Public land and wildlife continue to be destroyed, yet are absent from industry costs
Pulp companies use softwoods like spruce to manufacture paper products. They obtain leases to cut wood on Crown land, in forests owned by the public.
The leases allow them to cut hardwood trees on Crown land.
When other energy prices, such as natural gas, soar, it becomes economic to burn hardwoods in the Point Tupper biomass plant to produce electricity, at an efficiency rate of less than 21.5 per cent. To put this in perspective, a woodstove can have an efficiency rate about 80 per cent to produce heat.
Margins go up and margins go down, but one important aspect not factored into this equation as corporations adapt to profit, is the cost to wildlife. Animals are crushed under heavy equipment as they cower in their dens. Songbirds made their homes in these forests.
They are nowhere on the financial statement. The cost to wildlife can be the ultimate price…
Also a friendly reminder that if you haven’t renewed your Friends of Nature membership this would be a great time to do so. You can renew or join on our website! It’s important to our conservation efforts that we are able to tell politicians we represent a large number of Nova Scotians.
Yesterday, December 7, 2017 a delegation from Friends of Nature made a presentation to the Independent Review of Forest Practices, led by Professor Bill Lahey. Our presentation was well received and resulted in a healthy discussion with Mr Lahey.
A copy of our brief is follows . . .
December 7, 2017
Presentation to Bill Lahey
Ken MacRury – Woodlot owner
Brad Armstrong – Conservation Director, Friends of Nature & woodlot owner
Syd Dumaresq –Chair, Friends of Nature
The current state of the forestry in Nova Scotia is reminiscent of the coal and steel industry that existed in the 1950’s and 60’s when valiant efforts on the part of all levels of government were made to save a dying industry that had served its time and was no longer viable. The industry died, not because Nova Scotia ran out of coal but because it was no longer able to compete in the global economy. We suspect that something similar is happening with the forest industry. We believe that both Stora and Bowater saw the future and took the actions they did. Stora moved to Argentina where trees grow five times faster, labour rates are lower, taxes are lower, and supply lines are shorter. The two remaining pulp and paper plants are being propped up with government subsidies which are likely to disappear.
As others have said, in the 1800’s Nova Scotia was producing the finest lumber in North America, for ship building, for export to Europe and the USA; by the early 1900’s the big trees were mostly gone so we started the pulp and paper mills making newsprint, toilet paper and eventually super calendar paper, mostly for export; and in this century the supply of trees has become so constricted that we are reduced to making biomass, mostly for export. The trees for the two remaining paper mills and for the saw mills are being supplied at rock bottom stumpage fees from Crown lands or from private woodlands where supply most often depends on a rural poverty motivator.
Friends of Nature believe the forest industry is dying in its present form, it’s just that most people have not yet realized that fact. Instead of discussing a paradigm shift the discussion is about minor shifts that may or may not extend the current situation.
This province has the capacity to grow wonderful large trees of high value but only if we give the forests time. The race to the bottom is being fueled by a desperate search for profits in an industry that is becoming more uneconomic every year.
A paradigm shift will not be easy or painless, jobs will be lost, companies will go bankrupt, but overall the province will emerge a better place and an industry will be rebuilt. Friends of Nature suggest that the Province should look at the sunsetting of current forestry practices over a long term renewal program for the forest. The first to go should be whole tree harvesting which should immediately stop on all crown lands, next would be clearcutting, say 25 years to be completely eliminated on all crown lands. After that the province would allow only selective harvesting on crown lands with a size or age range for trees harvested.
The main purpose of crown land would be to create a carbon sequestration forest that would be the lungs of the province, taking in carbon and breathing out oxygen.
The province would be able to sell carbon credits derived from the crown lands on a regulated market, which would help finance the transition from machine intensive clear cutting to selective forestry.
Nova Scotia would become a world leader in forestry.
There was a very interesting article in the Herald in November by Soren Bondrup- Nielsen, a retired professor from Acadia, which supplies interesting support documentation for such a radical transformation.
