A Walk in the Woods

Think again about burning grass

In many parts of the Maritimes, burning grass has become somewhat of a spring tradition. However, once people find out the facts about the effects and potential risks of burning grass in the spring, hopefully they will reconsider doing so. The truth is that traditional grass burning is both destructive and dangerous.

Each year many properties and buildings are needlessly lost or damaged due to grass fires that become out of control. There are often injuries related to spring burning and potential for loss of homes and fatalities.

People sometimes decide to burn old fields because they think that it is the best way to get rid of the old, dead vegetation and prepare for the next year's crop. In reality, although it might be relatively easy, it is not good for the soil. Burning results in most of the old plants’ nutrients going up in smoke or remaining in ash that is washed or blown away. Burning also releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Allowing plants to decompose, or ploughing them under allows carbon and fertilizing elements to go back into the soil. This will help in the growth and development of future plants in the area.

Some people believe that the grass that grows back after burning greener and healthier. Although there may be some nutritional value of any burned ashes remaining on-site despite the wind and rain, generally the grass regrowth isn’t significantly greener than the original grass. If it is somewhat greener, it is a short term effect that will not last for long since the fire has a detrimental impact on soil growing capacity. In fact, studies have indicated that grass yield is reduced 50 to 60 percent as a result of a grass fire. Often, the regrowth just appears greener due to the contrast against the bare, blackened ground.

Some people believe that spring burning controls weed growth. In fact, the weed plant species deposit their seeds into the surrounding soil the previous fall and wait til spring in hopes of landing in mineral soil in order to become firmly rooted. Ironically, burning grass fields only serves to burn away all the plant material, which exposes all the mineral soil. Burning creates ideal bare soil conditions in which the seeds may germinate, therefore giving the weeds an advantage over the plants one would rather have established.

The Department of Natural Resources encourages people to burn unwanted materials such as piles of brush, during the winter, when it is safe and the effects of burning on the landscape are much lighter. It has commonly been assumed that if there is still some snow on the ground, it is a safe time to burn. Old grass can dry out in a matter of hours in the sun and wind. Early spring wildfires, when fanned by winds, can travel surprisingly quickly across the landscape, and even over, patches of snow. DNR and local community volunteer fire fighters are sometimes reminded of this fact as they work on extinguishing a section of a wildfire as the fire is pushed by the wind, sometimes faster than an adult can run.

Sometimes people assume that, because they don’t often see many forms of wildlife in a given area, that it must not be very valuable wildlife habitat and that there are not many animals living there. Therefore, when they burn the grass, they assume wrongly that they are not affecting wildlife. However, it is useful to keep in mind that generally, people see only a very small portion of the wildlife that live in and around any space. So, if a farmer or landowner burns a field of old grass and alders, it will kill some of the smaller forms of wildlife that are out of sight and move slowly such as worms, snails, spider and hundreds of arthropods. As well, the fire will destroy the habitat of species we do not normally see such as mice and voles as well as the nests and eggs of certain birds. If the fire gets out of control, larger animals can be caught by the flames and many animal species will lose valuable habitat.

Once wildlife habitat is lost to wildfire, it often takes several or many years to replace it. Vegetation is often multilayered with higher growth protecting undergrowth. Different species depend on different layers for food or shelter. Loss of the lower layer and its residents due to burning will impact species that prey upon those lost species.

We have to remember the lesson in the family movie - The Lion King, that everything is connected....

Burning permits are now required for outdoor brush burning throughout Nova Scotia. Contact your local DNR office for more info. To report a wildfire, call 1-800-565-2224 or 911

Don Cameron, RPF
Apr. 13, 2009


There aren’t many moose on the loose on mainland Nova Scotia

Large mammals such as moose are of great interest to many Nova Scotians. Whether it is their unusually large size, their unique appearance, the danger they sometimes pose to the motoring public, or perhaps their scarcity, people are generally interested in this majestic animal.

Nova Scotia has two subspecies of moose, one on Cape Breton Island and one on the mainland. According to large mammal management intern Sarah Spencer of the Department of Natural Resources, the population on Cape Breton Island is the result of the introduction of 18 moose from Alberta’s Elk Island National Park, in the 1940's. Currently, the population is estimated at about 5,000. Moose on mainland Nova Scotia are native to northeastern North America. The population is declining and today is estimated at less then 1,000 animals.

