotia government which shows how the government can achieve its protected areas target with minimal impacts on the forest industry while also protecting the most ecologically-significant properties in the province.

High-resolution photos available.

For more information, contact:
Chris Miller, Ph.D.
National Manager
Wilderness Conservation and Climate Change
Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society
(902) 446-4155