He provides real numbers. When we look at two of them, jobs in the forest industry and volume harvested, we see that employment in the industry has fallen from a high of 12,000 in the late 1990’s to about 5,500 today and we suspect this is still falling. The volume harvested in cubic meters hit a high point in the late 1990’s of six million cubic meters and has decreased to 3.5 million cubic meters in 2016.
Those numbers seem to speak of an industry in rapid decline and would again seem to mirror what happened in the coal and steel industry during its decline and eventual failure. Prof. Bondrup-Nielsen advocates the growth of large diameter trees and carbon sequestration in the forests of Nova Scotia which would allow for a supply of large logs harvested selectively for the value added sawmill industry and the sale of carbon credits under a cap-and-trade system.
Friends of Nature believe those objectives would be supported by most Nova Scotians.
During the transition period noted above we strongly recommend:
• Implementation of FSC certification on all crown lands. The only large amount of
wood left, except on private lands, is in south western NS. This is part of the former Bowater lands that was already FSC certified. With FSC certification we, the public, has input in all the harvest plans ( After all we own the crown lands). FSC is a much better standard of forestry, eg bigger buffers, longer harvest rotations, public input and protection of the forest canopy.
• An immediate halt to forest biomass for generation of electricity
• An immediate reduction of 50% in clearcutting on crown land
• A halt to the export of wood pellets for biomass
• More input from indigenous peoples in forest policy
Below is the Eulogy for the Forest given by Bob Bancroft at the recent Funeral for the Forest. The Funeral was a protest march organized by the Healthy Forest Coalition of which FON is a founding member. FON were well represented at the Funeral.
WHERE HAVE ALL THE GOOD FORESTS GONE?
Dear friends of the forest, Mi’kmaq people, family, foresters, scientists, and neighbours…
This forest story began about 12,000 years ago, as an ice age departed.
A great diversity of wild plants and animals evolved since that time in this forest, which towered as a green mantle over the land we now call Nova Scotia.
It is part of the great land occupied by the Mi’kmaq people.
There is a sense of spirit and peace in a natural forest with old trees.
Trees in natural forests are allowed to become elders.
They soothe our souls and we begin to feel a part of a larger community of other living beings.
When settlers from Europe began land clearing in the 1600’s, major disturbances such as human-set fires began.
Harvesting with axes and crosscut saws shifted to chainsaws in the 1950’s and then to the large, heavily-financed machinery we see today.
To quote Elizabeth May, woods employment went from “a bunch of fellers to a feller-buncher”.
Today we are living the latest chapter; an unprecedented loss of NS forests at rapid rates; “forest liquidation” through clearcutting, where even the shrubs may be chipped.
Like the cod’s demise, this story of government-sanctioned, forest liquidation is made possible by new technology and fossil fuels.
I would like to thank investigative journalists Linda Pannozzo, Joan Baxter and Jennifer Henderson for sifting through the industrial forest rhetoric for the truth.
For example, during the 25 years up to 2014, 42% of the forest in Nova Scotia that could be cut was clearcut.
On public land currently about 90 % of the cutting is clearcutting.
Most of these woodlands had already been harvested several times.
Many original tree species lived and still could live natural lives for 350-400 years.
So, how did forests become degraded to the sticks we see trucked on highways today?
Land disturbance favours short-lived, lower quality pioneer tree species.
That’s what naturally grows in here after a clearcut.
Forest succession takes much longer after a clearcut.
With government backing, the forest industry cuts long-lived hardwood and mixed wood forests that take at least 150 years to establish and mature; and turns them into short-lived softwood stands or plantations.
They intend to harvest these every 40 years or so.
It is better for cash flow. It’s not better for wildlife.
They need food and shelter.
All the industry sees in a forest is woodpiles.
Piles to be processed into fibre or wood chips to feed hungry mills and biomass burners!
The Mi’kmaq, informed biologists and many others see the forest as a living entity that fosters healthy streams for salmon and trout, provides habitat for woodland flora, and habitat for a wealth of animals.
