Nova Scotia will see an end to whole-tree clearcutting perhaps as early as January or February if the province’s natural resource minister gets his way.

“I think it should be out in Nova Scotia,” John MacDonell said Thursday when asked if the heavily criticized practice should be banned.

Usually clearcutting involves leaving tree tops, branches and other fibre to spark regrowth. But with biomass becoming a source of energy, the province is seeing more full-tree harvesting that sweeps the area clean.

The Ecology Action Centre has been highlighting the barren remains, particularly a muddy field near Caribou Mines.

MacDonell agreed Thursday the site was “pretty devastating.”

“The highest nutrient components are in the tops of leaves or needles ... Really I think for the health of the forest and for future generations, that has to stay. Nobody’s made an argument to me that seems sensible for taking it,” he said.

There are no regulations preventing whole-tree harvesting so the company responsible, Northern Pulp Nova Scotia, just had to meet normal rules around clearcutting.

MacDonell said he’s waiting for an expert review’s recommendations to come back before crafting new rules, but that could happen early next year.

He wouldn’t comment on lowering the amount of clearcutting in the province, saying he didn’t want to preempt the panel’s recommendations.

The news was warmly received by the Ecology Action Centre’s Jamie Simpson.

“(Whole-tree harvesting) has a huge environmental impact,” he said.

“The science around this issue is quite clear that when you remove the tops and the branches and all of the deadwood ... you get a decline in nutrients, you get a decline in long-term forest productivity.”

Simpson said it also hurts biodiversity, displaces wildlife and robs the soil of carbon. He said he hopes the new rules will also push a reduction in overall clearcutting in the province.