August 16, 2012
By Andy Kekacs, Program Director
We’ve put together this special edition of the NSWOOA newsletter to highlight an important series of articles published this week in The Chronicle Herald of Halifax. The package presents – and largely endorses – NSWOOA’s position on the best way to manage the forests of Nova Scotia. We hope you’ll read the series and then consider writing a letter to the newspaper and to your MLA that supports NSWOOA’s campaign to restore the Acadian Forest and renew the forest-based economy of rural Nova Scotia. Specifically, we believe:
1. The province should acquire the 550,000 acres of Bowater forestland;
2. The land should be managed for the production of high-quality, high-value wood products as the first step in creating a vibrant economy based on non-commodity forest products; and
3. Wood residues from sawmills – and low-grade logs that are harvested as part of forest restoration efforts – should be used as fuel for small, community-based, combined heat and power generation facilities.
Several of the articles are reproduced below, along with contact information for the newspaper and for Members of the Legislative Assembly.
Thanks for your help in improving the health of our forests and advancing the interests of small-woodlot owners!
Group shuns monoculture, wants N.S. to buy Bowater land
By Aaron Beswick
The Chronicle Herald
16 August 2012
MOOSELAND — If we let them, our forests can produce more than young spruce trees for pulp and paper and two-by-fours.
Over the past six months, the province has lost one and a half pulp and paper mills. While it’s been a tragedy for rural communities like Liverpool and Port Hawkesbury, a chorus of small woodlot owners is calling for the province to see this as an opportunity to manage parts of our forests for a return to higher-value hardwood production.
“For the first time in 50 years, we have an opportunity to do something different with our forests,” said Wade Prest while walking his Mooseland woodlot in July.
“But it would take an awful lot of willpower and foresight at the political level to change our course.”
The longtime harvester and sawmiller, through his organizaton, the Nova Scotia Woodlot Owners and Operators Association, is calling on the province to buy the 200,000 hectares owned by the defunct Bowater Mersey mill at Brooklyn, Queens County, and manage it for a return to an Acadian forest.
“The Department of Natural Resources has been trying to force boreal forest conditions upon our woodlands to provide softwood for pulp and paper needs,” said Prest, who began working at a sawmill at 12 years of age.
“But what we had here and could have here again is the Acadian forest, a more complicated mixture of long-lived softwoods and hardwoods that in the long run could provide for a healthier sawmilling industry and habitat for wildlife at the same time.”
Two centuries of cutting our most valuable trees, intentionally set fires and clearing for farmland had degraded Nova Scotia’s forest by the arrival of the modern management scheme for pulp and saw logs about 60 years ago.
The management of our forests has involved cutting, spraying herbicides to prevent the regrowth of Acadian forest hardwoods like yellow birch and sugar maple, establishing a single-species spruce plantation, thinning to promote quick growth and then cutting again in 40 to 50 years.
About 3.9 million cubic metres of wood were cut to supply Nova Scotia’s three pulp and paper plants and sawmills in 2011.
“We were already well below sustainable harvest level whether Bowater was operating or not operating,” said Dan Davis, spokesman for the Natural Resources Department. “The total allowable cut was 7.3 million cubic metres.”
But that estimate, having double the resources than needed, flies in the face of what some woods operators have been saying.
“We’ve overcut,” Vaughn Hodgson, co-owner of what was the province’s largest harvester of pulpwood, told The Chronicle Herald in April. “With my background, my opinion should count for something.”
Hodgson’s Chipping and Trucking auctioned off millions of dollars worth of equipment this spring, and co-owner Vaughn hopped on a plane for a job in Edmonton after decades providing the Pictou County mill with pulp fibre.
Davis’s numbers require all of the province’s 4.3 million hectares of woodland being available for harvesting, but half the province’s woodland is owned by small owners who have showed decreasing interest in allowing their lots to be cut in recent decades.
The province’s new forest strategy, announced last year, further reduced wood supply projections by mandating a reduction of clearcutting by 50 per cent within five years and more diverse species management.
But this doesn’t go far enough for Prest or his association.
