Forest industry approves government funding announcements

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Josh Millet would like to spend more time thinning out lodgepole firs and cottonwoods in private woodlots to promote longer-lived species that will both create more biodiversity and ultimately higher value for them. landowners.

It’s the type of ecological forestry that the province has announced over $ 11.5 million over the past two weeks to encourage through silviculture training and funding.

It’s just that since the closure of Northern Pulp, the owner of Forest Hill Logging based in Chester cannot find buyers for low-quality lumber when you leave tall spruces, pines and straight hardwoods in the shade and seen in a better forest.

“The government can invest as much money as it wants in all of this, that’s great, but if the government doesn’t wake up quickly and open up a market for us for low-quality lumber, everyone is going. having problems, ”said Millet, who with two employees manages a transformer, a freight forwarder and a log truck.

On Monday, the Department of Lands and Forests announced $ 2 million for forestry and $ 1 million for roads on private land, as well as $ 1 million for forestry and $ 400,000 for roads on land. of the Crown. Another million dollars will go to training workers in environmentally friendly forestry practices described in William Lahey’s Independent Review of Forestry Practices.

This is in addition to the recently announced $ 6.1 million for a forestry innovation center run by a Nova Scotia community college in Truro, which will teach ecological forestry practices through basic certificate programs and shorter courses for continuing education and skills development, from September 2022.

While the funding and training have been widely praised by the industry, the province is also accused of ignoring the elephant in the room – the Lahey report assumed there is a market for bad pulpwood. quality.

When Northern Pulp closed its doors two years ago, 400,000 tonnes of annual demand for pulpwood disappeared overnight. At around $ 55 a tonne, the price Northern Pulp paid was marginally profitable for operators and landowners. However, it covered the cost of forestry work such as commercial thinning which also produced more valuable logs.
Biomass pays around $ 38 a tonne, if you can find someone to buy it in the oversaturated market.

“We are fortunate to have a very diverse and mixed Acadian forest, but at the moment we only make lumber from two softwood species,” said Stephen Cole, a forestry broker for HC Haynes. who works with landowners and contractors.
“So we now have a mixed forest, but we don’t have a mixed market. Northern Pulp bought $ 40 million in pulpwood per year, which was turned over to operators, truckers and landowners. It’s zero today and we miss it very much.

The consequence of the lack of a pulp market is that while the province touts its plans to encourage ecological forest management, reality has turned in the forest. Sawn softwood logs have been targeted for the past two years while trees that will create lower value forest in the future have been left for seeding in the ground.

“Since we lost the pulp market, a lot of contractors have focused primarily on saws, leaving pulpwood in the woods,” said Colin Hughes, owner of New Ross-based GNC Hughes Enterprises Ltd.
“Now those dollars are going to be wasted. More importantly, when you look at a map of last summer’s fires, it was all due to over-cutting in those hashes. “

Northern Pulp has submitted a plan to the province to renovate the plant and replace its controversial effluent treatment facility. The province has yet to release it or indicate whether it will require the project to undergo a Class I or Class II environmental assessment.

A large group of concerned citizens, commercial fishermen, Pictou Landing First Nation and environmentalists had opposed the kraft pulp mill’s previous plan for a replacement facility that would have seen the effluent treated on-site and transported through the Northumberland Strait.

The province’s forestry industry has been largely kept afloat by high lumber prices resulting from increased demand and supply shortages associated with the pandemic.

The wholesale price of lumber has fallen rapidly to pre-pandemic levels over the past month, but no new market has been found for pulpwood.

Tenders have been issued for certain small-scale biomass combustion plants in provincial government buildings.

This is an area that Greg Watson would like to see the government act more quickly.

The general manager of North Nova Forest Cooperative Ltd, which manages 80,000 hectares for private woodlot owners in central Nova Scotia, said if the government then offered to pay a rate based on a projected 10-year average the price of oil (as is done in Prince Edward Island) progressive forest management would become more feasible.

It also supports recent funding announcements in education and forestry.

“The government is doing what it should be doing – encouraging a transition,” Watson said.

“… This is a necessary piece for engaging private forest owners. We need to inspire people to make better decisions. Right now, the only time lumber is worth anything is when it’s by the side of the road and shipped to the mill. We need a new vision by seeing the forest as an investment where we develop capital and have a better vision of the future. But it can be difficult for today’s loggers to visualize this when trying to survive today. “

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