All old-growth forest on Nova Scotia Crown land now protected under province’s new approach to ecological forestry; at least 20% of trees in a forest must be minimum age for the forest type to qualify as old-growth and forest must be largely undisturbed

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HALIFAX, Nova Scotia , August 18, 2022 (press release) –

All old-growth forest on Crown land is now protected as part of the Province’s new approach to ecological forestry.

Tory Rushton, Minister of Natural Resources and Renewables, announced an updated old-growth forest policy is effective today, August 18.

“Protecting our old-growth forests is part of our ongoing work to implement ecological forestry on Crown land in Nova Scotia,” said Minister Rushton. “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.”

For a forest to be considered old growth under the policy, at least 20 per cent of the trees must be the minimum age for that forest type. The minimum age varies from 100 years old for some types of forest to 140 years old. The forest must also be relatively undisturbed by human activity.

There are also certain areas where the Department has identified forests that are approaching the definition of old growth. They are called restoration opportunity areas and are also protected by the policy.

The updated policy applies to all old-growth forest on Crown land that is not already designated as part of a protected area. The policy does not require protection of old-growth forests on private land, but the Department will work with private landowners, land trusts and others to support conservation.

Commercial and industrial activities are not permitted in areas protected by the policy. Hiking, hunting, fishing, wilderness camping and harvesting plants for Indigenous cultural uses are permitted. The policy also includes a commitment to support education about old-growth forests.

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. Before the Department would decide on changing protection, the policy requires a 30-day public comment period and consultation with the Mi’kmaq.

The Department conducted a public consultation last year to revise the Old Forest Policy. Feedback from the forestry sector, environmental groups, the Mi’kmaq, Nova Scotians and other stakeholders helped clarify and strengthen the policy language.

Maintaining old-growth forests is a critical aspect of ecological forestry and resilience in the face of climate change. This new policy helps ensure Nova Scotia’s forests are managed according to the latest science and current public values, while recognizing the need for future adaptation. This is an important step toward demonstrating Nova Scotia’s transition to a management regime that puts ecological values at the forefront of forest policy and development decisions.
Al Gorley, Co-chair, British Columbia’s Old Growth Strategic Review, and contributor to the Independent Review of Forest Practices in Nova Scotia

Old-growth forests in Nova Scotia are relatively rare yet very special for the wide range of values they deliver to the residents of the province. 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.
Peter Duinker, professor emeritus, Dalhousie University, and contributor to the old-growth forest policy update and the Independent Review of Forest Practices in Nova Scotia

Quick Facts:

  • the policy was first established in 1999 and updated in 2012
  • nearly 15 per cent of provincial Crown land is protected as old-growth forest and restoration opportunity areas; about 32,000 hectares are protected by the policy and about 245,000 hectares are estimated to be in provincial protected areas
  • another 40,000 hectares of old-growth forest are estimated to be in federal protected areas like national parks
  • old-growth forest and protected areas make up the conservation zone of the triad model of ecological forestry on Crown land

Additional Resources:
An Old-Growth Forest Policy for Nova Scotia:

Summary of feedback from public consultation:

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