Fredericton – One of the most threatened forest types in North America, New Brunswick’s Acadian forest continues to be clearcut and will soon be doused again with herbicides to kill the diversity of our regenerating forest to make way for plantations of a few species that are favoured by the forestry companies. The Conservation Council of New Brunswick encourages people to use a easy-to-use mapping tool by Global Forest Watch to find out the extent of deforestation and forest degradation in different areas of the province.
Two disturbing observations stand out in the forest maps in New Brunswick. Firstly, there are no large blocks of ecologically intact, undisturbed natural forests in the province of New Brunswick outside of protected areas, which cover only three per cent of the province. Secondly, none of our major watersheds have more than 25 per cent intact forest cover.”
Forests play a critical role in regulating the flow of water on land, and in filtering that water so that our wetlands, rivers, and lakes run with clean water. Without adequate forest cover, or with forests that are too young surrounding our rivers and lakes, water flow can fluctuate wildly, which means erosion, flooding, bank scouring, and fish habitat destruction. In 2009, the Conservation Council of New Brunswick released a report on the impacts of forest cutting on the province’s watersheds. The results showed that 30 watersheds are at-risk from excessive cutting in public forests. The Nepisiguit River and the headwaters of the Restigouche, Northwest Miramichi, Jemseg, and Canaan rivers may be in the most serious trouble. The effects of erosion, overland runoff, and sedimentation on water quality and aquatic habitats are especially concerning given that extreme storm events have become five times more frequent during the last 10 years in New Brunswick.
Clearcuts wipe out swaths of forest and wildlife habitat, reduce biodiversity, and cause run off into rivers and streams. In a time of climate change, we should be conserving and restoring our Acadian forest. Forests trap and store carbon dioxide and play a major role in mitigating climate change and its effects.
The Acadian forest is a critical home for migrating songbirds, the Northern flying squirrel, Atlantic salmon, forest orchids, and many more species. Conservation and restoration of an intact forest not only protects our wildlife and protects us from climate change, but it is also conducive to community-based forest management where stewardship of the forest and water can co-exist with meaningful employment. The Upper Miramichi Community Forest Partnership, a partnership between the Rural Community of Upper Miramichi and the Conservation Council, is currently exploring options for non-timber forest products and eco-tourism in their public forest found in their borders. Deforestation and forest degradation makes local initiatives for more responsible forest management impossible or very difficult and expensive to not only get back the forest that has been lost but also the people who have been forced to leave our province for work elsewhere.
The Conservation Council encourages the provincial government, the trustee of the public forest of New Brunswick, to revisit their forest policy and bring it line with the wishes of New Brunswickers: the phasing out of clearcutting and banning of herbicide spraying, more sustainable forestry practices like that seen in Rush Creek, Wisconsin, and support for community forest pilot projects on public lands.
Tracy Glynn is the Forest Campaign Director with the Conservation Council of New Brunswick.