Due to the continued decline in their numbers over the past number of years, the mainland moose was listed as provincially endangered in 2003. Following this listing, a recovery team consisting of scientists, biologists, and other partners knowledgeable about moose, was established. In 2007 this team released a document entitled, "Recovery Plan for moose (Alces americana) in mainland Nova Scotia". This plan outlines the potential threats facing mainland moose and actions required to facilitate their recovery.

Threats to mainland moose include disease and parasites, poaching, habitat loss and fragmentation and human access to moose habitat and the resulting disturbance. Climate change and pollution may also be playing a role in the decline but this remains unproven. The Department of Natural Resources (DNR), along with partners such as Saint Mary’s University and the Canadian Cooperative Wildlife Health Center have undertaken many initiatives to better understand these threats, with the long term goal of reducing the negative impact they have on the population.

One such initiative is to increase public awareness and gain community support for mainland moose recovery. To meet this goal a communication plan has been developed. This plan targets many audiences and these groups are reached through presentations, displays at conferences and meetings as well as articles in newspapers, newsletters and magazines. The plan focuses on informing the public of ways in which they can help in recovery.

One such way is by reporting sightings of moose and moose sign (including, tracks, antlers, bones, or feces). This can be done by calling your local Natural Resources Office or filling out a report form online (website listed below). Moose sightings provide managers with information on population distribution (location) and demographics

(number of males, females and/or calves). These sighting reports may also help conservation officers’ pinpoint areas to concentrate their enforcement efforts.

The public can also report poaching activities. To do this, one can call 1-800-565-2224. Reporting moose carcasses found on the mainland may also help in the investigation of such crimes. Large roadside signs encouraging the public to report poaching are displayed outside of Natural Resources offices. To date, several charges have been laid relative to poaching.
The public can also help by reporting sick and injured moose. A "sick" moose is one seen repeatedly in the same area behaving abnormally; especially along highways or in other places moose are not normally found. There is a fairly common moose disease which is caused by a parasite that originates in deer - known as brainworm - which is fatal to moose.
For more information on the mainland moose and to access the full recovery plan, you can go to www.gov.ns.ca/natr/wildlife/lgmams/mainlandmoose. If you have specific questions regarding the mainland moose, contact: mainlandmoose@gov.ns.ca.

Don Cameron, RPF
Jan. 6, 2009


Let’s all go green this Christmas

There is no doubt that the Christmas season is definitely here. Regardless of what really gets you into the seasonal mood, we’ve had it all. There were the early Christmas parades, Christmas tree lighting, church services and functions, lights, parties and of course, the increasing commercial shopping pressure.

And then there is the weather. We have already experienced two winter storms, resulting in some school children being unable to attend classes, much to their chagrin.

With the unsettled economic situation we have experienced over the last few months, and the steady increase in the price of fuel over the last year, more people are considering how they can lessen their ecological footprint. As well, increasing costs always get the attention of we consumers and create demand for change.

We have been aware of climate change due to the burning of fossil fuels for many years. Unfortunately, it often isn’t until fuel costs become very high that people look for cheaper methods of fueling our vehicles, food, homes and other conveniences.

Conversely, over the last 20 years, there has definitely been an increased interest and effort in "being green". There are numerous examples of acting in a green manner such as using recycled materials, cutting back on the use of every day things such as cars or packaging, or retrofitting our homes.

One decision all those that enjoy Christmas trees can make is to go green with live Christmas trees. If you haven’t yet done so, it is time to plan for the acquisition and care of a live evergreen tree. There is nothing like the smell and look of a natural Christmas tree. Whether one chooses the Maritime traditional favourite - Balsam fir - or a pine, one can’t go wrong. When it is lit and decorated in all its splendour, it helps create that special Christmas atmosphere.

There is no question about the fact that the purchase of a Christmas tree is the best deal of the Christmas season, and perhaps the entire year. When one considers the years of planting, shearing and pruning the trees (usually during the heat of summer), fertilizing, pest control, frost, drought and snow challenges, the cost of equipment, the ever increasing cost of fuel and insurance, marketing, and labour, and finally the physically hard work of cutting, hauling, loading and transporting the Christmas trees, it's nothing short of a miracle that if you are purchasing your tree at a tree lot in an urban setting, that you are not paying $100 per tree. In fact most trees from tree lots cost between $25 and $50.

There are always those unforeseen things that occur to throw wrinkles into a tree producers plan such as insect infestations, hurricanes, sudden fuel cost increases and early snowstorms. As you can imagine, there's a big difference between pulling a 25 pound tree versus a 100 pound snow-covered tree out of the woods.

