St. Margaret’s Bay is seriously up in arms. Three huge clearcuts are proposed for the mouth of the Ingram River. People are readying chains and padlocks. Ringing in their ears, the echo of BC’s massive (and successful) demonstrations, “Clayoquot! Clayoquot! Clayoquot!” Bay people know management of the province’s 1.5m acre Western Crown Lands (less the 37k acre Medway Community Forest and the proposed 37k acre Mi’kmaq Forestry Initiative) is about to be handed over to a consortium of 16 mills. They say, now is the time for the Department of Natural Resources put paid to last year’s Western Crown Lands Conceptual Plan and much bally-hoooed 2011 Natural Resource Strategy, idealistically entitled “The Path We Share.”
“This (Strategy) marks a fundamental change – a transition from the limited partnerships that government and industry relied on in the past, to a broadly inclusive and collaborative way of working.”
–The Path We Share
Communities were to play a part. Municipalities were to play a part. But so far, the people of St. Margaret’s Bay have been frozen out. Perhaps the path we share, they think, is the path to good intentions, and we all know where that leads. Is this why we fought so long and hard to “Buy Back the Mersey,” they ask, so our resources could still be managed by a government-industry axis. Immediately after the sale top management staff from Bowaters moved seamlessly into top management positions at the department. Is this what we worked so hard for, they ask – same old same old?
The process now is rigged in the axis’ favour. Neither communities nor municipalities play a part in decisions. It’s all forestry. Even the old Mersey Woodlands Advisory Committee, resuscitated by government after the sale, is just informed after the fact. And once informed, they don’t communicate with the community. No one does. Decisions are always a surprise. With no notice, harvest maps pop up on line. Impossible time frames are given for comment. No rationale nor data for government decisions is provided. Armed only with volunteer labor and no budget, communities play whack-a-mole with ex post facto on-line maps. Suspicions and enmity fill the information gap. They go to the media, to petitions, to the opposition, to letter writing campaigns, to viral appeals… Just imagine if all this energy went instead to positive action. 
Rumours of a new, more collaborative process drift down from on high, always tempered by the caveat that while community input will be invited, decisions will still be made elsewhere, in other words, by the axis.
Another fatal flaw in the present system, despite claims to the contrary, there is no science-based multiple value management plan for the St. Margaret’s District as set out in the Western Crown Lands Conceptual Plan. “Ad hockery” rules the day. For example, there has been no High Conservation Value assessment. So, diving into the void, the SMBSA and its sister organizations are undertaking their own HCV assessment and will make recommendations for a sustainable multiple value management strategy.

As with last fall’s provocative Panuke clearcut (see above) which hit the Chronicle-Herald like a careening logging truck, where harvest was licensed on public lands with no notice nor discussion on “environmentally sensitive lands,” so south of the 103 on the Ingram between Exits 5 and 6 an agreement was struck on publically held land along a river which is of supreme environmental importance to the Bay, to local communities, and to the city of Halifax, currently engaged in an ambitious Greenbelting process. No wonder the citizens ears are filled with chants of civil disobedience. What did the department expect by these unilateral moves? That people would just roll over because “experts” (using secret data and logic) said so? Perhaps the department is getting bad PR advice, or, perhaps, dare it be said, some questionable advice on 21st century forestry in a world faced with serious environmental challenges.
Listen. Can you hear the chant? “Clayoquot! Clayoquot!” If you live on the Bay, you can hear it loud and clear.

Geoff Le Boutillier
St. Margaret’s Bay