Newspapers all over New Brunswick carried notices last Saturday announcing that 15,000 hectares of public forest will be sprayed in the coming weeks with herbicides to poison hardwood trees and shrubs growing in softwood plantations.
Today, CCNB Action is announcing that 4,000 New Brunswickers have signed a petition to say no to spraying our forests. The petitions will be tabled in the Legislative Assembly during its fall sitting.
Over the years, old spruce and fir stands and beautiful maple and birch ridges have been clearcut, doused with herbicides and replaced with tree farms. “The diversity of our forest has suffered badly. The abundance of sugar maple, red oak, yellow birch and beech have all declined in our forests. Herbicides kill broad leaf trees, shrubs and grasses destroying the food source and habitats of many forest dependent species,” says David Coon, CCNB Action’s Executive Director.
The most commonly sprayed herbicide, glyphosate, is currently under review by Health Canada. This re-evaluation is the result of a large and growing number of scientific studies that have reported toxic effects of glyphosate and associated adjuvants in a wide range of species including humans. Given this, CCNB believes that a precautionary approach to its application should be considered. The Canadian review is expected to conclude in 2014.
Roger Babin of Public for the Protection of the Forest based in Acadieville joined CCNB Action in initiating the herbicide petition when the former government under Shawn Graham announced its intent to triple the area of public forest that would be converted from naturally growing forest to plantations, necessitating a massive expansion of herbicide spraying. “Many New Brunswickers are shocked when they learn that we pay to prepare, plant and spray our public lands, which according to Natural Resources Canada, can exceed $1,000/ha,” says Roger Babin.
If the new provincial government forges ahead with former Premier Graham’s plan, at $1,000 per hectare, New Brunswickers will have to shell out over $600 million to the pulp and paper companies over the next 50 years to convert vast swaths of our natural forest to artificial plantations and spray these with herbicides if the plan to convert 28% of our forest to plantations goes ahead in the next 50 years.
New Brunswick stands alone in paying for the chemical spraying of its public forest. Nova Scotia recently announced that they will no longer fund herbicide spraying of their forest and will reduce clearcutting to 50%. Last September, P.E.I. announced it will pursue Forest Stewardship Council certification for all of its public forest; this would mean banning herbicide spraying. Quebec banned herbicide spraying of its public forest in 2001.
New Brunswick has been spraying herbicides since the 1970’s when it first permitted pulp and paper companies to clearcut natural forest and replace it with artificial plantations. Spraying usually occurs one to two years after a plantation has been established. Herbicides are sprayed once or twice over plantations to poison hardwood trees and shrubs that compete with the planted softwood trees for space and nutrients. Spraying occurs each year in August and September and lasts about 40 days.
Tracy Glynn is on the board of the NB Media Co-op.