Their vision for the management of the former Bowater lands, however, will require at least 70 years before significant amounts of hardwood and high-value softwoods become available, as opposed to 40-year rotations for softwoods.
Prest worries that the land will be purchased by a private firm and managed for continued pulp production. This happened around 2005, when the former owners of the Abercrombie kraft pulp mill, Neenah Paper Co., sold about 200,000 hectares to American company Wagner Forest Products Ltd.
“The current strategy is to attempt to manage for an oversupply to keep pulp prices as near to nothing as possible,” said Prest. “This is bad for the harvesters, who are receiving very little for their wood, for the forests and for the wildlife in this province that can’t live in single-species even-aged tree stands. Pulpwood has a place, but we should not be managing solely for it.”
Demand for pulpwood should not decrease significantly in northern Nova Scotia despite the closure of NewPage Port Hawkesbury Corp.
The new owner, Pacific West Commercial Corp., may not plan to run paper machine 1, but has stated the intention to run paper machine 2 at a higher production level than previously. As well, Nova Scotia Power’s new biomass-burning energy plant in Port Hawkesbury could consume up to 650,000 tonnes of wood fibre annually.
Julie Towers, executive director of the department’s renewable research branch, confirmed that both the province and private interests are looking at the former Bowater land.
She added that the province has provided funding for silviculture to private landowners promoting longer-lived species and created a map showing which areas would be favoured by Acadian forest species.
Meanwhile, as Prest walked the 800 hectares he’s been selectively harvesting to promote a return to Acadian forest, he was asked whether human institutions can be expected to manage for a benefit well beyond the horizon.
“I've been cutting this land very lightly, and maybe it will be of value to my grandchildren,” said Prest. “If someone comes along in 40 years and clearcuts it, all my life’s work will be for nought. So, you see, you have to be optimistic.”
4.3 million — forested hectares in Nova Scotia
1.6 million — hectares owned by the Crown
1.925 million — cubic metres of wood cut for pulp and paper in 2011
1.865 million — cubic metres of wood cut for sawmills in 2011
550,000 — approximate acres owned by Bowater Mersey Paper Co. Ltd.
$120 million — estimated value of Bowater land
Nova Scotia forests once formed a canopy of darkness
Early inhabitants found towering stands of trees
By Aaron Beswick
Much that once was has been lost.
French administrator Nicolas Denys wrote of pursuing moose on horseback through the towering stands of white pine, sugar maple, red spruce and hemlock that dominated Nova Scotia’s forests during the mid-1600s.
Late 18th-century harvesters record cutting white pines 38 to 53 metres tall and floating them down Nova Scotia rivers to become masts for England’s navy.
There were root systems so extensive that early explorers refer to making camp at “forest wells,” where blown-down trees left small freshwater ponds in the earth vacated by their upturned roots.
“That was the Acadian forest,” said Donna Crossland.
As part of her research for a master’s of science in forestry, the Tupperville, Annapolis County, resident dug through the writings of early European settlers in Atlantic Canada, researched trees left standing to mark old property lines and analyzed charcoal remnants deep in the soil from ancient forest fires.
“In letters, you see early European arrivals complaining about the darkness while walking for days under the huge forest canopy,” said Crossland. “That’s one complaint we don’t have anymore.”
In 2003, the World Wildlife Fund listed the Acadian forest as endangered.
A forest inventory report that year by the Natural Resources Department found only 0.3 per cent of the province remains covered by stands of forest over 105 years old.
The longest-living species, like yellow birch, can live to over 300 years old and were recorded by early harvesters to have trunk diameters of up to four metres.
In contrast, sawmills in recent years have retooled to saw spruce just 12 centimetres in diameter.
This discussion of where the forests are headed will look at what the Acadian forest was and how it has been changed over the last 350 years.
To begin, it’s necessary to know that hardwoods like maple, beech, yellow birch, ash and oak are the trees with leaves. Softwoods like the spruces, fir, pine and hemlock have needles.
