NSWOOA Update 17: October/November 2008

Hello Woodlot Owners!


Demo 2008 afforded the chance to pick up DNR's Module 13 in the home study series: Non Timber Forest Products: Growing Opportunities. The whole series is worth reading, and for anyone new to forest management the modules can be a great assistance in getting up to speed in preparation to make decisions on your own woodlot.

The new module, by David Sutherland, takes a look at both consumptive and nonconsumptive NTFPs, as they are called. The module is straightforward, and covers a wide variety of products and opportunities. It is, of course, a well-illustrated survey of what is being done by some woodlot owners now and what might be done in the future to enhance the financial return from your woodlots. Thus, it does not get into some of the nitty-gritty of setting up businesses based on these products, but it does approach the issues with optimism and clarity.

Perhaps the best advice in the whole module comes in the early part of the book, page 7: "Now perhaps more than ever, natural products have an appeal to most people as they pursue healthier lifestyles. An endless array of products claiming to be 'all natural' are common on store shelves. Often the manufacturer's name implies a bond with the wild untamed world: 'frontier', 'Backwoods', 'wilderness', and 'Forest health' all appeal to the consumer. The seller of non timber forest products can add market value by using the right words."

He's right. A good many times it is not what you have to sell, it's what you call it that makes people want it. The lesson can be extended to even the name of your NTFP business.

It is also worthy of note that carbon sequestration is identified as a possible NTFP from private woodlots. That concept is certainly progressive. Hopefully DNR is now working on that issue!

Good job, Mr. Sutherland.

New Executive

The NSWOOA works for you because of volunteer efforts of woodlot owners like yourselves, that dedicate time and effort to the cause. The current executive consists of:
President: Lorne Burrows (Colchester County)
Vice President: Austin Parsons (Halifax County)
Treasurer: Greg Amon (Colchester County)
Recording Secretary: Paul Brison (Hants County)
Corresponding Secretary: Ken MacRury (Cape Breton)

More Kudos

NSWOOA member Neil Livingston hosted the Eastern Woodlot Owner of the Year Field Day on September 27. By all accounts it was an interesting event, as Neil has been truly innovative in his approach to woodlot management. Aesthetics are certainly a priority on this woodlot. Neil has also received good media coverage. A recent CBC radio program featured a school field trip to Neil's lot. Reaching the next generation of woodlot owners and consumers at an early age is certainly as worthy endeavor. Perhaps more of us should call in to our local schools and offer our services in the classroom or in the forest.

Even More Kudos

The NSWOOA-Picea Forestry project for the Association for Sustainable Forestry (ASF) is winding down. The Outreach Project, which promotes uneven-aged management for high-quality crop trees, was well received by landowners and the media. Altogether more than 400 people contacted the project.

Outreach Project Coordinator Patricia Amero reports:

The contractor session on Thursday, October 9th from 1-4pm, even with showers was certainly a success with 17 contractors attending. The goals of UAM and the Category 7 quality-improvement treatments were discussed as well as how to interpret the standards and properly apply these treatments on the ground. The field session took place on a 12-hectare hardwood selection management site near Earltown managed by North Nova and funded by ASF's Category 7 funding program. Greg Watson of North Nova was on hand to answer questions and engage in discussions. The harvest was supervised by Glenn Baker of Groupe Savoie, the hardwood mill in Westville, Pictou County, and conducted by Hector McGrath of McGrath Forestry of Truro. Glenn Baker, Hector McGrath, and Rebecca Aggas of ASF were also on hand to answer questions and add to discussions. The session was informal and questions and comments were encouraged. There were many good questions and discussion regarding challenges throughout the afternoon.

The final report, based on the large volume of material generated by the project as well as the insights of the three key deliverers of the project–Patricia Amero, Sandy Hyde and Flora Johnson—was delivered on the deadline of October 31, 2008. Hopefully the quality of the project work and the positive response of woodlot owners will lay the groundwork for an even better program that will address the varying site conditions out there that will better help private woodlot owners & contractors conduct Category 7 treatments successfully.