Despite the fact that millions of dollars worth of Christmas trees are harvested annually in this province, many of those that are involved with producing them are not in it for a big profit. Sadly, when one takes into account all the time and costs required to produce and market their trees, the dollar value for their time can likely be counted in cents versus dollars per hour; not nearly what it should be for the time and effort required.

The larger the size of the cultivated tree, the more time and effort required to grow and shape the tree over the years. Therefore, the larger trees are more valuable than their smaller cousins.

Most average size Christmas trees that are seven to eight feet tall are usually 10 to 15 years old. This is not something you can produce in one or two years. Like maple syrup producers, Christmas tree producers usually have a love for what they are doing.

Whether you are going "to the woods" or to the downtown corner to get your Christmas tree, following are a few tree care tips:

* If you are going to cut trees in the forest, make sure that you first get permission from the landowner. A family trip to a U-cut operation is time well spent as you search for that one perfect specimen. In u-cut lots there are always many nice trees to choose from of different dimensions and grades.

* If you purchase a tree that has been previously cut, ask how long ago it was cut, and if you are choosing between two candidates, choose the one most recently cut in order to acquire the freshest tree.

* If you are storing your tree for awhile before bringing it inside, it is important to keep it outdoors in order to keep it cold and in a dormant stage, and therefore fresh. If, for some reason, you must bring it inside for storage, you should cut a section off the stem (one centimetre or more) and immediately immerse the stem in water for the entire time until you are ready to use it.

* When you are ready to bring the tree inside to put on its stand, cut a section off the stem to increase the uptake of water and then fill up your stand immediately after securing your tree to the stand.

* It is important to use a large, stable tree stand that can hold six or more litres of water. It is amazing that over the first few days, a freshly cut tree can take in three to five litres of water per day. It is essential that the tree is able to continually take up water in order to keep it as fresh as possible. Therefore, you should check and fill-up your tree stand water supply on a daily basis.

* The water in the tree stand should be fresh water only, with no additives, despite the old myths that you may have heard.

* Carefully choose the room location for your tree, away from heat vents and open flames. Heat will obviously put additional drying stress on the tree.

* Decorate the tree your traditional way and enjoy!

Don Cameron, RPF
Dec. 9, 2008


Public invited to special woodlands field tour and celebration

On Saturday, October 4th, all are welcome to attend a special day in the woods at Nuttby Mountain, just north of Truro. The winner of the 2008 Woodlot Owners of the Year Award - Russell and Marjorie McNally, along with the Department of Natural Resources, will be holding a public field day. The day will include something for everyone that has an interest in nature and forests.

The McNallys were selected among several other worthy nominees, including western region winner - Royce Ford and eastern region winner - Neal Livingston, as the top woodlot owner of more than 30,000 in the province. Other outstanding landowners in the central region that were nominated for the annual award included Dr. Wilfrid Creighton, Thornton Moore, David MacMillan, and Alfred Scothorn.

The field day will run from 9:30am to 3:30pm. Although there is no official starting time or admission cost, visitors are encouraged to arrive as early as possible in order to see as much as possible during the outdoors tour. There will be a large number and variety of things for people to see and hear about. Visitors can choose which of the 24 possible stops they wish to visit.

Included in the stops will be: wildlife habitat protection, hardwood management, eco-based forest management, tree improvement, Christmas tree production, forest insects and disease, sugar maple production, Woodmizer portable sawmill, wreath-making and other non-timber forest products, fuelwood measurement and value, horse logging, softwood management, fuelwood processing, shingle mill production, natural resource enforcement, aquatics, and using global positioning systems.

Visitors will have the option of walking along the roads from stop to stop or jumping on one of the two wagons that will be circulating around the property, one powered by horse and one by tractor.

The McNally woodlot is located along the hardwood hills of the Cobequid Mountains. The autumn colours of the maples and other hardwoods will be in their prime during this time and will be a treat to see for those in attendance.

A hearty barbeque lunch will be provided for $10 each under a large tent which will be adjacent to the family pond and a number of exhibits. Woodland owners will enjoy looking at various types of John Deere equipment on display, an antique power saw display and exhibits by various organizations to benefit woodland owners.

On Friday, October 3, approximately 200 local grade six school children will be bussed to the site to participate in a day-long tour of the property. The DNR sponsored event will include stops where the kids will learn about various aspects of nature and natural resource management.

There is no pre-registration required to participate in the public field day Saturday. The woodlot is located on Sutherland Road, off Highway 311 in Nuttby.

