Friday, March 08, 2019

My son and his wife now own and manage the 150 acre farm/forest that was the start of this project.

My wife and I have moved to a nearby small house along Wentzell Lake that includes about 2 acres of Acadian Forest.  I suspect our current property was part of the farm in the initial grant.

My plan is to document what we have here using iNaturalist.  The entries should show up on a sidebar.

A very different lifeblood along the lake and the shores of the LaHave River.  Let the journey begin!


Spring Arrived

Monday, April 30, 2018

Red Maple Blossoms
Recently we've had snow, freezing rain and general yucky weather.

But on Monday, there was the first 'peep.........................peep...........................peep'

Tuesday was 'peep..peep..peep...'

Wednesday 'PeepPEEPpeepPeEpPEEPPEEP...'

The birds are going crazy.  Early in the week a woodpecker was desperately calling for a mate and two passed today heading for a tree with large nesting cavities.

The Red Maple blossoms are spectacular.

And we spotted our first snake.

Spring in Nova Scotia ... a slow starter but watch out once it gets rolling!


I'm taking a break from the blog for awhile, I'll be back later this year ... enjoy your spring and summer!


Biodiversity III - Our Turn

Monday, April 23, 2018

New Forest Biodiversity Field Guide
After my ill-fated attempt at a [ Biodiversity post ], I took an eight week course called [ Biodiversity and Global Change: Science & Action ]  from the University of Zurich thru [ Coursera ]

An excellent course, the three most important things I learned were :

  1. biodiversity works -- the science shows that more variety results in a healthier, more robust environment which will be even more important in a changing climate
  2. humans by far have the biggest impact on our planet
  3. humans also have the biggest ability to have a positive impact
There are big causes you can connect with such as the [ Convention on Biological Diversity

Or you can choose activities that directly affect you.  

This is where you may appreciate the new [ Field Guide to Forest Biodiversity Stewardship ] 

Very practical and action oriented, in the 131 pages you will find:

  • things in your forest that encourage diversity like cavity trees and coarse woody debris
  • special habitat like deer wintering areas and dens
  • water courses (golden for promoting diversity)
  • soil
  • species at risk
As a member of the species that currently sets the agenda, what are you going to do to make the world a little better place for all?


Silver Lining

Monday, April 16, 2018

Waterfals : w/o April 16
Silver Lining : setbacks have positive potential

With lots of enthusiasm for the potential to raise funds to help the fight against [ HWA ] , I started [ Giants of Nova Scotia ] back in February.

Things got off to a very encouraging start with lots of publicity and a flood of submissions to our photo contest for the 2019 calendar we would have for sale just before Christmas.

Then the reality set in.  That's 8 months away ... 35 weeks ... 245 days.

How could I ever keep any momentum over that time period?!?

My wife suggested I contact local Instagrammers about reposting their photos of trees and forests from around Nova Scotia.  Her experience had been very positive in the past ... maybe there would be some interest.

The response has been ... incredible.  So many talented photographers show our province in beautiful and creative ways.  I am so grateful for their support.

The format has evolved and I currently try to have a weekly theme -- last week was about getting back out on our our rivers and lakes and this week will be about waterfalls.  

There is always some connection to trees and/or the forest.

I can keep our message rolling --- 'celebrating the beauty of Nova Scotia's trees and forests...'

And every once in awhile there's a gentle message about invasive species and how you can help.

Feels more like gold than silver.

You can see our Instagram page (no membership required) at : [ ]


A Voice

Monday, April 09, 2018

1 + 1 = 5

Nova Scotia has over 30,000 small woodlot owners representing approximately 60% of the total forested area ... in a province that is 3/4s covered by trees.

You'd think there would be a powerful forest lobby, all working together to look after their interests.

Actually not.

There are many small associations/special interest groups with relatively small memberships.

It seems that we have a difficult coming together.

So why should a woodlot owner in Western Nova Scotia care about the new [ Western Woodlot Services Coop ] ?  A couple things come to mind:

  1. for a one-time fee of $100, you become part of the coop and have access to [ their services ]
  2. they are very inclusive about landowner values ... there is a place for everyone
  3. perhaps I'm naive, but my sense is that there is a movement in the forest sector to work together.  You can watch from the sidelines or be part of it
WWSC has assistance from the Nova Scotia Government for 5 years to get up and running.  If you feel that a group will look after your interests and voice your concerns, don't wait too long to show your support with [ a membership ]


HWA + Citizen Science

Thursday, March 29, 2018

If you see snowy, cotton-like growths, call 902-536-1022  / photo : Matt Smith

What's the big deal about Hemlock Woolly Adelgid (HWA)?
  • it doesn't have any predators so once established there's no natural controls
  • it spreads very easily -- by wind, birds, by humans transporting wood
  • it has a track record of wiping out entire Hemlock forests

What does it mean for Nova Scotia?
  • the short answer is we don't know how it will progress
  • first discovered in South Western Nova Scotia summer 2017
  • Hemlocks are well established across the province
  • trying to determine the extent of infestation