The industry respect is saved for profits – the smell of money-most of which goes to foreign shareholders.
Priorities include grinding and chipping our forests for fibre.
Pulp, biomass and pellets to burn for heat and electricity.
Wood chips and pellets are going offshore for chip board and biomass.
Saw log supplies are dwindling.
Electricity produced by wood biomass is at very poor efficiency rates and cannot be considered green energy by anyone but the most ill-informed and naive.
The government is misinforming its citizens with the message that biomass is environmentally friendly.
The government also is making poor, short-sighted decisions in a desperate attempt to maintain jobs in a diminishing pulp market.
Instead, it could be making brave, innovative decisions that would set us on a new path towards a better future in forest management, forest products, and healthy forests.
Many of those ideas were assembled in a report during the Natural Resources Strategy, but none were considered.
The problem is large clearcuts leave moonscapes where most wildlife species cannot survive.
This removes employment possibilities for decades, and slows new forest growth in nutrient-depleted soils.
Global Forest Watch satellite images showing recent forest cover loss in Nova Scotia in the past 10-15 years are appalling, but true.
With the Acadian forest now gone in many areas, we are gathered here to mourn its tremendous loss.
Now industry-led spin doctors have launched an “Act for Healthy Forests” campaign seeking support in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia for another budworm spray program.
“Spray for Healthy Forest!”.
The insecticide will rob food from our wood warblers and wreak untold ecological damage to a natural disturbance process that has been visiting our forests periodically over centuries…
The forest industry and DNR refuse to work with the forces of nature.
Instead they steadfastly ignore and seek to overpower those forces.
They’ve created a worse problem with their few-species, unstable, simplified forests, more vulnerable to forces of nature like wind and spruce budworm.
Climate change is bringing hurricanes more frequently and invasive pests.
Nova Scotia is adding to the climate change problem, rather than dealing with it.
This brand of forestry creates growing numbers of Species at Risk.
From lichens to moose!
Nova Scotia needs ecologically-healthy working forests that connect isolated patches of protected areas to one another.
If such corridors existed, wildlife would once again be able to move freely throughout the province under continuous forest canopies…rather than finding themselves in remnant forests without sufficient food, stuck between barren lands of clearcuts and future plantations.
This would create more genetic diversity, and increase chances of survival of wildlife populations.
Large clearcuts are too drastic a change for Nova Scotia’s nutrient poor forest soils, the waterways, wildlife, woodland plants including mosses and lichens, and complex communication networks of fungi that actually allow trees to communicate.
Streams and rivers run brown with silt, killing fish.
Nutrients flush away to the sea, leaving depleted soils and meagre prospects for regenerating plants.
This ongoing tragedy has been sanctioned by successive governments of all political stripes.
We, the public, the taxpayers, elect them; but politicians listen to the forest industry and their promises of jobs.
And politicians continue to feed forest industries hundreds of millions of our tax dollars.
As Tom Miller recently stated, “Industry and DNR management have no room for anyone trying to upset their apple cart.”
Put simply, Nova Scotia is overcut.
Why would DNR sanction the harvests of 35 year old stands on Crown land unless we are running out of wood?
The public had their say in a round of consultations that ended in 2009.
The message was clear: “current practices …..are not sustainable.”
The status quo in forestry was not an option, they said!
But DNR hasn’t budged an inch.
Instead, they added large biomass plants and became more secretive.
They are now allowing the mining of the last of our forests for foreign interests.
Are we going to just sit back and take this?
Is this the change that you said you wanted to see?
DNR senior management talks about sound ecological principles: “science-based forestry”
In reality they cater to corporations and investor greed.
Donna Crossland and I volunteered for a year and a half on a government science panel where the industry rep would not accept science!
Now he’s one of those at the helm of Natural Resources, along with other former mill employees.
Instead of setting a good forest management example on public lands for private woodlot owners to learn from and to follow, contractors are being allowed to skin Crown woodlands alive.
What a role model!
