Chronicles

Simple Choice


        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 forests.


        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 company shareholders.


        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.

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