In his book, The Atlantic Coast: A Natural History, Cumberland County naturalist Harry Thurston described the Acadian forest as the meeting of two great ecosystems — the softwood-based boreal forests of northern Canada and the southern hardwood forests of the United States.
Variety and mortal combat over access to the sun rule the Acadian forest. The species differ in the hunger of their saplings for sunlight.
When a large fire or hurricane knocks down swaths of forest, short-lived species like fir, white birch and black spruce that can handle wind exposure and large amounts of sunlight take root.
But the new trees cast a heavy shadow that their own saplings can’t survive.
So hemlock, white pine and hardwood saplings seeded in from neighbouring stands shoot up when their conifer competitors start falling down. The newcomers send roots down and around the little conifers and spread arms over top, choking their neighbours of water and light.
Towering white pines and sugar maples would always have been the exception, occupying high ground and river valleys, while smaller black spruce and tamaracks occupied wet ground and wind-exposed areas.
Crossland’s research has shown that unlike the northern boreal forests, which rely upon frequent fire and insect attacks to make room for new growth, large disturbances in the Acadian forest were rare — perhaps happening less than once every thousand years.
“So there is time for climax species, big lords of the forest, to grow to their potential for multiple generations,” said Crossland.
The Acadian forest’s demise began with harvesting for shipment to England. Huge swaths of forest were cleared by logging and fires caused by humans.
A domestic sawmill industry also took a toll. By the 1940s, farms were being abandoned and the pulp and paper era arrived in a province with little of its original forest stands.
“Modern management has essentially attempted to treat the Acadian forest like a boreal forest because the pulp industry prefers softwood,” said Crossland.
Now the pulp and paper industry is in decline, few large sawmills are left, and few industries desire our wood products.
The Chronicle Herald's Editorial
Forestry's future: Let's be as resourceful as possible
FORESTRY is used to operating on the long cycles of growing trees. But in the past year, the Nova Scotia industry has had rapid change rip through it like a chainsaw.
Since last fall, the pulp mill and the papermaking machine at Queens County’s Bowater Mersey have closed. One paper machine at Point Tupper is gone, too. Plans by Pacific West Commercial Corporation to restart pulp operations and the second paper machine at the Strait of Canso are far from certain, dependent as they are on subsidized power rates and a tax ruling by Revenue Canada.
Meanwhile, many forest contractors dependent on a revival of papermaking by PWCC (and necessary to it) are being kept on life support by an emergency shot of provincial silviculture spending that can’t last forever.
The loss of two paper machines has kicked last year’s provincial forestry strategy into the out-of-date basket and created tougher conditions for bringing small woodlots into managed production. The economic impact on sawmills, which trade in logs and chips with pulp operations, is a dark wood, too.
A new biomass power plant will require fuel, but its economic and environmental logic depend on burning the lowest-grade fibre, harvested as a byproduct of higher-value operations.
And the largest privately owned expanse of woodland in the province, Bowater’s 550,000 acres, is for sale. As The Chronicle Herald’s Aaron Beswick reports today, a movement led by small woodlot owners wants the province to acquire this vast tract and to manage it as a mixed-species Acadian forest that is natural to the region. That forest would be less focused on supplying pulpwood and more diversified into high-value hardwood species.
Clearly, the future of forestry will have to be more diversified than the past. The loss of so much paper capacity guarantees that, even though pulp and paper will remain a major user and employer if PWCC comes through and Northern Pulp maintains its operations.
There’s also a good case —two really — for Nova Scotia to seriously consider buying some or all of the Bowater land if the price is right.
One you could call the defensive case. The province has an interest in preventing these lands from being acquired on the cheap by offshore interests and then mined for export logs, chips and fuel. That would provide little benefit to Nova Scotia and probably cost us in the long run in terms of lost opportunities for higher-value uses of the resource.
But if the province is going to spend $100 million or so on forest land, it should have a more proactive business case, as well. The goal is not just to prevent a poor use of the resource, it’s to encourage local industry to find the optimum mix of good uses. In other words, we need a well-conceived, realistic plan of what new or expanded industries, product lines, added value and markets can be developed economically from this resource. We need to understand housing opportunities in markets like Brazil, China and India, new manufacturing uses of wood fibre, forest tourism, better engineering and design in wood products.