They’re clearcutting everything from mature sugar maples and yellow birch, down to two inch diameter red oaks, as well as whole forest stands long before they mature; chipping or pressing pellets, and sending these raw materials overseas.
Stands of twenty and thirty year old trees are now fodder for their harvests.
It’s a government and industry-organized race to the bottom.
Meanwhile, local, value-added hardwood flooring industries have been forced to close for a lack of hardwood supply.
There is room for an expanded maple syrup industry here, and we have the trees. Or we did.
But they allow sugar maple stands on Crown (public) lands to be cut, instead of leaving them for syrup operations.
And they are already beginning to tax the wood out of private lands.
One senior DNR staff member informed me last winter that a fifteen year old clearcut has everything that our wildlife populations need.
Wish I was joking!
DNR should be hiring better-educated staff.
We must demand the ‘ousting’ of industry people, hired by the Liberals, from DNR.
This government department is supposed to act as stewards over the forests and on behalf of the best interests of its citizens.
I wonder how the senior DNR person would shoehorn a barred owl into a nest hole in a 15 year old tree?
DNR calls large scale clearcutting “ecological forest management”
As a scientist, I call it “ecological dismemberment”.
Think about it.
Scotland used to be a forested country.
Now trees make up 3% of its landscape.
This may be a mock funeral, but if you are one of many forest wildlife species displaced by a large clearcut, you lose your home, become a refugee on what was your territory, and most often die a slow, miserable, quiet death from starvation or territorial disputes.
Forests are the lungs of the earth, filterers of water, and they provide spiritual wellness.
If tended in an ecologically sustainable manner, they also provide us with many things we need, including lumber for our homes, and wood for our fires.
Give thanks to forests?
Do you want to take back our forests from foreign-owned mills and DNR?
Then let’s do it together!
Let’s demand change!
We need to work together to become better stewards and make the Acadian forest truly healthy again.
Forests can be resilient over time.
There is room for hope.
Thank you for gathering today to mourn the demise of Nova Scotia’s ecologically-healthy forests, and their wildlife.
Our forests need your concern, and your action
Before the last of our unprotected public forests are reduced to mud and bushes.
The letter below is from Geoffrey May, who is Elizabeth’s brother, provides the best summary I have seen to date on the sad state of our forest industry and the industry regulators. Please help to spread the word.
Syd Dumaresq, Chair
Friends of Nature
Dear Premier McNeil,
I have certain sympathy for your government’s inability to deliver decent forest policy. The problem stems from decades of UNB/Irving forestry school, which has trained most provincial foresters, and most forestry professionals in private and public service. These professional foresters know next to nothing about forest ecology, and have no understanding for forest structure or function. This anti-science, anti-nature forest management that has been pushed by UNB and the Irvings has resulted in reduced forest employment, reduced forest value, and destruction of non-commercial forest products.
Forests are not landscape constants, but result from ecological variables. Our temperate forests hold as much biological diversity as the great rain forests, the big difference between tropical rain forests and temperate forests, is that tropical forests have most of their biodiversity above the ground, where as our forest has most of its biodiversity in soil microorganisms.
It is in the below ground web of life that nutrients are fixed for use, that the trees of the forest are in communication. These subterranean communities are essential for forest health, yet they are destroyed utterly by the equipment used to harvest forests, rutting and compaction from equipment is a major challenge for ecosystems.
Our forest harvest is conducted by large mechanized equipment, which can only be profitably employed, by conducting large contiguous clear-cuts. However, if we managed our forests to preserve ecosystem function and maximize employment, we would ban clear-cut logging and the equipment that demands it. The current system benefits Irvings and other corporate forest destruction because reducing employment is one way to control supply costs. The current system leaves forest contractors 100% dependent on good relations with the mills who control the crown leases. Contractors needing to meet huge payments aren’t going to concern themselves with the damage they do to meet those payments, and DNR has no employees who can recognize it either.
