Council urges halt to forestry chemical spray program in Annapolis County

Municipality wants introduction of smarter, more ethical forestry management processes

By Lawrence Powell
For Annapolis County

ANNAPOLIS COUNTY, NS -- Municipal councillors are urging the province to halt planned spraying of a foliage-killing chemical on three parcels of forested land in Annapolis County and are calling for an outright ban on glyphosate.
"In the past weeks, councillors have been inundated with emails and telephone calls from residents expressing profound concern over approvals for glyphosate spraying for three properties in District 7 of Annapolis County (PID # 05114269, PID# 05117585, PID# 05309000)," said Warden Timothy Habinski in a Sept. 9 letter to minister of Natural Resources Iain Rankin and Environment Minister Gordon Wilson.
 "One of these properties is located on Eel Weir Lake and the other two are located on Paradise Lake," said Habinski. "Both Eel Weir Lake and Paradise Lake flow down from South Mountain into the Annapolis River."
The letter follows a special meeting of council Sept. 8 in which Habinski made the motion to contact both ministers about the pending aerial spraying campaign approved by the province. In an interview, the warden said council's actions are in keeping with its long-held stance concerning both the environment and forestry.

“It fits in in a couple of ways," he said. "First, if you go right back to our original economic development strategy, which arose from those public meetings, one of the principles is that the municipality commits itself to preventing damage and whenever possible remediating damage to soil, water, and air within the county."
He said glyphosate is a chemical that causes damage.
"It causes damage to the entirety of the ecosystem, and so it’s absolutely in keeping with the principle of our economic development strategy to act on this," he said. "And it’s also in completely keeping with the 2019 forestry report that was produced by our Forestry Advisory Committee. We’d like to see the introduction of smarter, more ethical forestry management processes.”
He said the elimination of glyphosate would be one of those more ethical processes.
"We think it needs to be eliminated," he said in the interview. "It may or may not be worth noting that lots of regions across the world are undertaking this. One of Europe’s largest users of Glyphosate was Germany and the German rail companies and they have collectively all eliminated the use of this."

“We’re delighted the municipal council is standing up for the residents of Annapolis County,” said Nina Newington with Annapolis County Extinction Rebellion. “It’s outrageous that the Department of the Environment is still in the business of approving the spraying of a known carcinogen. We care about our health and each other’s. We care about our forests and the wildlife and the watersheds those forests protect. We care about our planet.”
Newington has been sounding the alarm about the pending spraying in Annapolis County, both on social media and through meetings to plan possible protests actions. Like Habinski and municipal council, Newington doesn't believe in creating single-species forests.
“Time has run out for the lazy, careless practice of clearcutting, waiting a couple of years then poisoning the natural regrowth of the forest, all in the interest of creating a monoculture of softwoods you can clearcut again," she said.

"The question is, should we be suppressing the growth of certain varieties of trees," asked Habinski. "A chemical means of creating monoculture within our forests is never in the best interests of the forest itself. It may be in the best interest of the company that wants to harvest with as little difficulty as possible and with as little expense as possible, but a monoculture forest is not a full ecosystem. It is a crippled remnant of an ecosystem. That’s not what we want."
He said the alternative is to change silviculture practices more and more towards selective cutting, spot cutting, and corridor cutting instead.
"And then you can manage a stand of forest rather than removing it all," he said. "And you try to maintain the biodiversity as one of the guiding principles of how you conduct silviculture."


Newington has long opposed the spraying of herbicides in forestry, a practice she believes should be relegated to the past, not the future.
"The aerial spraying of Glyphosate is a barbaric practice that has no place in a world facing climate and ecological breakdown," she said. "We need healthy natural forests and sustainable forestry practices. The way people managed the family woodlot, always trying to leave it in better shape for the next generation, that’s the way we need to treat our forests. That’s the way we need to treat our planet.”
Habinski believes the same thing.
"Often, I think, we’re given a false dichotomy that we can protect the environment but only at the expense of the economy. Or protect the economy but only at the expense of the environment," he said. "That doesn’t seem to be true. There are examples of stands of forest that have been maintained with selective cutting practices that would demonstrate over time that they are actually far more cost effective and far more profitable than clearcutting."


He said an example of this would be Windhorse Farms in New Germany.
"It’s been operating for more than 80 years, has never conducted a clearcut but has removed about 50 per cent more mass of wood from their forest than they could have done clearcutting – without ever impinging on the biodiversity of their forest stands," said Habinski. "That to me is the model we should be pursuing. It is an older-fashioned way of approaching it, it’s less machine-intensive, but it certainly provides fantastic opportunities for employment and the profit margins are potentially significantly higher.”

For Annapolis County’s report on forestry,  Click Here 

To Minister Iain Rankin, Department of Natural Resources
Minister Gordon Wilson, Department of the Environment
Cc. Premier McNeil

Good afternoon, Ministers Rankin and Wilson

On Tuesday, September 8, 2020 at a specially convened meeting of Council, Council unanimously passed the following motion:

A growing body of scientific evidence indicates a link between the spraying of glyphosate and elevated risk of cancer among humans and;
The practice of glyphosate spraying is of grave concern to residents of Annapolis County and;
The long term spraying of glyphosate has potential negative consequences for biodiversity in the ecosystems of Annapolis County;

 I move to recommend that Council send a letter to the Minister of the Department of Natural Resources and the Minister of the Environment, strongly urging the province to place an indefinite moratorium on glyphosate spraying in Annapolis County.

In the past weeks, Councillors have been inundated with emails and telephone calls from residents expressing profound concern over approvals for glyphosate spraying for three properties in District 7 of Annapolis County (PID # 05114269, PID# 05117585, PID# 05309000).  One of these properties is located on Eel Weir Lake and the other two are located on Paradise Lake.  Both Eel Weir Lake and Paradise Lake flow down from South Mountain into the Annapolis River.
Glyphosate has never been demonstrated to be safe, and the 1970 Federal study which the Federal Government has used to defend the use of this chemical has not been made available to the public or for scientific peer review.  There is, however, a large body of scientific evidence which shows a correlation between glyphosate exposure and elevated levels of cancer and other health risks including kidney damage.  
Spraying of glyphosates on these properties adjacent to lakes which ultimately flow to the valley floor and into the drinking water for hundreds of homes represents a very real risk to the health of our residents.  The damage to biodiversity in the tracts of forest sprayed is no less concerning.
On behalf of Council and our vulnerable residents, we urge the Province to take immediate steps to eliminate the spraying of glyphosates in Annapolis County, permanently.  We further urge the Department of Natural Resources to reconsider its forestry practices, to reduce the industry requirement for aerial spraying. This means adherence to ecological forestry practices, especially in those parts of the province, where the drainage systems flow through rural settlements.
It is understandable that forestry companies wish to maximize the profits of future cut sites by eliminating competing plant species, but such benefit for an industry is simply not sufficient to offset the risk to human health and our environment.
I know you both care about the integrity of our ecosystems and the well-being of Nova Scotians, and ask that you use your full influence to eliminate this risk to our Municipality.

Timothy Habinski
Municipality of the County of Annapolis