On the same day that New Brunswickers–young and old and from different parts of the province–were rallying for greater wildlife habitat protection in Fredericton, J.D. Irving was holding a meeting in the northern New Brunswick community of Kedgwick asking people to support their demand for more wood from the public forest.
Approximately 60 people gathered over a blustering rainy Tuesday noon hour outside the N.B. Legislature on May 10th, to call on the government of New Brunswick to protect wildlife habitat and reduce clearcutting in the public forest. The rally, organized by CCNB Action, was attended by people from across the province including Kedgwick, Miramichi, Moncton, Sussex, Saint John and Fredericton. Naturalists, forest ecologists, professors, woodlot owners, university students and high school students were among the people found in the rally crowd as well as Natural Resources Minister Bruce Northrup.
After respectfully acknowledging the rally was being held on Maliseet territory that was never ceded, a number of speakers spoke of the need to protect and restore wildlife habitat areas. The speeches were interspersed with anti-clearcutting ditties performed by the Fredericton Raging Grannies.
“Wildlife habitat is at a tipping point. If it drops below 30 per cent then a lot of species will go over the cliff in our province,” conveyed David Coon, CCNB Action’s Executive Director, to rally participants.
“With your help, we were successful in delaying a decision by the New Brunswick government to adopt the former Liberal government’s disastrous 50 year plan that would devastate wildlife habitat in our public forest,” said Coon. The former Liberal government’s, A balanced management approach for Crown Forest, allows companies to increase clearcutting on our public lands from 68% to 75%; slash by one third to one half the area of wildlife habitat on our public forest, from 19.1% to as low as 9%; and almost triple the area of plantations on our public lands, from 10% to 28%.
According to Graham Forbes, a wildlife biologist at the University of New Brunswick, many species that need old forest will not be able to tolerate the clearcutting and conversion to plantations if there are not enough untouched stands of 375 ha with trees of a certain size and type. Of the 148 species that the government of New Brunswick lists as forest dependent, the black-throated green warbler, pileated woodpecker, marten, and blue-spotted salamander are examples of the shorter list of 53 species in New Brunswick’s forest that need old forest.
Martin Paul from the Maliseet Nation Conservation Council noted the need to work together to protect Mother Earth and reduce clearcutting and ban pesticides. “What we are asking is not impossible. We know that the province of Quebec eliminated pesticides ten years ago. As representatives of the Maliseet Nation, our job is to speak for the species that cannot speak for themselves. We have to remember that Mother Earth does not really need us but we need her. And I think that’s worth protecting.”
Charlene Mayes, a biologist at the University of New Brunswick, said, “Both clearcutting and monoculture are outdated and destructive practices. Both are especially destructive in terms of biodiversity maintenance and preservation. Given that the greater the biodiversity of an ecosystem – the greater its resilience – we should be doing everything in our power to preserve the biodiversity of our forested lands.”
“Relatively few people are going to benefit from clearcutting and monoculture whereas if you keep the forested lands intact and functioning as nature meant them to, all New Brunswickers benefit and the greater population of Canada and so on benefits,” added Mayes. “The 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change tells us that all planetary support systems are highly stressed and the reason for this is habitat loss and degradation. A prudent government would err on the side of caution. Minister Northrup, I urge you and the Premier and your colleagues to adopt a new plan in favour of wildlife preservation and restoration.”
Pascale Ouellette, a Grade 12 student at École Ste. Anne in Fredericton and a member of the Youth Action Group, read a section of the Youth Biodiversity Accord that she helped draft with other youth from across the province in 2010. In addition to calling on the government to reduce clearcutting and ban herbicide spraying of the public forest, Ouellette called on the government to immediately increase the province’s biodiversity standard to current science-based recommendations.
Following the rally, Minister Northrup said, “it was a good gathering. They have a statement to make and they made it today. We are working on the five year management plan as we speak.”
After the rally, dozens of people went to Conserver House to witness the unveiling of a 318-foot banner against clearcutting signed by people from across the Americas. People in Fredericton lined up to sign the banner, which has travelled to Brazil, Hawaii and Ottawa. The banner is now in Moncton with Derek James who has recently located there after years of working on forest conservation in Newfoundland.
Also on the same day as the rally, Nova Scotia made media headlines over their plan to reduce clearcutting in their public forest by half. The Nova Scotia NDP government is also committed to no longer funding herbicide spraying of their forest. CCNB Action has collected over 5,000 signatures on a petition asking for a ban on herbicide spraying of the public forest. They plan to present the petition in the Legislature this summer.
According to Coon, “Our tax dollars are used to pay for replacing natural forest with plantations and dousing them with herbicides at the costly rate of $1,000/ha. That will add up to over $600 million over the next 50 years.”
“New Brunswick should follow our neighbours into the 21st century and abandon destructive forestry,” stresses Coon.
Tracy Glynn is on the board of the NB Media Co-op.