The Medway Community Forest Co-op (MCFC) is Eastern Canada’s first crown land community forest based in the rural community of Caledonia, Nova Scotia. Our primary aim is to support local communities through
sustainable and ecologically-based forest management. On a daily basis, the MCFC sustainably manages a
15,000 hectare Crown Land license area using practices that reflect ecological and multi-value forest
Bowater Mersey Paper Company Ltd. owned the land previously and managed the forest primarily with even-aged harvest practices and silviculture prescriptions to produce softwood pulpwood and sawlogs. They managed 550,000 ha of forest in the province from 1929 to 2012
targeting pulpwood demand.
Public campaigning to “Buy Back the Mersey” following the closure of BMPC led to 550,000
hectares of freehold lands being purchased by the province of Nova Scotia in 2012. Management
goals in the pilot phase are to generate profits through ecologically appropriate forest management and to provide alternative activities to provide economic benefit to the local community. Harvesting operations in the community forest aims to balance the goals of both generating economic benefits and promoting restoration of natural Acadian forest conditions. Best practices for transitioning from historical even-aged management to ecosystem-based management is required by the province in the adoption of ecological forestry practices and the triad model.
A three-year pilot project was awarded to the MCFC by the Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources (NSDNR), establishing the province’s first community forest in 2013. Through a Forest Utilization License Agreement (FULA) with the NSDNR in January 2015, MCFC acquired a Crown Land Area License to sustainably operate on 15,064 ha of forested land in the Annapolis county in Nova Scotia. There are ongoing, active negotiations with the NSDNR to secure a long-term license agreement to support self-sufficiency and investment opportunities for the Community Forest.
MCFC is a for-profit social enterprise facilitating a governance structure based on community decision-making. It is democratically governed by an elected Board of Directors with seats for identified stakeholders and rights holders in the community representing economic, environmental, social/outreach, First Nations, and members-at-large. Anyone may participate through a share-based membership, purchased for a nominal fee, that entitles members to vote or run for the Board of Directors and engage in committee meetings. The MCFC mission is to support local communities through sustainable and ecologically-based, multi-value forest management.
Activities include crown timber harvesting, firewood, value-added lumber, recreation, research, community outreach and education, development of The Nova Scotia Working Woodlands Trust, and Private Land Services. The MCFC management goals are to: (1) increase the average forest age on the license area, (2) increase the proportion of high-value timber, (3) integrate traditional knowledge into forestry practices, (4) increase uneven-aged conditions, and (5) reduce intensive management while promoting natural regeneration.
The Medway Community Forest Cooperative has over 200 members, has been piloting best management practices for forest bird species at risk, and is working to open backcountry campsites and trail networks.
In 2023, MCFC will launch the Nova Scotia Working Woodlands Trust to fill a void in land conservation in the province where over 70% of the province is privately owned and stewarded. This new land trust will help secure and maintain privately stewarded woodlands and forest health in perpetuity.
In 2022, MCFC piloted a Hemlock Conservation program to preserve old growth hemlock forests from the invasive Hemlock Woolly Adelgid. Starting in the spring of 2023, with funding from Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Nature Smart Climate Solutions Fund and working in partnership with Nova Scotia Environment and Climate Change Protected Areas Branch, MCFC will be launching a four year treatment program across southwest Nova Scotia.