For more information, see www.gov.ns.ca/natr/extension/woya/default.htm or call 893-6415.

See directions below.

Don Cameron, RPF
Sept. 25, 2008

From Hwy 102
-take exit 14A, turn right and drive approximately 4km’s to Hwy 311 and turn left;
- Follow Hwy 311 approx.17km
- Turn right on Sutherland Rd
- Drive 1 km to woodlot gate on the right

From Hwy 104
- take exit To Bible Hill/Valley
-turn let from exit onto College Road
-500m to Valley Crossroads intersection, turn right toward Hwy 311
-drive under Hwy 104 overpass
-follow Brookside Road, Approximately 6 km to Hwy 311 and turn right
-drive along Hwy311 for approximately 15 km
-turn right at Sutherland Road - 1 km to gate on the right


Woodlot owners and public invited to international forestry exposition

Nova Scotia will soon be hosting a world class forestry event - Demo International 2008, which takes place September 18 to 20, 2008 near the Robert Stanfield International Airport. The Demo International event is held once every four years. This will mark the first time that the event will take place in Atlantic Canada.

The aim of the three day event is to demonstrate the latest in technology and equipment in the forestry sector. This will include the large million dollar tree processors and forwarders down to the small gadgets. It will also include various organizations promoting various materials and services.

Considering the fact about half of the forest land in this province is owned by individuals, Demo has been organized with woodlot owners and the public in mind. There will be plenty of interesting things for all to see and enjoy. For instance, the Department of Natural Resources will be one of more than 100 exhibitors distributed around the 3 kilometre loop. They will be providing educational opportunities for visitors, such as interactive tree identification and talking with past winners of the woodlot owner of the year award. A nature trail has been developed where interpreted tours will include conservation enforcement, various silviculture treatments, wildlife habitat and endangered species, forest regeneration and tending, boundary line maintenance, wildfires and forest pests and diseases.

The event organizer, the Canadian Woodlands Forum has worked very closely with the host, Ledwidge Lumber to create good roads and cleared pads for each of the exhibitors on their forested land near Devon, Halifax County. Visitors will be parking at Scotia Speedworld - which is on the opposite side of the Highway 102 from the airport. From this point, buses will shuttle people to and from the Demo International site. Visitors cannot access the site with personal vehicles. One day passes cost 45 dollars.

The site consists of a 3 kilometre loop road with the various exhibitors located all along the road on the edge of the woods. Many exhibitors will actively demonstrate how their state-of-the-art machinery operates in average forest conditions. Exhibitors will be coming from around the world to attend. Visitors will be amazed at the amount of effort that has been invested in preparing the exhibitor sites. Likewise, visitors will be pleased with the variety of fine food that will be offered for sale around the loop road.

On Thursday and Friday, approximately 500 local elementary school children will be bussed to the site to enjoy an unforgettable day. The grades five and six children are being sponsored by several show exhibitors to attend and will be led around the loop by staff of the Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources. They will learn about many aspects of nature, forest management and the high-tech equipment and services that are part of the forestry sector.

For more information, see, www.demointernational.com/demo-international.asp.

Don Cameron, RPF
Sept. 12, 2008


Poor health of raccoons is causing more than just nuisance problems

Many Nova Scotians have had dealings with the masked bandit over the years and no more so than this past summer. Although raccoons have never become well established on Cape Breton Island, they are very common in the rest of the province. Their numbers are extremely high in many spots, including the greater Halifax peninsula. In fact, according to wildlife technician Jenny Costelo of the Department of Natural Resources, the Waverley DNR office has received hundreds of calls on this mammal during the last few months.

Many people are surprised to learn that living in an urban environment is quite natural for a raccoon. In fact a recent study done in New York state found that the highest density of raccoons in the state occurred in the city of New York. They are highly intelligent creatures that like to take advantage of whatever food sources can be found around communities, whether it is a subdivision house or a valley farm. A more natural habitat for raccoons would be forested valleys near water courses, but they learn quickly that food is always readily available wherever humans live.

Adult raccoons generally travel by themselves, except for females with young. The young are born anytime between April and June and usually spend the first winter with the female. When raccoons meet while foraging, there can often be a social exchange. Although they are not true hibernators, they do den up and sleep lightly during the winter, except for when mating occurs (late January to March). This species is a true omnivore whose natural diet includes fruit, nuts, insects, freshwater mussels, amphibians, turtles, rodents and birds. Farmers have to contend with raccoons eating crops, while many homeowners are well aware of their preference for garbage. When raccoon numbers become high, they become more vulnerable to diseases, such as distemper or rabies. To date, there has been virtually no cases of rabies in terrestrial mammals in Nova Scotia. However, distemper never seems to leave the population and can often be found in some areas.

