On August 15, a small group of concerned citizens held a picnic protest in a parking lot in the Fundy Trail Parkway to oppose recent and planned clearcutting in forested watersheds that are home to the endangered Atlantic salmon.
Citizens taped photos of maps to their car windows and sat for a couple hours while having their lunch to attract attention to clearcutting that is occurring around the Fundy Trail Parkway, in the Duffy Brook, Falls, Saddleback and Fragle Brook watersheds.
J.D. Irving plans to cut more forests in these watersheds, including in the original site of the established residence of the protected Inner Bay of Fundy Atlantic Salmon.
The company has also extended a new logging road, which Frank Johnston, a local forest conservationist and organizer of the picnic protest, says will make cutting possible in the next few weeks.
Duffy Brook is home to native Acadian forest, which has not been cut because of its conservation value. However, the 2014 Forest Management Agreement opened up conservation areas, including stream buffers and hillsides, to clearcutting.
“There is something very special about Duffy Brook. It is part of the area where the residence of a subpopulation of endangered Inner Bay of Fundy Atlantic Salmon was originally established,” said Johnston.
Under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA), all habitat of the Inner Bay of Fundy Atlantic Salmon, which covers 11 watersheds, including the Big Salmon River outside Fundy National Park, is protected from further critical habitat disturbance.
According to Johnston, considerable fines, up to $300,000, and jail time are involved for failure to notify the Department of Fisheries and Oceans of activities that would disturb critical Inner Bay of Fundy Salmon habitat.
However, Johnston noted that forest harvesting has yet to be recognized as a disturbance to the habitat of Atlantic salmon under the Species at Risk Act and that needs to change.
Nova Scotia wildlife biologist Bob Bancroft attended the picnic protest. He says that, “Cutting Duffy Brook forest will degrade the forest habitat that provides the food chain that feeds young salmon in the Big Salmon River. Nutrients that would have contributed to the endangered salmon food chain will instead be taken away to be turned into products like toilet paper and sent to Turkey to make OSB (oriented strand board).”
“When a tree falls in a forest in a watershed that drains into the sea, it’s slow decomposition normally contributes to nutrients in the fresh water, and some of it reaches the sea in migratory fish,” said Bancroft.
Bancroft wants to know what happened to the precautionary principle in forest management.
“Too much forest cutting has already happened in this watershed. There is abundant science to suggest that 30-metre-wide buffer strips between cuts and waterways is grossly insufficient to protect a wide variety of wildlife,” said Bancroft.
Forest conservation advocates John Crompton and Serge Robichaud recently flew over the new logging access roads within the Duffy Brook watershed, above the Saddleback Provincial Natural Protected Area. They made this video:
The picnic was cut short when Fundy Trail workers told the picnickers that they had to leave. One of the workers noted that the park land is leased from the province and managed by a board that is chaired by Greg Turner. Turner is a Moncton city councillor who has announced his intention to run for the Progressive Conservative Party in the upcoming provincial election.
Johnston wants people to think about the endangered Inner Bay of Fundy Atlantic Salmon habitat this election.
“If you care about the protection of this important species and the destruction of our Crown forest, please remember to ask candidates what they think of this. We all love the Fundy Trail and support the conservation of the Salmon River and the species that dwell here,” said Johnston.
For Bancroft, the cutting is happening only for the pursuit of “private profits and comes at the expense of the public purse and endangered species habitat.”
“This cutting makes a mockery of the federal Endangered Species Act, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and provincial regulations regarding species-at-risk. It flies in the face of ecological common sense,” said Bancroft.
Lynaya Astephen is an environmental and social justice activist based in Red Head, New Brunswick.