The recent report of the Select Committee on Wood Supply was good news
for conservationalists and, I truly believe, for the great majority of
people in New Brunswick who place some value on the future of our
After the Jaakko-Poyry Report recommended that the government had to
consider doubling the annual harvest from Crown Lands over the next forty
years to meet the demands of the forestry industry, the government
empowered the all-party Select Committee to conduct hearings across the
province to gauge reactions from all stakeholders in the forests.
Conservationalists, forestry companies and sub-contractors, camp and
salmon lodge owners, trappers, hunters, and all manner of recreational
users of the forests were encouraged to present their views at these
hearings. A great many did so.From this response, the committee has come
out with its own recommendations - and as I said at the beginning of this
column, the result is good news.
The report acknowledges that a very high percentage of New Brunswickers
see our forest as something other than a source for wood fibre. We
recognize the importance of the forestry industry, but not to the
exclusion of all of those other values that we have held to be important
in the past and that we want to have into a future that includes our
children and grandchildren. Of course, industry spokespeople have been at
work since the committee report was released. In essence they are claiming
that the industry will collapse unless they have their way and the
unfortunate closure of the Saint Ann Nackawic mill seems to point in that
direction. However, there are two points that I think that we all have to
remember in what is still not a completed argument.
One of them is that the forest industry, despite its claims to being a
major employer in the province, is becoming les and less so all the time.
Fewer people are working in the mills and in the woods now than has been
the case for years, and that trend will continue even if production does
double. What this means is that fewer and fewer people will share in
increased profits - and many of those who will benefit will not be the
workers and the people of the small rural communities of the province, but
The second is a point that I tried to emphasize in my own presentation
to the Select Committee last year: if we agree now to double the annual
cut over the next forty years, what are our descendants going to say to
the companies at that time when they demand a further doubling in another
forty years? At some point, we have to recognize the limits to growth and
it only makes good sense to do so while we still have a forest with some
integrity of its own, and not merely that of a plantation. Make no mistake
about this; doubling the annual cut can only occur with massive
plantations - and plantations can only occur where forests exist now.
In the final analysis, we have a simple choice in New Brunswick: we can
sacrifice the future of the forest as we know it in order to keep the
industry running for another few decades, or we can begin to recognize the
limits to growth inherent in any natural organism, and learn to live
within those limits. If we manage to do the latter, our descendants will
still be able to enjoy many of the "secondary" values of the forest that the Jaakko-Poyry report decries.
This article appeared in the Campbellton Tribune, in Mike's "Grains of Sand" column.
It is reproduced with Mike's permission.