Recently, raccoon distemper has been confirmed in Amherst and Musquodoboit Harbour. Distemper is a neurological disorder that does not affect humans, but can be caught by dogs and cats, depending on the strain. Consequently, it is always important to make sure pet vaccinations are kept up-to-date. Raccoons exhibiting symptoms of distemper would be lethargic and usually will not move when approached. There could also be a mucous discharge from the nose and eyes and the animal may have convulsions. Sick raccoons should be reported to the local DNR office.

Raccoons can be easily kept out of garbage by using screw top cans and tying them so that they can’t be tipped over. If using a regular container, fasten a bungee cord over the top. Pregnant females will sometimes try to give birth to young in attics, sheds or chimneys. These animals may have to be removed by live trapping. Homeowners can rent or buy live traps, or they can hire Nuisance Wildlife Operators to remove the raccoon for them. Additional information can be found on the internet at www.gov.ns.ca/natr/wildlife/nuisance/raccoons.htm. or contact a local DNR office.

Don Cameron, RPF
Aug. 23, 2008


Protecting our forests is challenging but essential

Considering the severity of the recent Porter’s Lake wildfire, it is likely that most Nova Scotians have a renewed sense of the importance of forest protection and wildfire suppression. While working on fire suppression on this large fire in the Lake Echo area, I had the opportunity to see first hand the homes that were lost to fire and the many others that miraculously escaped the same fate by a matter of a few metres. The relief and appreciation expressed by the evacuated residents was overwhelming.

The Nova Scotia section of the Canadian Institute of Forestry recently held a conference on the evolving role of forest protection within forest management. Kicking off the event was Walter Fanning, the Manager of the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). He described recent changes to the DNR Forest Protection Division along with the evolving role of integrating risk services into forest management. This should improve the province’s wildfire predictive capabilities.

Participants learned about various aspects of forest protection, mapping and managing forest fire fuels, elements of a forest fire management plan in federal parks, planning for reacting to future developments related to forest pests such as the spruce budworm and the Brown spruce longhorned beetle.

Experts also discussed the concept of integrating pest management strategies into sustainable forest management and the influence of silviculture on forest pests. Research over the years has shown that various insect populations rise and fall in cycles over the years which can be predicted. An entomological researcher from the University of New Brunswick discussed how silviculture treatments can prevent, minimize or delay the impact of insect infestations.

Federal experts from Parks Canada spoke about how Kejimkujik National Park develops their fire management plan based on fire risk analysis, fire ecology, prescribed burns and other fire management strategies.

Provincial DNR staff discussed various pests of concern in Nova Scotia forests such as gypsy moth, spruce bark beetle, spruce budworm, pale winged grey and the Brown spruce longhorned beetle. Participants learned how integrated pest management works in both prevention and striving for the goal of sustainable forest management.

Don Cameron, RPF
Aug. 22, 2008


The ticks are marching onward; be aware of Lyme disease risk

Spring is a wonderful time of year. In a matter of days buds burst forth with new life, creating big green tree crowns, which were just days before naked looking. The onset of warmer spring weather triggers growth of most forms of flora and fauna, both welcome and unwelcome.

In case you have not heard the news, the range of ticks is expanding. If they are not yet in obvious existence in your area, be forewarned that they are likely on their way. The thought of ticks crawling on your body is enough to make most people squirm, but knowing about this critter is also important from a human health standpoint.

It is important that people become aware of what a black-legged (or deer) tick looks like. There are many different types of ticks in Nova Scotia. The black-legged tick is sometimes a carrier for Lyme disease which can be a very debilitating disease.

The reason for this article on ticks is two-fold. Over the past year I learned that a forestry colleague from New Brunswick acquired Lyme disease from a tick bite while working. His life has been dramatically affected by it. This gentleman was one of those hyper-active people who was always busy organizing things and loved to be in the middle of activities and helping others. When he first acquired symptoms such as fatigue, muscle aches and headaches, several doctors had trouble diagnosing the problem. When the disease was eventually identified, it was well underway and there has since been an ongoing battle to find the best treatment due its relative scarcity and unfamiliarity in the medical practitioner world.

