NSWOOA Update Newsletter 55

NSWOOA Update Newsletter 55
August 3, 2012
902 633 2108

In this Issue:
- Hello Woodlot Owners: Some Positives
- The Woodlot Tour: A Report
- Congrats
- Otter Ponds News
- Woodlot Visitation Program Report
- Outreach Project Report
- What We Said:  The Article in the Chronicle Herald
- What We’re Getting At
- How to Contact Us

Hello Woodlot Owners

Some days when the sun is shining, faces are smiling and the world is green, a person doesn’t  have to look for positives.   They jump out everywhere.  That was certainly the case on Saturday July 21, at the woodlot tour hosted by the Verstraten family as part of the Antique Tractor Show.  The job as guide on one of the trailers hauling visitor around the woodlot at an hour per tour provided many positives indeed.  Some active woodlot owner asked technical questions and made observations about what they thought would be the outcome of treatments they saw.  Some veteran woodlot owners  compared the work they saw to work they have done or would like to do.  There was admiration and praise for the owner and his daughter who had done much of the work viewed.   The list could go on.

The biggest positive of the day for this guide, however, was the tour which included a whole gang of 4-Hers.  The crew were part of the show themselves as they participated in various competitions and demonstrations, including some lumberjack style events.
The young people were quiet, respectful and seemed quite interested in various aspects of what they viewed and heard.  They knew what a cleaning/spacing saw was; they knew what silviculture was and even had an idea about what some siviculture treatments were.   Most impressive, in this day indoor kids and gameboys, everyone of them put their hands up when asked if anyone liked being in the woods or going for walks in the woods.  It wasn’t just a show, either.  The expressions on their faces showed a personal connection, a (and this is the word), a  positive relationship to the forest.

So, it does the heart good to know that someone coming after us is connected to the forest land in the same positive way that we have been.  Let’s do what we can to encourage and nurture this connection in all our youth.
Crowds flock to NSWOOA woodlot tour

-Andy Kekacs, Project Manager, NSWOOA

Great weather, wonderful hosts and plenty of things to see and do made the 2012 North Shore Antique Tractor and Engine Club show a runaway success. For many years, the show has been held at a farm owned by Francis and Pauline Verstraten, who are active members of the Nova Scotia Woodlot Owners and Operators Association. Expanding on events offered at the tractor show, they invited NSWOOA to host tours of the family woodlot this year.

The tours proved to be extremely popular, with more than 120 people enjoying the hour-long trips through the woods in tractor-drawn wagons. Participants ranged from young 4H club members through at least one gentleman in his 90s, all of whom were treated to an explanation of the work being done by the Verstratens to restore the native Acadian Forest ecosystem.

A small army of NSWOOA volunteers were on hand to drive the tractors, conduct the tours and provide more information about our organization. Among the members who participated were Tony Phillips, Jack McLellan, Paul Brison, Wade Prest, Tynan Stevens, Lorne Burrows and President Marc Chisholm. Staff Forester Stephen Cole and Program Director Andy Kekacs were also on hand.

Sincere thanks to Verstratens for opening their woodlot to the public, as well as providing tractors and wagons for our use. We hope to see you in Lorneville next year!

For those of you who missed the tour, here’s some information about the woodlot prepared by their daughter, Christie:

  • The first 100 acres of woodland was purchased in 1989 by Francis and Pauline Verstraten with the original 350-acre farm parcel. They continued to buy more woodland in the area over the years as it became available, and now have approximately 750 acres of woodland in several smaller lots in the area.
  • The original farm has been in Pauline’s family since 1820, starting with a land grant to the Oulton family.
  • In the late 1800s there were sawmills on both brooks bordering the property, which used up and down saws.
  • The woodlot was hit by the spruce budworm in the early 1980s.
  • Before the Verstratens purchased the land, the woodlot had been severely high-graded by previous generations. There were very few older trees and the species mix had shifted away from Acadian Forest species like hemlock to other species like fir and white spruce.
  • Initially there were very few roads through the woods, with mostly just bobsled trails for hauling out winter wood. When they bought the land, they began cutting out trails with a farm tractor and homemade winch system. In the early days, most of the work done involved harvesting pulp and studwood with power saws.
  • In 1992 they started working with a Patu loader and homemade trailer, harvesting and building roads. A John Deere 440 skidder was purchased in the mid ’90s and used until 2009.
  • They switched to a mini excavator in 2002 to help with road work, and upgraded in 2009 to larger excavator with an Arbro forestry head.
  • In 2009, they purchased a portable bandsaw mill. They had previously hired the mill and sawyer for years, and when it came up for sale they decided to purchase it rather than have it leave the area. They currently saw rough lumber for farm building repair, carpentry, and cottage work; hardwood for flooring and furniture for local woodworkers; and softwood lumber.
  • Ecologically responsible, selective forest management has always been important to the Verstraten family. They believe that a healthy, productive forest ecosystem requires a balance between harvesting and silviculture, wildlife protection, recreation, wetland networks, and many other important aspects. They continue to work towards restoring their woodlots to the native Acadian forest through uneven-aged management, including selective, low-impact harvesting, precommercial thinning to encourage healthy native species, and in-fill planting.
  • In the early years, they did not apply for funding assistance for their silvicultural work. This was partly because they didn’t know what was available and partly because funding was only available for commercial harvesting treatments (commercial thinning, shelterwood cuts, PCT) and not for the kind of silviculture they wanted on their land (uneven-aged, selection management).
  • In the past, they have used tree marking to let outside contractors know what to cut and what not to cut. Since almost all management treatments are now done by Francis, Christie, and a couple of close family friends (all of whom share an affinity for ecosystem-based, uneven-aged forest management ethics), tree marking is not used as much now.
  • In the past, when they harvested, they made enough money to at least cover contractor costs. Sometimes, in new lots, they would make enough money from timber removed when road building to cover the cost of purchasing the lot. Most timber that has come out of the lots has been poorer quality and over-mature wood that was removed primarily to improve the quality of the stand.
  • All the wood they cut off their own land (except the occasion load of #1 pulp wood and studwood) is processed on the farm as either firewood, lumber, or specialty wood for woodworking and other custom projects. Poorer quality wood is left in the forest as fertilizer and wildlife habitat.
  • Currently, they do not produce any non-timber forest products, but they are experimenting with mushroom propagation and have considered starting a native tree nursery in the future.

