A senior employee at JD Irving, Ltd. warned the Miramichi Headwaters Salmon Federation they would face reprisals if they went public with their opposition to glyphosate spraying, according to a spokesperson for the Federation.
The Federation became the first salmon conservation group to go public with its opposition to glyphosate spraying.
John Gilbert, JD Irving’s chief biologist, contacted the Federation’s president, Randy Lutes, to ask him not to attend a press conference organized by the Alliance to Stop Spraying in New Brunswick on August 1st.
The phone call was confirmed by Lutes, who said Gilbert told him he might not buy a ticket to the Federation’s annual dinner.
JD Irving, Ltd. responded to the NB Media Co-op’s request for comment by denying that Gilbert spoke on behalf of JDI. In an email statement, Mary Keith, JDI’s communications officer, stated: “Mr. Gilbert made the call without the knowledge of JDI and his comments were his own, not those of the company.”
Downplaying the importance of the call, Judy Lutes, secretary and treasurer of the Federation, said, “We don’t want to burn bridges if we don’t have to.”
Other members of the Federation who heard about the call felt it was an attempt at intimidation.
“John Gilbert warned us that JDI would withdraw access to the river. It has been open since, well, forever,” Kevin Shaw, a director of the Federation, told the press conference.
Currently, Federation members access the river through Irving property, and individuals who wish to fish on the north branch of the Southwest Miramichi must be members of the Federation.
When contacted by the NB Media Co-op, Gilbert said he had “not officially” spoken to the Federation. He was aware of concerns Federation members had about glyphosate spraying and said he had made an offer to have JD Irving scientists address the group. He refused further comment.
In a statement from Mary Keith, JDI affirmed it continues to be focused on science-based forest practices and responsible use of herbicides.
Growing opposition to glyphosate
Glyphosate is used by several forestry companies in the Juniper area, and large clear-cuts there have drawn criticism as New Brunswickers debate forest management practices.
“People are sick and tired of the forest being poisoned, and there are a lot of first hand accounts of people seeing the forest around their homes being sprayed,” Shaw said.
Shaw grew up in the woods of Juniper and says there are no deer in his forest. Deer harvest has dropped 60% since the mid-1980s, according to the Alliance.
“What’s changed in our forest to cause this loss? Clearcutting and spraying of glyphosates are the two things that have changed,” said Shaw.
Members of the Alliance are also concerned about the potential human health impact of spraying, calling its continuation an ongoing experiment with New Brunswickers.
Glyphosate is a herbicide that kills hardwood trees and ground vegetation. It is the active ingredient in Monsanto products such as VisionMax and Forza that are sprayed to grow softwood plantations in the province.
In 2015, the World Health Organization’s cancer research body listed glyphosate as a “probable carcinogen.” Last month, California won a court victory to have glyphosate products carry a label about its carcinogenic effects.
The Alliance is calling on New Brunswickers to oppose the spraying of glyphosate. According to a 2016 report of the Acting Chief Medical Officer of Health, 40% of forest land cut in 2014 was sprayed with glyphosate, compared to only 28% in Ontario, and 11% in Nova Scotia. Quebec banned spraying Crown forest in 2001 due to public health concerns.
Margo Sheppard of the Council of Canadians, Fredericton Chapter, said that her members were opposed to glyphosate spraying because it was a “quick fix, with long term health and environmental costs.”
Forestry companies have argued that the spraying is needed to keep the industry competitive in the province. NB Power also says that they need to spray to keep costs down.
Several speakers at the press conference talked about the inefficiencies and low employment rates from outdated forest management practices.
“The province doesn’t employ as many people in its forests as other neighbouring jurisdictions,” said Caroline Lubbe-D’Arcy, a spokesperson with Stop Spraying NB (SSNB). Kim MacPherson, New Brunswick’s auditor general reported in 2015 that the province lost $7-10 million each year from its Crown forestry operations in the years she covered, 2009-2014. She cited the costly silviculture program as a key factor.
According to the Alliance, the New Brunswick public is paying $2.5 million per year for spraying that could be used to hire up to 1000 bush cutters instead. “Doesn’t it make more sense to employ people who could be contributing economically to their community?” said Lubbe-D’Arcy.
Further action against glyphosate spraying in New Brunswick is planned for later this summer. Alliance member ÉcoVie from Kedgwick is preparing a camp-in on clearcut land that is slated to be sprayed later this summer. According to spokesperson Francine Levesque, “we are being drowned in spray in our region.”
The campers will set up along a road leading to Mount Carleton Wilderness Park on Route 385 near the Tobique River, August 5, 6 and 7.
Matthew Hayes is a member of the NB Media Co-op.