If the disease is not treated, serious long-term affects can occur such as facial palsy, heart problems or chronic joint pain and mobility problems. Now back at work, my colleague has learned to live with Lyme disease. He is now an activist trying to encourage proactive measures and education in New Brunswick to try to reduce the number of people that could suffer the same fate as he, all due to the bite of a deer tick.

It is clear that tick populations are growing in areas of Nova Scotia where they previously were not evident. For instance, over the last two to three years, there have been ticks found in Halifax, Hants and Colchester counties where they were not known to exist before. This could be due to climate change, which could be causing a warming effect that is permitting the migration of ticks northward in Nova Scotia from their well established populations in the southwestern region.

There is certainly no need for panic. The black-legged tick has been found in only a few locations in Nova Scotia thus far, including an area near Shelburne, the Lunenburg area and Admiral Cove in Bedford. As well, to-date there have only been 12 confirmed cases of Lyme disease in the province since 2002.

Lyme disease is a bacterial infection transmitted to humans and pets by a bite from an infected Blacklegged tick. Ticks are arthropods closely related to spiders. They stick to skin and feed on blood. They are active mostly in summer months and are most commonly found in tall grasses.

Only Blacklegged ticks carry Lyme disease. It can only transmit Lyme disease after it has filled itself with blood, which takes about 24 hours. Therefore, this provides plenty of time for people to check themselves for tick hitch-hikers after being outside.

Adult ticks may feed and contract the Lyme disease bacteria on a variety of hosts including humans, mammals, reptiles and birds. The body size of a tick is very small (such as a small freckle) in early spring and then increases into the summer as it goes from larva to nymph and then adult. Black-legged ticks are brown to reddish-orange, lack white markings on their backs and are much smaller than dog ticks.

Following are tips to avoid contact with ticks and Lyme disease:

1. When entering the woods or grassy fields, wear light coloured clothing, long sleeved shirts and long pants that are tucked into the socks. Bug dope containing DEET works on ticks.

2. After coming out of areas that may contain ticks, check yourself carefully for ticks on your clothing and body, and perhaps have someone else check you. Check the back of your neck, along the hairline, under your arms and the groin area. Ticks will migrate to the warmer areas of the body.

3. If a tick is found, properly remove it as soon as possible. Using tweezers, grab the tick from behind and around the head, pulling straight back gently. Put the tick in an old pill bottle or plastic bag and forward it to the nearest DNR office for identification.

For more information and photos on ticks and Lyme disease, see: www.gov.ns.ca/hpp/ocmoh/lyme.htm.

Don Cameron, RPF
May 31, 2008


Now is the time to speak up on natural resource issues

It is well to remember that there are no new forests to be found. All are known. From here to eternity we must do with what we have. Herbert Lash - 1966

Do you have an opinion about how our forests should be managed? Have you an interest in the future of our provincial parks? What do you value about the extraction and use of minerals in Nova Scotia? How should we ensure an adequate amount and distribution of biodiversity in our future forests? If any of these questions raise a response in you, now is the time to speak up and provide your input into a very important public consultation process.

The Province of Nova Scotia has contracted the services of Voluntary Planning to organize and run community meetings that will gather views that will help shape a long-term natural resources strategy for the province. According to the co-chair of the Voluntary Planning Natural Resources Citizen Engagement Committee, Rick MacDonald, "We want to hear Nova Scotians’ long-term vision for natural resources in the province, specifically for biodiversity, forests, minerals and parks."

The public meetings are scheduled for a wide variety of locations across Canada over the next month until June 12, 2008. At the meetings, participants will be encouraged to express their views in small and large group discussions.

To facilitate discussions or feedback in other forms, the Voluntary Planning group are providing a framework of questions to get people thinking about the topics, including:
1. What is your vision for biodiversity, forests, minerals, and parks in Nova Scotia?
2. What are the strengths of these four areas of natural resources?
3. What barriers or issues affect these resources?
4. What do you see as your community’s priorities for the future in these four areas?
5. What values are essential to guide the health and sustainability of these four areas?

Additional information regarding the citizen engagement process, such as the locations of the community meetings, is available on the Voluntary Planning website: vp.gov.ns.ca. The documents are also available at eh community meetings and Access Nova Scotia centres.

It is important to note that submissions will also be accepted by other means such as mail to Voluntary Planning, Suite 600, 1690 Hollis St., Halifax, NS B3J 3J9; by fax - 902-424-0580, or by phone - 1-866-858-5850. Submissions by the public will be accepted until July 31, 2008.