Such a plan is not going to grow top-down from government. We need the many competing and inter-dependent entrepreneurs of the forestry to seriously work together to come up with this model, so no value or opportunity, from the finest hardwood to the junk that fuels the biomass boiler, is wasted. And the returns must be in the present as well as the future, because contractors, landowners and businesses have to earn a living while long-term change takes place.
It’s called being resourceful. And that, in the end, is the best way to maximize any resource.
Other articles in the series:
We hope you will take a moment to send a letter or e-mail to The Chronicle Herald, Premier Darrell Dexter, Natural Resources Minister Charlie Parker, or your local MLA supporting NSWOOA’s proposals for improving the health and productivity of Nova Scotia’s forests.
In the letter, please consider mentioning our call to purchase the Bowater lands and restore the Acadian Forest as the first steps in rebuilding the forest-based economy of rural Nova Scotia. To increase the chance that letters will be published and read, they should be short (no more than three or four paragraphs) and to the point.
Letters to the editor may be sent to The Chronicle Herald at email@example.com.
To reach senior government officials, you may write to:
The Honourable Darrell Dexter, Premier of Nova Scotia
One Government Place, 1700 Granville St.
Halifax, NS B3J 2T3
The Honourable Charlie Parker, Minister of Natural Resources
Founders Square, 1701 Hollis St.
Halifax, NS B3J 2T9
2012 MLA contact information:
Hon. Stephen McNeil, P.O. Box 1420, Middleton, NS B0S 1P0 firstname.lastname@example.org
Hon. Maurice Smith, 275 Main St., Suite 102, Antigonish, NS B2G 2C3 email@example.com
Hon. Chris d'Entremont, P.O. Box 94, Tusket, NS B0W 3M0 firstname.lastname@example.org
Hon. Kelly Regan, 1550 Bedford Hwy, Suite 555, Bedford, NS B4A 1E6 email@example.com
Hon. Frank Corbett, P.O. Box 1, New Waterford, NS B1H 1Z1 firstname.lastname@example.org
Hon. Eddie Orrell, 309 Commercial St., Unit 5, North Sydney, NS B2A 1B9 email@example.com
Hon. Gordie Gosse, 758 Victoria Road, Sydney, NS B1N 1J6 firstname.lastname@example.org
Hon. Manning MacDonald, 253 Newlands Ave., Sydney, NS B1S 1Y7 email@example.com
Hon. Alfie MacLeod, 1990 Kings Road, Sydney River, NS B1L 1C4 firstname.lastname@example.org
Hon. Denise Peterson-Rafuse, 213-9977 St. Margaret's Bay Rd, Hubbards, NS B0J 1T0 email@example.com
Hon. Wayne J. Gaudet, RR1 P.O. Box 106, Church Point, NS B0W 1M0 firstname.lastname@example.org
Hon. Gary Burrill, P.O. Box 129, Stewiacke, NS B0N 2J0 email@example.com
Hon. Karen Casey, 30 Duke Street, Truro, NS B2N 2A1 firstname.lastname@example.org
Hon. Darrell Dexter, 971 Cole Harbour Rd, Cole Harbour, NS B2V 1E8 email@example.com
Hon. Becky Kent, 1490 Main Rd, P.O. Box 152, Eastern Passage, NS B3G 1M4 firstname.lastname@example.org
Hon. Brian Skabar, 30 1/2 Church Street, Amherst, NS B4H 3A8 email@example.com
Hon. Jamie Baillie, 6 McFarlane Street, Springhill, NS B0M 1X0 firstname.lastname@example.org