The NSWOOA is pleased to learn that Jamie Simpson’s book Restoring the Acadian Forest has been chosen by at least one NSCC campus for a text in their Forestry program.   Well done, Jamie!

Otter Ponds News

At Otter Ponds, we have poured concrete for the bridge footings, so that project is on the go.  Selection harvesting is to begin in August, despite the very poor markets for the wood from stand improvement treatments.  And we’re on track for tours for the fall. 

Woodlot Visitation Program Report

Hello Members and Friends of NSWOOA!

The Woodlot outreach project is proceeding very well with over a third of the woodlots visited. Demand is picking up but there is still room for a few more visits if you or someone you know may be interested in the program. 

I have met a few bears since I last wrote to you as the blueberries and cherries ripen. I've also had the privilege of seeing some (what I would consider) old growth sugar maple on a Woodlot in Antigonish county. The trees were 2-4 feet in diameter with one white pine coming in at just under 6 feet in diameter. It was encouraging to see what our forests could grow to be if left to grow. 

Some of the common challenges that landowners are faced with from one end of the province to the other include: lack of contractors, no markets for pulpwood, and little to no revenue for preservation of other Woodlot values (carbon, wildlife habitat, water, wetlands, etc.). 

I hope you all continue to have a great summer. 

Stephen Cole, NSWOOA Forester

NSWOOA tells government:

It’s time to change course


(Following is the article by Vice President Wade Prest, which appeared in the Chronicle Herald and outlines the NSWOOA position on restructuring the forest industry in N.S.)

Nova Scotians have a window of opportunity to change the way we use the forest, to set the stage for better times for our children and grandchildren. 

In the 1950’s, Nova Scotia decided the best hope for economic prosperity in rural areas lay in  expansion of the pulp and paper industry. Governments used our rich forest resource to attract and support two new mills to central and eastern Nova Scotia. That objective was pursued very aggressively, and three multinationals gradually came to dominate the whole forest industry, directly managing huge portions of the provincial wood supply and eventually gaining control of wood fibre flows and prices for all sectors of the industry – sawmills, exporters, value-added firms, and private woodlots.  Provincial forest management policies increasingly adjusted to support provision of low cost feedstock for the pulp mills, and taxpayers poured millions into keeping them running.

The economic strategy was a short-term success. Initially, the industry provided about 2,000 well-paying jobs in some of the most economically-challenged parts of the province.  Those jobs have been disappearing over the years, as technology reduced the need for labour.  Now only the Northern Pulp kraft mill in Abercrombie Point, with just 230 direct employees, is operating.  Even if the Port Hawkesbury facility reopens, two-thirds of our paper mill jobs will have disappeared in just ten years.  Throughout North America, pulp and paper is in similar decline.  There is no future here in forestry that is based on the production of small softwood trees for pulp and paper.

The sixty-year dominance of pulp and paper here has left its scars on the forest and the people who work there.  In seeking to reduce the cost and maximize the output of pulpwood from our forests, the long-lived, diverse and productive Acadian Forest has been severely degraded, full of small-diameter trees of low value, grown on short rotations and harvested by clear cutting.  To harvest these small trees efficiently, traditional hand-logging crews have been displaced by ever-larger machines.  While mechanization is inevitable, the qualities of the livelihood opportunities for woodlot owners, private contractors, and their employees have deteriorated as pressures to cut costs have increased.  