The information that is gathered will be used in phase two of the development of a natural resources strategy. In phase two, an independent panel will conduct a more detailed analysis of the Voluntary Planning project committee accumulated information. Phase three will be the development of the of the long-term strategy by the Department of Natural Resources with consideration of the information provided by the public consultation process.

If you are interested in attending one or more of the community meetings, check out the Voluntary Planning website or visit your local Access Nova Scotia office. Each of the sessions will run from 6:30 to 9pm so that most working people can attend. If you do not come out and say what you think about these issues, who will for you?

Don Cameron, RPF
May 14, 2008


Every day could be Earth day if we drive wiser

Each year as Earth Day arrives the media pays more attention to the issues facing the environment. The planet we live on has been under attack for a long time. With all the discussion about climate change and global warming, there are many ideas put forward about how we need to turn things around for the survival of our species. However, it seems that people either do not understand the seriousness of the situation, or they feel that there is nothing they can do to make an appreciable difference.

Although there will always be doubters, the vast majority of research and climate change scientists around the world are in agreement. They have clearly stated repeatedly that the global warming problem that Al Gore has made common knowledge in Inconvenient Truth, is for real and critically serious.

Although individual citizens have less impact on the environment than most industries and large entities, there are many relatively small things that we all can do that, over the long term, can make a significant improvement.

For those people that drive vehicles on a regular basis, there are many choices we can make every day that would save fuel, be easier on our environment, save money and usually make for safer driving conditions. There are options such walking, biking, carpooling, and bussing, but for some this is not possible or feasible.

According to the Nova Scotia Department of Energy program - Drivewiser, most automobile fuel is burned when vehicles are accelerating. Therefore, we would use much less fuel if we drove smoother, avoided jack-rabbit starts, coasted down hill and into stops, and used cruise control on relatively level ground. Studies have indicated that, on average, jack rabbit driving saves 2.5 minutes per hour but costs a whopping 35% more for fuel.

One of the more surprising and helpful bits of information is related to how much fuel and money one can save by driving a little slower. For instance, compared to driving at 100 kph, if one drives at 110 kph, one burns 21% more fuel. At 120 kph, the difference is an incredible 44%, that’s almost twice as much fuel and money to drive only 20 kph faster or to get to one’s destination 20% faster or 12 minutes for a 100 km drive. Similarly, driving at 130 kph takes 69% more fuel, and the very unwise speed of 150 kph wastes 125% more fuel. This is information you can take to the bank, especially in this time of ever increasing fuel prices.

Stop Idling

Modern cars do not need much idling time in order to warm up, even on the coldest winter days. Specifically, after 30 seconds at most, car engines are adequately warmed up and ready to work. It is also important to note that idling is damaging to a vehicles engine, plugs and exhaust.

For exhaust emission systems to work correctly, the vehicle must be adequately warmed up and operating before the emission system can do its best job. It has been calculated that on average, the idling by Canadian drivers produces one million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year and 200,000 cars in one year consumes 1.7 million litres of fuel at an average cost of $250 each. When one considers that 50% of vehicle trips are less than 8km and that many people allow their vehicles to idle too long, there is much room for savings in the burning of fuel.

Finally, considering the trend of fuel prices and our sensitive environmental situation, it is a good idea to take a long look at whether you need a vehicle at all. On average, it costs $8000 per year to own a car, and this is increasing daily. One can purchase many bus, train, rental car and taxi passes for that amount of money.

Don Cameron, RPF
April 27, 2008


Celebrate and protect the essential pollinators

"In all nature, diversity disguises underlying simplicity." John Maddox

This week is National Wildlife Week. Each year this special week is set aside to help remind us about various important aspects or issues related to wildlife. The annual program of the Canadian Wildlife Federation, supported by various provincial and federal agencies and private organizations, celebrates our rich, natural heritage.

We often take our surroundings for granted. Fir instance, we live in a beautiful country with an abundance of natural resources and beauty. Sadly, we often become seriously interested or involved in a particular issue only when it is in peril or gone all together.

Did you know that pollination is one of the most important ecological processes on the planet? This basic transfer of pollen from the male parts of a plant to the female parts is essential for production of about 90 percent of the seed producing plant species in the world. Obviously, this is a process in need of protection for the survival of all wildlife as well as we two-legged creatures. In fact, it has been estimated that one out of every three bites of food we take - including fruit, vegetables, dietary fats and oils, is made possible due to the work of pollinators.