Hon. Andrew Younger, 73 Tacoma Drive, Suite 600, Dartmouth, NS B2W 3Y6 email@example.com
Hon. Trevor Zinck, 102 Albro Lake Rd., Suite 3, Dartmouth, NS B3A 3Y6 firstname.lastname@example.org
Hon. Marilyn More, 135 Portland St., P.O. Box 534, Dartmouth, NS B2Y 3Y8 email@example.com
Hon. Harold (Junior) Theriault, P.O. Box 1038, Digby, NS B0V 1A0 firstname.lastname@example.org
Hon. Sidney Prest, P.O. Box 6, Musquodobit Harbour, NS B0J 2L0 email@example.com
Hon. Geoff MacLellan, 219 Commercial Street, Glace Bay, NS B1A 3B9 firstname.lastname@example.org
Hon. Jim Boudreau, P.O. Box 69, Canso, NS B0H 1H0 email@example.com
Hon. Michele Raymond, 47 Williams Lake Rd, Halifax, NS B3P 1S9 firstname.lastname@example.org
Hon. Howard Epstein, 6009 Quinpool Rd., Suite 103, Halifax, NS B3K 5J6 email@example.com
Hon. Leonard Preyra, 989 Young Avenue, Halifax, NS B3H 2V9 firstname.lastname@example.org
Hon. Diana Whalen, 287 Lacewood Drive, Unit 303, Halifax, NS B3M 3Y7 email@example.com
Hon. Graham Steele, 7105 Chebucto Rd, Suite 101, Halifax, NS B3L 4W8 firstname.lastname@example.org
Hon. Maureen MacDonald, 3115 Veith Street, Halifax, NS B3K 3G9 email@example.com
Hon. Mat Whynott, 1651 Sackville Drive, Middle Sackville, NS B4E 3A9 firstname.lastname@example.org
Hon. John MacDonell, P.O. Box 330, Enfield, NS B2T 1C8 email@example.com
Hon. Chuck Porter, P.O. Box 3873, Windsor, NS B0N 2T0 firstname.lastname@example.org
Hon. Allan MacMaster, P.O. Box 238, Inverness, NS B0E 1N0 email@example.com
Hon. Jim Morton, P.O. Box 157, Kentville, NS B4N 3W4 firstname.lastname@example.org
Hon. Ramona Jennex, 8985 Commercial St., Suite 2, New Minas, NS B4N 3E3
Hon. Leo Glavine, P.O. Box 1501, Greenwood, NS B0P 1N0 email@example.com
Hon. Pam Birdsall, P.O. Box 1509, Lunenburg, NS B0J 2C0 firstname.lastname@example.org
Hon. Gary Ramey, 410 King Street, Bridgewater, NS B4V 1A9 email@example.com
Hon. Ross Landry, 115 MacLean Street, New Glasgow, NS B2H 4M5 firstname.lastname@example.org
Hon. Clarrie MacKinnon, P.O. Box 914, Westville, NS B0K 2A0 email@example.com
Hon. Charlie Parker, 49 Water Street, Pictou, NS B0K 1H0 firstname.lastname@example.org
Hon. Keith Colwell, 2345 Highway #7, East Preston, NS B2Z 1G6 email@example.com
Hon. Vicki Conrad, P.O. Box 430, Liverpool, NS B0T 1K0 firstname.lastname@example.org
Hon. Michel Samson, P.O. Box 57, Louisdale, NS B0E 1V0 email@example.com
Hon. Dave Wilson, 51 Cobequid Road, Suite 105, Lower Sackville, NS B4C 2N1 firstname.lastname@example.org
Hon. Sterling Belliveau, P.O. Box 595, Barrington Passage, NS B0W 1G0 email@example.com
Hon. Bill Estabrooks, 1492 St. Margaret's Bay Rd, Lakeside, NS B3T 1B3 firstname.lastname@example.org
Hon. Lenore Zann, 35 Commercial St., Suite 212, Truro, NS B2N 3H9 email@example.com
Hon. Keith Bain, 1551 Old Route 5, Big Bras d'Or, NS B1X 1B5 firstname.lastname@example.org
Hon. Percy Paris, 273 Windsor Junction Rd., Windsor Junction, NS B2T 1G7 email@example.com
Hon. Zach Churchill, 396 Main St., Suite 100, Yarmouth, NS B5A 1E9 firstname.lastname@example.org