Nova Scotia gives additional $5.7M for Fiona cleanup in forestry sector
March 29, 2023 By Lois Ann Dort, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Nova Scotians are still cleaning up in the wake of storm damage caused by hurricane Fiona last September. The province announced more funding on March 9 – an additional $5.7 million this fiscal year – to help private woodlot owners clean up the mess left behind by the storm, thus securing the safety and future of forests in hard hit areas.
In a news release issued March 9, the funding breakdown was presented as $2.5 million to extend eligibility for Fiona-related assistance to industrial private woodlots and provide more support for repairing roads, as well as $3.2 million for silviculture work and to will allow contractors to get started in the spring as soon as the weather allows, rather than having to wait for the natural resources and renewables 2023-24 budget to be finalized.
In October 2022, the province announced $4.6 million to help private woodlot clear trees brought down by the storm but, in an interview on March 9, Minister Tory Rushton, told The Journal feedback from foresters indicated that amount of funding would not be sufficient.
“We heard loud and clear that it may not be enough. There’s a lot of work still left out there that has to be done,” said Rushton, adding that the new funding announced last week would encourage the progress of that work.
Asked how much of the initial funding commitment had been accessed by the approximately 30,000 private woodlot owners in the province, department staff told The Journal approximately 530 private landowners had requested assistance and 68 claims had been paid out.
Funds available to individual woodlot owners is assessed by the amount of land covered, the extent of damage and a follow-up inspection of the site after the work has been completed.
Rushton told The Journal that the additional funds for the industry were supplied to make sure, “We could get as much cleaned up off the forest floor as possible. We really don’t want a fire hazard, whether it be on private land or Crown lands and, if the bulk of it stays on the forest floor for any length of time, we will have a fire hazard on our hands. We believe this is an important investment to clean up as much of the forest products that are laying on the forest floor as possible from the storm of Fiona.”
Asked how post-Fiona clean-up was undertaken on Crown land, Rushton said, “The standard licence holders for the Crown land are looking after that aspect for us.”
In eastern Guysborough County, Rushton added, “Port Hawkesbury Paper would be a licence holder, so they would be looking after some clean up on Crown land in their licence hold.”
For areas where there is no licence holder for Crown land, Rushton said department technicians monitor the forest through satellite imaging and fly overs on a regular basis “to see where things are getting picked up and where things aren’t…If they see a section of Crown land was not cleared, they would devise a plan with one of the license holders that is probably close by.
“The staff has heard loud and clear that I am very concerned about what the future may hold if we don’t clean up as much as possible. There’s a lot of work going in from the department. There’s a lot of work going in from the private sector as well. They understand the risk…if we don’t get this cleaned up. It’s very much a joint effort to get as much cleaned up as quickly as possible,” said Rushton.
As for the fate of that wood fibre, Rushton told The Journal there is an 18-month window when hurricane blowdowns can be utilized by industry.
“For the most part, we’re putting as much of this into saw logs as possible. There will be some that is low-grade wood fibre that we’ll try as much as we can to find a home for it,” said Rushton, adding, “I know Port Hawkesbury Paper said they can utilize some of this for paper process. We’re trying to find a sustainable home as much as possible.”
Lois Ann Dort is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter for Guysborough Journal.
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