Things are looking merry and bright for Christmas tree producers in the Maritimes this fall. Demand is strong, and a relatively low Canadian dollar holds the promise of tidy profits on exports. I talked to a grower in Lunenburg County – yep, still the Balsam Fir Christmas Tree Capital of the World – who said he was going to be tempted to over-harvest his lot, though he welcomed the opportunity to get rid of some lower-grade trees.Read More
From the summit of Mount Carlton, New Brunswick’s highest point (2,693 feet, or 820 metres), one can see 65 kilometres on a clear day – a view that encompasses 13,273 square kilometres and 10 million trees, according to literature from Mount Carleton Provincial Park. It’s a great place to reflect on the immensity of the world and the smallness of oneself. To the everyday outdoor enthusiast, looking out on a virtually unbroken sea of rolling green hills, it’s an impressive sight.Read More
Now for something completely different
Don’t be alarmed! Atlantic Forestry Review has not been transformed into a lifestyle rag aimed at the demographic of dog-walking, bicycle-commuting, park-picnicking city dwellers. But you can’t be blamed for thinking something weird is going on. This summer issue of the magazine looks pretty different, because it has a focus on urban forests.
We’ve never done this before. The idea came from Dr. Peter Duinker, a professor at Dalhousie University’s School for Resource and Environmental Studies. Peter has a longstanding interest in forestry, and is no stranger to the pages of AFR, largely due to his extensive involvement with the Nova Forest Alliance, a model forest program that sought to facilitate cooperation across various sectors of the industry and among diverse forest stakeholders.
It’s all relative
There is a sad irony in the fact that we now look to the European forestry nations – especially Scandinavia – with envy and awe. Government and industry people alike practically salivate when they see pictures of those well-stocked, perfectly-tended stands – living warehouses of timber wealth, promising fantastic levels of harvest efficiency. A few hundred years ago, when Europeans started nosing around in this part of the world, they were similarly awed by the forests here – not only the expanse of woodland, but the size and quality of the timber. It was beyond their wildest imaginings, and they got to work cutting it all down. There was so much of it that they couldn’t properly finish the job until mechanized harvesting came into play – but finish it they did. And now, by comparison to most of the paltry forests that have regenerated here, the intensively managed woodlands of Northern Europe look pretty good.Read More
Big numbers, heavy artillery
by David Palmer
It’s hard to square the upbeat message and positive numbers in recent Irving ads, trumpeting the past year’s purchases of private wood, with the glum mood that prevails among woodlot owner organizations, which feel they are being increasingly sidelined by the big forestry company.
“To date, JDI is … on target to purchase 870,000 cubic metres of private wood. This will be the most private wood the company has ever purchased,” the ad states. It goes on to say, “JDI appreciates its relationship with private wood producers and woodlot owners which has made this record breaking year possible … is the result of direct contracts with private woodlot owners and wood producers.”
An inconvenient truth about woodlot taxes
by David Palmer
I always figured it was just a matter of time before the tax man knocked on the woodlot owner’s door. A CBC investigation into special tax deals and breaks – who gets them and why –was precipitated by a caller to a phone-in back in September who asked New Brunswick Premier Brian Gallant what he was going to do about those special property tax deals. Gallant’s response was that if there are inequitable arrangements, people should tell him about them, and the government will look into it.
This is getting old
My father-in-law took the family out for supper at a nice restaurant during a weekend visit this fall, and noticed Chicken Cordon Bleu on the menu. He asked the waitress, “Is that a full cordon, or just a face cordon.”
It’s always a pleasure to spend time with people who share your love for the woods, especially when their perspective varies somewhat from your own. Jay enjoyed checking out our woodlot, whose composition is pretty different from his land in the Ottawa Valley, and he was duly impressed with an unusually old and stout ironwood down by the brook – a specimen I may have to submit as my own nomination to AFR’s Great Tree Challenge (though it is not near as stout and likely not as old as the oak in Dean Butterfield’s photo on pg. 46 of this issue).
The re-greening of the world
by David Palmer
The scientific community warned that 400 parts per million (ppm) of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was the threshold level that would lead to a potentially irreversible 1.5 degree C warming of the Earth’s temperature. That point was recently surpassed, not on the Hawaiian mountain top of Mauna Loa where carbon dioxide has been tracked for decades, but on a little known island in the Indian Ocean, far from local influences.
As carbon dioxide levels continue to climb, new reports offer hope and possible salvation to a world thought to be choking to death on it. The scale of decay from the Mountain pine beetle infestation (MPB) that turned 18 million hectares of B.C.’s interior pine forests from healthy carbon-storing warehouses into rotting carbon-spewing sources – which for a time rivaled carbon dioxide output from the northern Alberta oil sands – is reversing. Researchers are now finding that the rate of recovery from the MPB attack is faster than anticipated, partly due to increased global carbon dioxide levels.
The big stuff
We had some fine weather for woods work this spring – pretty dry, reasonably cool, with the blackfly index ranging from low to moderate. (Yes, I consider blackflies a meteorological condition that ought to be included in daily Environment Canada forecasts.) Now that we’re getting hot days, the prospect of wearing chainsaw pants or chaps is less attractive. But summer is short. You’ve got to bask in the sun and enjoy it while you can. (If only we could physiologically absorb and store the BTUs – like a stick of firewood – for use in the cold months.)
Here at AFR we are basking in the reflected glory of Gary Saunders’ recent East Coast Literary Award – specifically, the Evelyn Richardson Non-Fiction Award – for his book “My Life with Trees.” Published last year by Gaspereau Press in Kentville, N.S., it is a compilation of essays that originally appeared in this magazine, examining our native tree species from a personal perspective. In Gary’s case, that means it’s a combination of forest science, history, old-time woods lore, and stories of home and family.