Pollination creates fertile seeds, and fertile seeds contain new life, year after year, generation after generation. Pollination is a fundamental function in ecosystems, and pollinators play a critical role. Without pollination, many plants could not reproduce. Food webs and therefore, entire ecosystems, would collapse. We would quickly run out of food, medicine, wood products - almost everything that we and wildlife need to survive on this green planet. The value of these pollinators is immeasurable.

Although wind and water enable some pollination to occur, the vast majority of pollination is efficiently done by bees, flies, hummingbirds and many other tiny creatures that make their way in and out of plants. Unfortunately, the future of many of these pollinators is at risk because of our activities.

As humans continue to develop land, which once grew wild with a wide variety of plants, we are taking away valuable habitat of the pollinators. Our communities, lawns, homes, and even farm fields, have dramatically decreased the amount, diversity and duration of plants available for pollination.

Our society has become dependent on chemicals. As a result, the amount of insecticides and herbicides used on the landscape, especially in agriculture and domestic use, has increased dramatically in recent decades. Some of these chemicals can kill or harm a wide variety of beneficial insects and other wildlife. Even low pesticide levels can affect the memory, navigation and foraging abilities of honeybees.

Imported parasites and diseases, can devastate native wildlife. For instance, there are newly arrived spiders and mites that are killing large numbers of honey bees and wild bee populations.

Climate change has become a global concern for good reason, as it is for real. It seems to be affecting various aspects of life on the planet, including pollination. Experts are predicting that climate change will affect things like allowing more imported parasites and diseases to flouris and attack ill-prepared native plants and wildlife; the ranges of plants and pollinators will be changed and maybe reduced; and pollen bloom timing may change so that it may not match up seasonally with the pollinator’s activity.

There are things that all of us can do to help pollinators. For instance we can let all or part of our properties grow wildflowers or perennials; or reduce the amount of pesticides used,or create new habitat for pollinators. You could say our future is dependent on their future...

Don Cameron, RPF
Apr. 7, 2008


It’s the perfect time for burning brush outside

" If you don’t run your life, someone else will." Unknown

I am one of those strange people who love real winter weather. Perhaps it is the love of skiing, making rinks and playing outdoors that makes me wish for cold and snow over above zero temperatures and rain.

Besides the many fun outdoor recreational activities possible, there are other, more productive work activities, that can be done this time of year. In fact, mid-winter is the perfect time to burn that pile of brush or trees that you have been wanting to get rid of if there is no other way to deal with it environmentally as compost or fuel material.

Any brush piles that have been sitting outside for many months should be well dried by now - freeze-dried in fact - and may burn well in dry weather conditions. Of course, the snow, cold temperatures and wet or frozen soils make this time of year a very safe time to burn. There is no chance of a fire spreading from a pile as long as it is located away from buildings and other combustibles.

One simply has to get a small fire started and then keep feeding it fuel such as branches, logs or trees. No ignition petrochemical-based additives - such as tires - are permitted, by law. For the most part, unlike fires that burn during the spring, summer and fall, winter fires cause less damage where the burning occurs. Due to soil moisture and the cold temperatures, the fire does not burn as deeply or affect neighbouring vegetation as much as it would at other times of the year.

If the burning is done during the fire season - April until November - a burning permit must be purchased and certain conditions and supervision requirements must be met. If one waits until spring to burn, it can be very dangerous and expensive if the fire escapes and becomes a wildfire. In fact, most wildfires in Nova Scotia occur in the spring as a result of grass or brush burning that get out of control.

Some of the costs associated with wildfires from poorly planned or supervised burning include: loss of homes and personal property; injuries/loss of human life, expense due to suppression costs and possible criminal record; endangering wildlife and habitat; endangering and diverting firefighters from potential structure fires; air pollution; increased costs to society - investigation, enforcement, court time, and use of social services; and increased insurance premiums for everyone.

Another aspect to consider is smoke. During the winter, windows in homes and businesses are closed and smoke tends to rise quickly and not be a nuisance for people. If a tarp is used to cover the pile for a couple months or so, it will ensure that the fire will burn faster and cleaner with less annoying smoke for you and your neighbours. Choose a nice clear, cool day with little wind and you are all set. In fact, a burning bonfire might actually attract a crowd of neighbours who might welcome the warm, cozy feeling and aesthetics.

For more information on burning brush outside, contact your local DNR office.

So, why not get outside and get your burning done...

Don Cameron, RPF
Jan. 23, 2008