Why should I care about Hemlock?
  • it has some commercial value
  • it is our oldest living tree and very important in the forest
  • if you fish ... it shades streams and rivers to keep the water cooler and healthier for fish
  • if you hunt ... hemlock groves are important habitat for wintering deer
  • if you are a naturalist ... important nesting habitat for birds
What can I do?
  • If you see a snowy, cotton-like growth on Hemlocks anywhere in the province, try and get a picture and call 902.536.1022

More information

  • Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) are leading the efforts with HWA.  Ron Neville gave an update on HWA at the March 2018 Western Woodlands Conference at you can read it [here
  • You can see current reports on HWA in the Maritimes [here]


Death and Taxes - Part 2

Monday, March 26, 2018

Disclaimer ... The following is for discussion purposes only.  Please speak to an accountant, lawyer, tax professional, forester and any other professionals required to understand and correctly advise you for your particular situation

Did you do the homework from last week?  

It was a trick question :-)

There are actually two parts:

1- Property Valuation Services sends you a Property Assessment Notice each years that includes:

  • the Classification of each component (house, farm, forest, etc.)
  • the Assessed Value (they determine this based on local market value)
  • Capped Assessment (if you requested it)
  • Acres
  • the Taxable Assessed Value

2- The Municipal Tax Bill includes :

  • Particulars (ie: Residential Property, Farm, Forestry)
  • Assessment (the value of each Particular ... comes from Property Valuation Services Taxable Assessed Value)
  • Rate (set by each Municipality)
  • The Amount of Tax owing (Assessment x Rate)
So, how much tax are you paying on your woodlot?  If its Resource Exempt, the tax will be negligible.

If its taxed at a 'normal rate', it will be *a lot* more.


But what if you are getting the Resource Exempt rate but you are not using your woodlot as a business?

1- If you never plan to use your woodlot to make money, you are not eligible to claim it as Resource Exempt.  Consider yourself lucky.  My reading suggests you can contact Property Valuation Services and they will adjust your Property Assessment Notice.  You also get a Good Citizen badge :-) (see disclaimer)

2- What if you get the favourable tax rate, you have some involvement with your woodlot but the commercial side is negligible to non-existent?

Property Valuation Services could randomly call you and ask you to prove you are using your woodlot as a business.  More likely the call will come when something happens like a property sale or subdivision.  The form they use for the reassessment as of March 2018 is [ here ].  

What constitutes using your woodlot as a business?  Things like :

  • active stand management
  • a forest management plan
  • blazing lines
  • clearing underbrush
  • replanting after harvest
  • interaction with a commercial harvester

And doing nothing because 'I'm trying to sequester as much carbon as possibe' isn't on their list (I asked)

So, what to do?

  • Look at your situation and the  [criteria used by Property Valuation Services  ] What makes sense for you?
  • Consider having a management plan prepared for your property.  It will identify the commercial opportunities and provide a time line for when it might happen.  The specifics are up to you

And what if you are operating your woodlot as a business and not getting a favourable tax rate?  Call Property Vaulation Services Corporation to get it resolved.


Sorry ... this post was longer than usual.  Taxes are inevitable and everyone has to pay their fair share to keep things moving.  Understanding how the system works means you can take steps appropriate for your situation.



And a big shout out to Property Valuation Services Corporation for helping me with these posts.  Their job is to properly value all properties across the province.  They do not set tax rates or tax policy.


Death and Taxes - Part 1

Monday, March 19, 2018

You are going to die.  [possible exception]

Taxes are also inevitable.  The question is how much and specifically for this post, how much will you pay for your woodlot?

Let's connect a couple of dots:
  • Nova Scotia has over 30,000 small woodlot owners
  • These land holdings represent over 50% of the forested land in the province
  • 100 years ago, these owners largely used the land to support themselves
  • Designated 'Resource Exempt' for property tax purposes, the annual tax bill was negligible
  • Now days, fewer woodlots provide financial returns

So ... you may be getting a sweet tax deal on your woodlot even though it isn't currently being used in the way 'Resource Exempt' was originally intended.  What gives? 

This is where [Property Valuation Services] comes in.

Their job is to place a value on all properties in Nova Scotia.  Municipalities then know the value of their properties, figure how much cash they need to survive and set the tax rate.

They also have the ability to change the classification of 'Resource Exempt' to something else.

For example, you inherited a piece of land from Grandpa and he worked all his life on the farm and woodlot.  You now own the property and are benefiting from the 'Resource Exempt' tax classification but you haven't and probably never will sell anything from the woodlot.

[Property Valuation Services have a responsibility to reclassify your property.If they determine that you are not a 'bona fide' commercial forest operation, your rate changes.

What is 'bona fide'?  Take a closer look at the slide at the top of this post for some specifics.  In a nutshell, there has to be some intent to make money.

Next week : what to do???

Homework : look at your most recent tax bill.  How much did you pay for your woodlot?  How was it classified?


Many thanks to Emily Wrobleski, Rebecca Vorstermans and Carlos Resendes from Property Valuation Services Corporation for speaking with me.  Their job is valuing properties and they do not set tax rates or determine tax policy.