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Province announces increased protection of old-growth forests

The provincial government has announced all old-growth forest on Crown land is now protected as a part of the province's new approach to foresty.

The updated policy now applies to all old-growth forests on Crown land that were not a part of previously protected areas.

The Minister of Natural Resources, Tory Rushton, says the updated protection policy is a part of the ongoing to work to create an ecological approach to forestry.

"We believe this revised policy makes Nova Scotia a leader in protecting old-growth forests and demonstrates our commitment to prioritize biodiversity on Crown land," Rushton said in a press release.

The term old-growth refers to a forest where at least 20 per cent of trees meet the minimum age, which varies depending on the specific tree and ranges from 100 to 140 years old; the forest must also be somewhat undisturbed by human activity.

The Department of Natural Resources has also recognized forests approaching the designation of old-growth and included them in the policy.

While commercial and industrial activities are prohibited in the protected areas, hiking, hunting, fishing, camping, and harvesting plants for cultural uses are still permitted.

In the press release, the department stated, "under rare and exceptional circumstances, an old-growth forest area can be removed from protection or certain activities permitted if it is in the public's interest."

"For example, land may be needed for the construction of a new hospital or trees that fell in a storm may be a fire risk to neighbouring communities," the press release outlined.

Before the department decides on changing protection, the policy requires a 30-day public comment period and consultation with the Mi'kmaq.

Peter Duinker, professor emeritus from Dalhousie University and contributor to the old-growth forest policy update and the Independent Review of Forest Practices, says old-growth forests are rare yet unique for the wide range of values they deliver.

Duinker was quoted in the press release saying, "the policy contains strong provisions for the protection of all old-growth forest on Crown land."

"With time, the amount of old-growth forest in the province will increase as will the quality of what we have. This kind of legacy is what Nova Scotians want and deserve."

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