Clowater Presentation

        In last week's column, I wrote about a presentation that Roberta Clowater made to the Restigouche Naturalists' Club back in February on behalf of the New Brunswick Protected Natural Areas Coalition. Her presentation had to do with a vision for conservation in the whole Restigouche Watershed. In that column, I discussed the first of several major points that she raised, that being that we have to begin to think of the whole watershed area as an entity rather than a series of separate parts. I also summarized her point that everyone who has an interest - for whatever reason - in the area has to begin to work toward a policy that addresses the overall long-term health of the entire watershed.

        In that column, I purposely steered away from any reference to the group who have to be considered the largest users of the resources of the watershed area, the large forestry companies that hold licences or freeholds - Irving, Fraser and Bowater.

        The second critical point that Ms. Clowater made in her presentation to the Naturalists' Club was that a viable forest industry is essential to the long-term health and good management of the resources to be found within the watershed.

        I have argued for years that a properly managed forest industry need not be in conflict with those other values that many of us hold as being so important. My presentation to the Jaacko-Poyry commission on behalf of the Naturalists' Club stressed that, as have my various statements to the Upsalquitch Licence Public Advisory Committee (which I currently chair), and as I have delineated on numerous instances in this column over the years. Like it or not, the forestry companies play huge roles in the lives of most people on the north shore, and will continue to do so into the foreseeable future. Granting that, then, it becomes more and more important to discuss with them how they can continue to do so, while allowing for the continuance of those other activities and uses that we deem so important.

        Ms. Clowater's idea - and that of the Coalition that she represents - is that all of us who have an interest in the long-term health of the Restigouche Watershed in its entirety have to be prepared to sit together and hammer out values and policies to address those values now, while we still have the time and the resources to do so. My own experience with Bowater (The only company with which I have had any direct discussion on this matter) is that this company is much more prepared now to discuss long-term, alternate values for the forest than was the case years ago. I saw a demonstration of this in their working with the Stillwater Coalition a few years ago; the result of several years of meetings and discussions is a blueprint for the Stillwater that just about everyone feels is a good piece of work. What has happened there is an example of the kind of cooperation and compromise that provides a model for the whole watershed.However, that model can only be useful if everyone - company people, hunters and fishers, ATV and snowmobile users, recreationalists and environmentalists - agrees that something can be done and that we have the will to do it.

        If we do, we will hand a priceless legacy to our children and grandchildren. If we don't, they will not forgive us for having lost that last great opportunity.

        This article appeared in the Campbellton Tribune, in Mike's "Grains of Sand" column. It is reproduced with Mike's permission.


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