Dear Minister Bruce Northrup,
Since you are responsible for developing a new forest policy for New Brunswick, and in the recent Daily Gleaner editorial “Attack of the budworm” were quoted as saying that the signs of an impending budworm infestation “are worrying”, I would like to suggest that you are worrying about the wrong thing.
What you should be worrying about are the continuing short term, and thus short sighted, forest policies of both the government and the forest industry, policies that have in fact resulted in those infestations, and for which, unfortunately, the only short-term remedy is indeed pesticide spraying, which you yourself admit “in a perfect world we wouldn’t want to see.”
Sure, you cannot be expected to have time to delve into the history and ecology of the Acadian forest yourself. But is it not reasonable to ask why those “experts” whose advice you rely on have not alerted you to the fact, uncomfortable as it may be, that continued large-scale industrial cutting of our forests, followed by standard “silviculture” methods, including herbicide spraying, promote growth of the extensive tracts of single-species forest that are exactly what the budworm thrives on. Put bluntly, “business as usual” government and forest industry policies are the true cause of recurring budworm outbreaks.
Such large-scale insect infestations were not part of the Acadian forest prior to European settlement here [Google “The Acadian forest: Historical condition and human impacts.” by Loo & Ives. 2003] but forest practices since then have more and more created favourable conditions for budworm outbreaks. And they will continue periodically and inevitably into the future, unless government and industry forest policies are changed. In short, the change required is toward an ecologically sustainable forest, with smaller areas cut, followed by restoration of a multi-species forest, but without the use of chemicals. A policy for such a future should not only be based on the industrial forest sector but also on private woodlot owners who are in some ways better positioned to work toward such a future, particularly if allowed their fair share of the undertaking.
Then you would no longer need to worry about the budworm, no longer need to worry about spraying. And in addition would have less cause for concern about the effects of impending climate change on our forests, for a diverse forest is much more resilient in the face of change than is our current forest.
Then you could turn your attention to things like helping create value-added utilization of the forest resource and creating jobs in the forest, thus sustaining a viable rural economy. We seem to take the forest for granted, whereas in truth it is our single greatest natural resource. Why not as its Minister make every possible effort to start the process of restoring and utilizing it wisely? With such a future only the budworm would have cause to worry, but then you aren’t really their Minister, though ironically history has in a sense put you in that position.
Norval Balch is a writer and environmentalist in New Brunswick.