Our forest is being managed with disregard for future value.  In our Acadian Forest, intensive, evenaged management on short rotations is unnatural.  Stands are more prone to insect infestations, disease and storm damage, and are less able to adapt to climate change. Forest health, resilience, and productivity suffer.  This is countered by taxpayer-financed silviculture to forestall catastrophic reductions in wood fibre production.  The industrial forest provides fewer and lower quality ecological services.  For the sake of future generations, it is essential that we change our approach, putting the forest first, as a foundation on which to build a rural economy.

The lumber industry, an economic mainstay in rural Nova Scotia for more than 400 years, is facing tremendous market pressures. Their difficulties are compounded by a lower grade sawlog resource from which to draw its raw material.  Even our most technologically-advanced sawmills need high grade sawlogs in good sizes to remain cost competitive.  Too much low grade roundwood is finding its way to sawmills where it yields too little lumber and too many chips for the pulp mills.  Many sawmills have closed in recent years.

The permanent closure of the Bowater Mersey paper mill presents a unique opportunity for our leaders to steer rural development away from over-reliance on a handful of large employers, and toward a more diversified, stable, and resilient economic base.  The Nova Scotia Woodlot Owners and Operators Association (NSWOOA) believes that high-value wood products manufacturing, based on a high quality forest and a domestic lumber industry, holds the key to economic renewal in rural areas.  There are three key actions that must be taken to accomplish this.

Firstly, the Province must buy all the Bowater woodland and use its timber resources to stabilize, and eventually expand, the lumber and value-added wood products manufacturing sector.  The demand for fibre has fallen sharply province-wide: now is the time to reduce our annual harvest, giving the forest a chance to recover from excessive harvests of the recent past, while supporting the lumber industry that remains active.  Without decisive action by the government, this land is likely to be sold to another foreign interest, whose management will continue to favour overproduction of roundwood, driving down wood prices and rates.  Worse, we could fall into a trap where we support the development of a new mega-bioproject that requires a similarly low cost feedstock, leaving woodlot owners, contractors, woodsworkers, and Nova Scotian communities no better off than before.

Secondly, the stabilization and eventual growth of the sawmill industry will require that Crown lands – in fact, that all woodlands in Nova Scotia – be managed for quality, not quantity.  Standing trees of our valuable species, of good size and stem quality, are essential raw material for competitive lumbering and value-added manufacturing.  The Province should enact clear policy backed by regulations that establish clear objectives for long rotations, diversity, forest health, and provision of ecological services.   This approach offers the best opportunity to create a sustainable economic base in rural areas.  We must rebuild our forest capital if our grandchildren are to have a reasonable expectation of social and economic benefits.

Thirdly, to supplement the low pulpmill demand for sawmill and pulpwood chips, the Province should, as part of its renewable energy strategy, promote wood-fired combined heat and power plants in our towns and villages, wherever possible in conjunction with lumber mills and value-added manufacturers.  Economic benefits would accrue to our communities, and enhance rural viability.  This would certainly require less taxpayer subsidization than our current forestry sector.

The forest products industry is in a time of sweeping change.  If we do not seize this opportunity, the value of our forests to woodlot owners, rural communities, and all Nova Scotians, will be condemned to further decline for a generation.

Wade Prest, Mooseland, NS
Vice-President, Nova Scotia Woodlot Owners and Operators Association

Time to Change:  What We’re Getting At

Commentary by Andy Kekacs

In early July, NSWOOA launched an effort to convince the government that it was time to reconsider whether management for small-diameter softwood trees should be the primary use of Nova Scotia’s forest.

The association promoted its views in letters to Premier Darrel Dexter, Minister Charlie Parker of the Department of Natural Resources, all of the other members of the legislative assembly, and more than 35 media outlets. In a nutshell, here is our message:

We believe the closure of the Bowater Mersey mill offers a unique opportunity to restore the forests and forest-based economy of rural Nova Scotia. We have called on the Government of Premier Darrell Dexter to:

  • Acquire the 550,000 acres of Bowater forestland that is now on the market;
  • Manage the land for production of high-quality, high-value wood products as the first step in creating a vibrant rural economy based on non-commodity forest products; and
  • Create a new market for wood residues from sawmills – and low-grade logs that are harvested as part of forest restoration efforts – by encouraging the development of community-based, wood-fired, combined heat and power generation facilities. They could also burn agricultural biomass, providing new revenue for farmers.
  • These small facilities should be dispersed throughout the province to meet the energy needs of schools, hospitals, government offices and manufacturing plants. They would reduce our dependence on foreign fuels and increase energy security for local communities. Moreover, the money spent on fuel wood purchases would remain in Nova Scotia.
No matter what the future holds, Crown purchase of the Bowater land – and a commitment to restore its native diversity and productivity – would secure a strategic natural resource and preserve the chance for local entrepreneurs and rural communities to find new economic opportunities in the forest.
We welcome your thoughts on ways to improve the profitability and sustainability of Nova Scotia’s forest products industry.

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). 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 the website: http://www.nswooa.ca