Clear-cutting is based on the concept of forest rotation. Forest rotation is an idea that has no basis in ecology, and exists in direct opposition to what the science shows us. What science says is that forests do not rotate, they precede through successional changes to stable state, climax, or “Old Growth”, which contains all other successional stages within it. Clear-cutting represents a unique ecological challenge in that no other disaster removes the entire above ground forest structure for processing off site.
In addition to compacting and rutting of forest soils, clear-cutting exposes forest soils to direct sunlight, wind, and rain, which increases the loss of nutrients from clear-cut areas. In the forest, large woody material is converted by insects, fungi and bacteria into complex forest soils (one way that nature sequesters carbon). In a clear-cut, large woody material is desiccated, it dries out, is not home to a complex community, and the carbon is released back into the atmosphere.
Forest seedlings never form natural root systems and therefore never fully enter into the forest community. In addition to being expensive, plantations are not forests; they are brittle ecosystems, prone to insect attack, vulnerable to wind. The seedlings will require nitrogen, nitrogen is present in the soil, but needs to be “fixed” into a useable form for trees to use. In our forests the bacteria that fixes nitrogen is closely associated with pioneer hardwoods. Pioneer hardwoods serve many useful functions in attempting to reclaim the forest. They protect seedlings from excessive sunlight, wind, rain, and snow. Pioneer hardwoods help stabilize the soils, the water table, and create micro-climates that buffer extremes of heat and cold benefitting seedlings. They do not compete for nutrients or water (as the UNB/Irving School claims). Herbiciding these hardwoods does not help softwood seedlings, and there is no science that supports the theory that removing the pioneer hardwoods brings the seedlings to maturity any sooner. In fact, there is science showing that the yields from plantations rarely reach the levels from the harvest of the natural forest they replace, and none to support the forestry models that plantations can double the fibre productivity that is used to justify excessive logging.
Recent science, which I sent you this past winter, showed that in Europe the conversion of mixed wood forests to conifer plantations is a driver of global warming. The carbon stored did not offset the reduced albedo effect. Clear-cut logging is, of course, another driver of global warming. Land use changes, like clearcutting, account for 20%-30% of CO2 emissions. This was recognized by science over 25 years ago, yet we continue to harvest our forest as if climate change wasn’t happening.
All our environment and economic policies in Nova Scotia appear caught in a time warp, a vacuum. The current Herbicide spray program is based on the assumption that there will be a market for wood pulp in 60 years. It should be obvious that there won’t be. The Alton Gas project similarly assumes continued demand for, and supply of natural gas and there won’t be, unless mountains of science on climate change are all dead wrong.
Regarding Herbicides, years ago Japanese doctors were puzzled as to why patients who had deliberately ingested Round-up herbicide died. According to MDS they shouldn’t have died. They discovered that the surfactant used was 400 times as toxic as glyphosate, and that it was the polyoxyethyleneamine that allowed glyphosate to penetrate the cell wall. In registering Roundup, only the toxicity of glyphosate is considered.
We either change course and embrace a low carbon economy or there won’t be any economy at all in 60 years. Where does oxygen come from in a world at 6C Anthropogenic Global Warming?
If there is a future for Nova Scotia, it lies in accepting the reality of our situation. Forest policy should maximize employment in the forest while maximizing carbon storage. Selection logging is less energy intensive and can be conducted with a minimum of ecological impact and can increase forest stocking while increasing forest production, and there isn’t a single DNR employee working on developing selection logging appropriate for Nova Scotia.
We either embrace the future or we lose it, and right now, we are throwing the future away, and your policies are accelerating the pointless destruction of our future.
Why not make your mark? Actually make a difference in this world and do the right thing? Why not try?
Congratulations on your excellent article “NSP biomass project raising green concerns” of last Friday, January 9. In the interest of adding fuel to the fire I would like to point out that the 2,790 hectares that will be cut each and every year to feed the biomass boiler at Point Tupper translates to 6,894 acres for us old guys which is 10.77 square miles or all the forest in a three and one quarter mile by three and one quarter mile square. Continue reading →