A Passing Worth Noting

The NSWOOA mourns the loss of woodlot owner and NSWOOA member Dr. Wilfred Creighton. We offer our sympathies to his family and friend for their loss. Wilfred Creighton was a remarkable man and we treasure our time with him. One example of his remarkable journey was creation of a maple sugar operation on his woodlot, when he was in his mid-90s.

Biomass Anyone?

The idea certainly sounds appealing: producing energy from a renewable resource instead of fossil fuels or uranium. Making energy from trees seems appealing; it certainly is a concept easily sold to the public. Certainly "the powers that be" in our province are under pressure to come up with guidelines by which the biomass industry can operate. But what should woodlot owners think about this potential market? Is it for us? What would the market look like, and how could it help land owners?

There are only a few identifiable sources of biomass that are or could be available. The first is to compete with an existing market, such as buying wood that used to go to the wood pellet or pulpwood markets. Since this option implies paying a competing price, it seems unlikely that the new biomass market would be interested: its intentions to use very low cost furl rules against this source in any volume.

The second source is waste wood from existing manufacture operations, such as bark, sawdust, chips. As this material is already scarce due to mill closures and slowdowns, it does not promise to be a viable source for energy production.

Another source is plantations. This is already done in some countries. Fast-growing trees or shrubs are planted and regularly harvested, much liker a farmer haying his fields. Even the machinery is similar, with a mowing function and a bailer being used in some systems. Speaking of farms, many abandoned farm fields in Nova Scotia could become productive again if this is the route taken. Of course it takes time to plant, grow and then harvest, so this may be a longer term solution, but it does not appear to be what biomass energy companies have in mind, at least to start.

The next-to-final source of biomass is slash. The tops, limbs, dead trees, shrubs, culls, etc., that are left behind in harvest operations. Ecologists, scientists and environmentalists tell us that this material, course woody debris, is essential to the health of the forests, to water control and purity, to carbon sequestration, and to the micro environments of the soil. This appears to be the source of biomass targeted by the new biomass energy. The very low price—in the low single digits per ton—so far projected for this material seems to mean that any woodlot owner who practices uneven-age management, selection cutting, patch cutting, etc. is effectively cut out of the market. In practical terms, who could afford to gather these remnants, slash, and truck them to the roadside? From that other side of the picture, how many tons of this residue would a woodlot owner have to haul out and pile up before a contractor would find it economically worthwhile to visit the site and chip or bale up the product? It is not likely to be done for a single truckload, say 32 tons.

The remaining source for this product is industrial-style clearcutting harvests—either on crown lands, company lands or private lands. Such large sites are ideal for large machinery to vacuum up huge quantities at very low price. Whether the public will tolerate this and whether the land will support it are questions for further discussions. Many are saying that we are already taking too much out of the forests.

Well, there are some thoughts on biomass. Please consider yourself to be asked for your comments by email to our email address. Is the biomass industry going to be of any use to woodlot owners trying to do right by the woods?

Keep Forest Canopy

(Excerpted from Jamie Simpson's book Restoring the Acadian Forest: A Guide for Woodlot Owners in the Maritimes, p.44. Jamie is taking orders for the book at bocabec@gmail.com. He hints that the book makes a great Christmas gift for you and your family members. The price will be $20, including shipping.)

"Reducing canopy cover, especially with large scale-clearcutting, can cause soil to heat up and dramatically increase decomposition. Increased decomposition can result in a flush of nutrients—more than can be utilized by the plants and soil organisms remaining after the harvest. Because a loss of trees also results in increased water flow over and through the soil, unused nutrients may be leached away from the rooting zone or washed into nearby water courses during rains."…. A canopy of vegetation, especially one that has multiple levels…slows rainfall and extends snow melt time, which reduces the risk of water-stress and nutrient movement by leaching water run-off."

Lines of Communication

Members are encouraged to contact the Board of Directors, the Executive and other members through our email address (nswooa@gmail.com) or by phone (902-633-2108 or, for member services, 902-673-3009). Please feel free to use these methods to keep us informed of what is going on in your woodlot or in your community or area. We try to keep you informed through these updates, newsletters and mail outs, our column in Atlantic Forestry Review, the annual general meeting, and this website

Paul Brison
NSWOOA Secretary