Dis­agree­ments con­tinue over North­ern Penin­sula’s forestry

Lenn Payne says har­vest­ing would ben­e­fit for­est health, Main Brook man be­lieves it would dam­age en­vi­ron­ment


Forestry in­struc­tor Glenn Payne iden­ti­fies the North­ern Penin­sula as an area of the province that is un­der­uti­liz­ing its forestry po­ten­tial.

But Le­an­der Pil­grim, a Main Brook man with ex­pe­ri­ence in the North­ern Penin­sula’s forestry in­dus­try, be­lieves Payne’s got it all wrong.

And he ar­dently main­tains there’s only enough for­est re­source on the North­ern Penin­sula for lo­cal use.

Payne, an in­struc­tor at Col­lege of the North At­lantic in Cor­ner Brook, says he’s en­cour­aged by the in­ter­est ex­pressed by Ac­tive En­ergy to put a pel­let plant on the North­ern Penin­sula.

In fact, he be­lieves har­vest­ing would ac­tu­ally help im­prove for­est health.

He could not com­ment on ex­actly how Ac­tive En­ergy plans to con­duct its po­ten­tial op­er­a­tion on the North­ern Penin­sula, but says there is an op­por­tu­nity for some in­dus­trial use given the cur­rent lack of ac­tiv­ity.

“There is no doubt there is a por­tion of the for­est that is el­i­gi­ble for har­vest and it would only make sense, as you would in any for­est, to have a por­tion of that be­ing har­vested for some ben­e­fit,” said Payne.

Payne says the province is un­der­cut­ting the an­nual al­low­able cut of its forests. He be­lieves gov­ern­ment should be able to cut ap­prox­i­mately two mil­lion cu­bic me­tres of for­est per year; in­stead, it’s barely cut­ting 50 per cent of this amount.

Payne iden­ti­fies the North­ern Penin­sula, along with Labrador and cen­tral New­found­land, as the three re­gions where the province’s forests are be­ing “dras­ti­cally un­der­uti­lized.”

He high­lights the older age of the pre­dom­i­nantly bal­sam fir for­est as one is­sue for the ecosys­tem.

Ac­cord­ing to Payne, bal­sam fir is a rel­a­tively short-liv­ing species, and its age of 120 years is ex­tremely old by the species’ stan­dards.

“That would be the equiv­a­lent of most hu­mans liv­ing to 120 or 130 years old,” he said. “You’re deal­ing with a species that starts to top­ple out at age 80 or 90.”

At a cer­tain age, the for­est will stop grow­ing. There­fore, the bal­sam fir will have a higher biomass at a younger age.

By age 120, Payne says, a lot of the for­est’s vol­ume has been lost.

“So from a cli­mate change point of view, it’s a bit of an is­sue for us,” he said.

“Your for­est is get­ting old be­cause you’re not cut­ting it. You need to try and work with na­ture and ba­si­cally man­age the for­est.”

But Pil­grim, who man­aged a mill and plant out of Main Brook for many years, be­lieves there are barely enough trees for the peo­ple who live on the North­ern Penin­sula to use.

“The older trees now are har­vestable for our own use for the long pe­riod of time,” said Pil­grim. “The younger trees are com­ing out while the (older) trees are be­ing har­vested now for peo­ple’s use.”

He says peo­ple are us­ing trees for fire­wood or for build­ing cab­ins and homes.

And he be­lieves peo­ple are go­ing to start re­ly­ing more on wood to heat their homes once their elec­tric­ity bills in­crease due to the Muskrat Falls project. Clear cut­ting or se­lec­tive cut­ting? Payne ad­vises that clear cut­ting rather than se­lec­tive cut­ting would be the most en­vi­ron­men­tally safe method of har­vest­ing the for­est.

“Se­lec­tive cut­ting is highly in­ap­pro­pri­ate for New­found­land in gen­eral and the bo­real for­est in gen­eral,” said Payne.

With se­lec­tive cut­ting you never re­move all of the for­est, and just re­move bits of it for use.

Payne says the prob­lem with that, from both a bi­o­log­i­cal and eco­log­i­cal per­spec­tive, is that bal­sam fir is a fairly shal­low-depth species and doesn’t do very well in that sit­u­a­tion.

“You’ll see that in buf­fer zones, where if peo­ple leave parts of stands and it all tends to blow down, that’s ba­si­cally na­ture’s re­sponse to tin­ker­ing with that com­mu­nity of plants,” he said.

Clear cut­ting, on the other hand, takes place when you re­move a por­tion of the for­est all in a sin­gle pass.

This is the best method to use, ac­cord­ing to Payne.

“The best sil­vi­cul­tural sys­tem, which most peo­ple tend to have a prob­lem with, is clear cut­ting,” he said. “But from an eco­log­i­cal per­spec­tive and from an op­er­a­tional and eco­nomic per­spec­tive, it is by far the best match har­vest­ing sys­tem out there for the bo­real for­est, and par­tic­u­larly for western New­found­land.”

Ques­tion of en­vi­ron­men­tal de­struc­tion

Pil­grim has a prob­lem with clear cut­ting. He main­tains it can dam­age the land and en­tire ecosys­tem.

“These heavy ma­chines – I know how it works,” he said. “You’re flat­ten­ing ev­ery­thing. The trees there, 10 years old, the new growth that is torn right to pieces. The ter­rain is torn to pieces with this heavy equip­ment and there’s not a hope in hell for it to re-pop­u­late in the time of our chil­dren and grand­chil­dren.”

Pil­grim be­lieves clear cut­ting would de­stroy the very way of life of peo­ple on the North­ern Penin­sula.

He says the land would dry up, mak­ing fire a new po­ten­tial is­sue never seen be­fore on the North­ern Penin­sula.

And he be­lieves it would poi­son and de­stroy habi­tats for fish and land an­i­mals.

“The whole thing is dam­ag­ing,” said Pil­grim.

He’s scared the whole ecosys­tem would be de­stroyed in less than 20 years.

“We wants to be here for hun­dreds of years,” he said.

Payne, for his part, says the main is­sue with clear cut­ting is that there’s a win­dow of time – from the time of cut­ting to the age of about 10, or per­haps up to 20 de­pend­ing on the lo­ca­tion – when the for­est won’t be as pretty as a nor­mal for­est.

Pil­grim be­lieves this could af­fect tourism.

“What’s there go­ing to be to sight see?” he asks. “A ball of rock for the next 80 years un­til the trees grows.”

And he be­lieves it would there­fore hurt busi­ness for hunt­ing out­fit­ters.

Payne, how­ever, says there are plan­ning pro­to­cols and en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­cesses al­ready in place to make it dif­fi­cult to “mess it up.”

“There’s lots of checks and bal­ances in terms of what you can and can’t do in the for­est,” he added.

This idea echoed sen­ti­ments ex­pressed by Ac­tive En­ergy CEO Richard Spinks pub­lished in a Sept. 27 ar­ti­cle of the North­ern Pen.

“From an eco­log­i­cal per­spec­tive, it doesn’t scare me what­so­ever that some­one is look­ing to do some­thing up there,” said Payne.

But Pil­grim isn’t hav­ing it, and plans to reach out to gov­ern­ment to ad­vise it to halt any pos­si­ble agree­ment with Ac­tive En­ergy.

He says any­one who wants to dis­cuss the sit­u­a­tion can give him a call at 8656111.

“If there’s any­thing they’d like to know, whether they think it’s good or bad or what­ever, give me a call,” he said. “Talk to some­one who has been in the for­est for a few days.”


The Hol­son Sawmill was built in Rod­dick­ton in 2011. The town is hop­ing to put it back to use.

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