Fredericton – Bruce Fitch as New Brunswick’s Environment Minister responsible for the Pesticides Control Act should never have issued permits to spray New Brunswick’s public forest with glyphosates this year, according to CCNB. As Minister of the Environment responsible for controlling pesticide usage in the province of New Brunswick he should take a precautionary approach and wait until the Health Canada review of glyphosates is over in 2014. Section 11(3) of the Pesticides Control Act says the Minister may refuse to issue a permit in the circumstances the Minister considers appropriate.
Fitch and the Alward government should respect the concerns of New Brunswickers who are opposed to this outdated, irresponsible practice. Three petitions against herbicide spraying of public lands have been presented in the Legislature in the past decade –to the Lord, Graham and Alward governments. All governments have failed to take the concerns seriously, opting instead to defend an outdated practice that only benefits the forestry companies’ bottom lines.
In the Alward government’s response to the latest petition presented to the Legislature last December, Natural Resources Minister Bruce Northrup defends the spraying of glyphosates on 25-30 % of the public land harvested annually and fails to address the numerous recent scientific studies that point to the serious health impacts on humans and wildlife that have triggered the Health Canada review.
The spray season in New Brunswick started last week on August 8th. New Brunswick has been spraying herbicides since the 1970s when it first permitted pulp and paper companies to clearcut natural forest and replace it with 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.
Beyond human health concerns, 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. Old spruce and fir stands and beautiful maple and birch ridges have been clearcut, doused with herbicides and replaced with tree farms.
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 over a decade ago in 2001. Many New Brunswickers are shocked when they learn that we pay for the conversion of vast swaths of our natural forest to plantations, which according to Natural Resources Canada, can exceed $1,000/ha.
Tracy Glynn is the Forest Campaign Director with the Conservation Council of New Brunswick.