Clinging, falling, sticking
As sure as water flows downhill, so too do wayward leaves of oak and beech, released from their clinging grip on twisty twigs by winter’s sharp, biting westerlies, come to rest in a fresh ski path. They hang on obstinately through harsh November gales and hard December frosts, only to release and lie in wait to trip up an unwary skier expecting that the track just laid down on the way out will be a clean, debris-free runway on the way home. Alas, the silently sliding ski, stretched out to maximize glide and speed, encounters the patch of fallen leaves, which are ground into the grip wax and layered into the kick area of the ski, bringing the unsuspected skier to a lurching halt. It’s nature’s version of brown klister.
There are several theories as to what causes certain trees, in particular oak and beech, to hold onto some leaves well past normal fall leaf drop – a trait known as marcescence. One hypothesis is that the nutrients in the leaves, if held in arboreal storage over winter, will be more readily available for spring uptake by the tree than if they fall to the ground in autumn and immediately start decomposing.
On a recent visit to southern Ontario for a family funeral, I took a stroll around the old neighborhood and stopped to read a historical plaque commemorating the site of Upper Canada’s first paper mill. There in the little town of Flamborough (now amalgamated with Hamilton), barely a mile from my childhood home, the industrialist James Crooks began operating the mill in 1826. It continued producing paper until it was destroyed by fire in 1875 – a good long run by today’s standards.
Too much wood, not enough information
by David Palmer
When Jason Killam, J.D. Irving’s silviculture manager, proclaimed in an official tone at the fall meeting of the Canadian Woodlands Forum that “round wood pulp wood is dead,” he was merely confirming what woodlot owners have pretty well known for a decade. It was always assumed there would be a home for the saw logs though.
However, as the second round of sawmill market closures rolls across New Brunswick, some woodlot owners are beginning to wonder if all those promises about great saw log and stud wood markets that would result from investments made under the N.B. Forestry Plan will ever materialize.
First it was Irving with too much wood and a one-week shut-off back in August. Then it was quotas on log deliveries to certain sawmills. Now, the Twin Rivers sawmill at Plaster Rock has too much wood, despite the fact they’ve got a third shift running. So they’ve announced a two-week shut-off of all wood deliveries from Oct. 26 to Nov. 9 in order to address and control a surging inventory.
In it for the long haul
Once again, in this September issue of AFR, we have devoted some extra space and attention to forestry trucking – although, of course, trucking plays a role in virtually any story about wood products. While reducing transport distances is a laudable goal, there’s no getting around the fact that we have to move stuff around. We may as well try to do it more efficiently, which is the objective of R&D work on truck aerodynamics currently being done by FPInnovations, as described in Marie-Claude Thibault’s story on page 28. It will appeal to both your inner trucker and your inner physics geek.
A bird in the hand
New Brunswick Green Party leader David Coon’s bill, “An Act to Return to the Crown Certain Rights Relating to Wood Supply and Forest Management,” went down in flames at its second reading in early June. The Tory opposition and the governing Liberals closed ranks to defeat this private member’s bill introduced by the lone Green MLA. In debate on the bill, Minister of Natural Resources Denis Landry said the 2014 Forestry Plan, announced in late winter last year by the prior PC government, was a big job creator, and Coon’s plan to scrap the 25-year forestry agreement would lead to many job losses.
In the last week of April, with snowbanks still lingering along the roadsides, I heard someone from the Nova Scotia Department of Transportation (and don’t forget Infrastructure Renewal) talking on the radio, explaining how they use an instrument called a “falling weight deflectometer” (FWD) to test the structural stability of pavement. It’s a trailer-mounted device containing a heavy steel disk that is dropped onto the road, to simulate the impact of truck traffic, with sensors to measure the resulting deformation of the surface. Fascinating, but really just a distraction from the hard facts about spring road closures.
Plink, plink . . .
Dwindling pellet supply augurs ill for consumer confidence
by David Palmer
According to NASA and NOAA (National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration), 2014 was the warmest year on record. Geez, Louise, it sure didn’t feel like it here in Atlantic Canada, as the snow kept piling up long into late March and refused to melt even in April.
When one’s personal memory conflicts with official records, it’s time to dig a little deeper. As it turns out, our minds weren’t playing tricks on us. That extra warmth wasn’t distributed evenly over the whole globe, nor throughout the year. NOAA’s world map of global temperatures shows that central and eastern North America were colder than normal in 2014. In fact, March in the Maritimes was particularly harsh, three to four Celsius degrees colder than normal. And April wasn’t much better, at one to two below normal.
Reserve fuelwood supplies were consumed, natural gas bills went through the roof, and pellet stove sales were brisker than ever. As 2014 closed out, Maritimers stoically prepared for the possibility of a repeat of last winter by stocking up on pellets and boosting firewood reserves. Those with oil or gas heaters prayed for a price reprieve, while the majority of New Brunswickers with electric heat turned the thermostat up and shuddered when they opened their next power bill.
Perils of the profession
The past year has been a wild ride for forestry in New Brunswick – not just for the industry, but for the profession. The dramatic policy shift taking place in this province has occasioned some soul searching, and has spurred debate about the role of the forester in society – an important question in any jurisdiction that has more than a few trees.
Shortly after the New Brunswick government released its new Strategy for Crown Lands Forest Management, back in March, the Association of Registered Professional Foresters of New Brunswick (ARPFNB) sent a letter to then-Premier David Alward, expressing concerns about the lack of transparency and public participation in the policy development process. In the preceding three months the ARPFNB had made repeated requests to meet with the minister or the deputy minister “to seek details on the forest management strategy, offer input, and help the Department engage with citizens.”