Rural communities are getting more control over their forests and economic opportunities, through Nova Scotia’s community forests program.
The province will now negotiate a three-year Crown forest agreement with Medway Community Forest Co-operative to establish Nova Scotia’s first community forest.
“Allowing communities to manage nearby forests on Crown land means the forests will be managed by the local community, and that there will be jobs and opportunities close to home,” said Julie Towers, executive director of Natural Resources’ Renewable Resources Branch.
It should take a few months for the department and the co-operative to establish their roles and responsibilities.
The pilot project will be evaluated each year for governance, business administration, forestry practices, community engagement and other elements.
If the pilot is successful, up to 15,000 hectares of wilderness in western Nova Scotia could be managed as community forests.
Medway Community Forest Cooperative’s proposal was evaluated by department staff and followed the government purchasing policy.
“This is a small pilot project but it’s a great chance to test and model for the future, to find the best chance for success for community forests in this province,” said Will Martin, of Windhorse Farm, which specializes in sustainable forest harvesting.
The province is also exploring opportunities for a Mi’kmaq forestry initiative with the Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaq Chiefs.
Community forests can be used for commercial forestry, tourism, recreation, habitat protection, environmental education and research. Municipalities, forestry businesses, wood co-operatives, non-profit organizations and other community-based groups were all eligible to apply to manage forests on Crown land.
Provincial governments in other provinces have signed agreements with one or more community groups to manage nearby forests on Crown land. The community groups may also sign agreements with companies that want to harvest trees or conduct other business ventures, which provides income for the group’s activities and other community projects.
About 125 community forests have been established in Canada during the past 15 years. Most are in British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec.