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No Moral Authority - David Orton, Canada


I recently took part in an Integrated Resource Management charade. Below are the comments I made at the meeting. Best,

David Orton

No Moral Authority: Comment on 'Managing' Crown Land Forests

By David Orton

(Based on remarks made at an "Eastern Region" meeting held in New Glasgow, on September 18, 2000, concerning an IRM (Integrated Resource Management) strategy for crown/public lands in Nova Scotia. These comments were made following a slide presentation on this Strategy by Dave Harris, "Regional Resource Manager Eastern" for the Department of Natural Resources; and a presentation by a representative from the Stora Enso pulp and paper mill. I had previously responded, by a letter to the editor, published in Nova Scotia newspapers in March 1996, to a 26-page document "Integrated Resource Management Pilot Project: Overview of Crown Lands in Cumberland and Colchester Counties", which presented what later turned out to be the basic model for the current IRM strategy. )

Hello, my name is David Orton. I would like to respond to the presentations. However, I basically address my remarks to the Department of Natural Resources, not the speaker from Stora Enso. It is the government which is supposed to be representing the citizens' interests here.

Lack of moral authority

I don't believe that the Department of Natural Resources has the moral authority to preside over any democratic land use process. Such a process must be Earth-centered and People-centered. Earth- centered would mean that the non-human interests of the animals and trees/plants from crown land woodlands are represented, so that they are valued in themselves, independent of their usefulness to humans. People-centered would mean that the interests of all Nova Scotian are represented in crown land use, not primarily industrial interests. You have no moral authority because your Natural Resources Department has actively encouraged clearcutting, herbicide and insecticide spraying, and the destruction of wildlife habitat. Moreover, you have pursued the foolish policy of enlarging the human carrying capacity of our forests, by encouraging the expansion of pulp mills and saw mills, encouraging the export of woodchips, etc. With such policies, there can never be enough wood in the forests, and they also displace other species from the forests.

Also, you have no moral authority because you have pursued a deliberate policy of narrowing the species basis of the Acadian forest here in Nova Scotia, in order to serve the forest industry. Your replanting policies (not that I support replanting), have only planted tree species favoured by the forest industry. Thus the most recent forest tree nursery production and shipments data for the overall Atlantic provinces, show that 99% of the total shipments make up only seven species, all softwoods desired by industry. {See Technical Note No. 319 for 1997 statistics, published by the Canadian Forest Service - Atlantic Forestry Centre.) Given that there are said to be approximately 30 indigenous species and 30 introduced species found in Nova Scotia forests, such a replanting policy serves industrial, not forest ecological interests.

Your Department, with its industrial forestry policies, has pursued a policy of stealing ravenously from the future of humans and non-humans, by not living within the Earth's current forestry Žincome'. Your Department has no moral authority because it has always accepted the priority of access to crown lands for forestry, mineral, and energy interests. Let me give just two examples:

The first example, is the letter of invitation to these "Open Houses" in the Eastern Region of Nova Scotia. These invitations, on Nova Scotia Natural Resources letterhead, are co-signed by the Department speaker here this evening, Dave Harris, and by Bevan Lock, described as a "Long Term Planner Stora Enso." So a government letter inviting citizens to a meeting on integrated resource management of crown lands, is co-signed by a representative from the largest pulp and paper mill in our province! This is not only outrageous, but it illustrates well the corporate and industrial influence and focus of the Department of Natural Resources. (Stora Enso has about 55% of the overall 27% of crown land in Nova Scotia under long-term lease and so-called management.) This IRM exercise takes pulp and paper mill crown leases on forest lands as givens.

The second example of industrial priority access while this IRM process has been supposedly underway, concerns oil and gas leases given out for exploration purposes on crown and other lands. I have two examples with me here illustrated in map form. One lease was for exploration proposals in December 1998 and the other one was for October 1999. They both cover very large areas, as you can see for yourselves, with the most recent exploration proposal covering much of Antigonish County and over half of Cape Breton. Apart from the undermining of any real crown land public consultation process, there should be no further exploration for fossil fuels. This, given that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a body of 2,500 scientists set up to advise the United Nations, is telling us that greenhouse gas emissions must be cut 50 to 70 percent.

Public treated with contempt

You have three land classifications for crown lands: C1 (35.6%), C2 (44%), and C3 (20.4%). (C3 is protected and limited use crown land.) Here in this geographic area, the Pictou County Naturalists and others worked hard to have Eigg Mountain and Gully Lake declared as protected areas. But you have treated all their efforts with contempt by refusing to place these two areas in the C3 category. Where is the real public consultation that you speak of? The Department of Natural Resources shows on its web page, which I looked at yesterday, their understanding of "democracy." It is democracy by delegation, with the Department controlling the process. This is how the Department puts it, in outlining their IRM land use categories: "Each parcel of land has been recommended for management under one of three classifications. The proposed classifications have been assigned bystaff teams consisting of geologists; foresters; parks, recreation and wilderness planners; and biologists, who bring scientific training as well as the public views to the table." (My emphasis) More generally, a coalition of non-industrial interest groups commenting on your IRM plan said, "Apart from already legally protected areas, the plan proposes allowing industrial uses on virtually all of Nova Scotia's Crown lands, including remaining unprotected public wildlands. Proposed Wilderness Areas at Ship Harbour Long Lake, Gully Lake, Eigg Mountain - James River, Nictaux River, Kluscap Mountain, Herring Cove, Blue Mountain - Birch Cove Lakes, and proposed additions to the Tobeatic Wilderness Area would be open for activities like mining and logging under the plan." (Statement from the August 31st Press Conference)

Crown lands managed against the economic interests of Nova Scotians The crown forest lands have been managed at the expense of the economic interests of the public and of small woodlot owners. A recent newspaper story (_Chronicle Herald_, September 14, 2000), noted that our local pulp mill, Kimberly-Clark, pays taxpayers through the government, $16.90 per tonne for sawlogs and $4.43 per tonne for pulpwood that is cut on crown forest lands; whereas sawlogs from private land owners cost $22-29 per tonne, and for pulpwood some woodlot owners obtain $52.50 a tonne. The crown pulpwood price well illustrates that the government is essentially giving away pulpwood. I therefore ask the representative for Stora Enso, who has spoken earlier, how much does your company pay for pulpwood and sawlogs from crown lands? [The Stora Enso spokesperson said he did not know this information.] (According to the original crown land grants in the legislation governing these two pulp mills proclaimed in 1958 and 1965, the company now called Stora Enso has a crown lease for up to 1,700,000 acres and the company now called Kimberly-Clarke, but then called Scott, has a crown lease for 230,000 acres. When companies are bought out or merge, existing crown leases seem to be automatically part of the deals.)

Crown lands will be used to settle aboriginal land claims? I do not see any awareness in this IRM process that there are land claims in Nova Scotia and that there will eventually be some kind of settlement. The 1996 _Report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples_ makes it clear that "that the dominant focus of negotiations will be Crown lands." (Vol. 2, Part 2, p. 857) Will the small amount of protected crown lands (C3 lands) that have been put aside, be offered to satisfy land claims or aboriginal access to forests? Is this what is going to happen in our province?

IRM: What it really means

We can see now what IRM really means, leaving aside the greenwash spin. "Integrated" means that, no matter what the public involvement, industrial uses like forestry, minerals and energy have priority. "Resource" means that Nature is just here for corporate/human use. The claim to "Management" is pure human arrogance. There is no public interest in this Plan which serves the general good of society. There is no general ecological interest. What we have with this Plan is economic self-interest masquerading as public interest. This Plan, as I pointed out in my initial response to the IRM Pilot Project several years ago, does not see that the human species is the basic environmental problem and that economic growth, fossil fuel consumption, consumerism and our population must be sharply curtailed. We have to be concerned with our ecological footprint, if we want to enter into a sustainable relationship with forests. Wackernagel and Rees in their book _Our Ecological Footprint_, point out the following important considerations: "If we are to live sustainably, we must ensure that we use the essential products and processes of nature no more quickly than they can be renewed, and that we dischargewastes no more quickly than they can be absorbed." - p. 7 We are already far exceeding with our lifestyles and populations the Earth's carrying capacity: "The present Ecological Footprint of a typical North American (4-5 ha) represents three times his/her fair share of the Earth's bounty. Indeed, if everyone on Earth lived like the average Canadian or American, we would need at least three such planets to live sustainably." - p. 13 We must drastically scale back our human utilisation of the forests. We must also distinguish between vital and our superfluous needs.


All of us have to learn to rise above human self-interest if crown lands, with their varied life forms, are to have a future. We need crown lands in our province to remain wild and to start a real healing process. For this to happen, we should terminate all existing crown leases to industrial interests without compensation. Crown lands then need to be set aside as wildlife and plant reserves, totally free of industrial and human exploitation. Let us truly put the Earth first in our land ethic, for really "managing" public lands in our province. I will finish by giving a quotation which is deliberately provocative, although some of you may feel that my comments have already been this. [Several people had already left during my remarks.] How many of us who care about wild Nature are confronted by the "jobs" argument? Yet, as the Finnish eco-philosopher Pentti Linkola, who is in his late 60s, says: "Unemployment is always better than doing harmful work."

(Final note: A lively critical discussion took place after my comments, with several intervenors from the audience, about the IRM process. There are of course many company and government "suits" at such a gathering, i.e. "information session", so the waters are not particularly deep ecology friendly.)

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