AFR: Your article “The product and the purpose” (AFR July, pg. 4) sure reveals a lot of weaknesses in our forest industry. It sure leaves the voting public in the dark about so many parts of the industry.
Nobody is asking how much wood we are cutting, where we are cutting it, and how much we should be cutting. The mill in Abercrombie is just one case in point. It has too much capacity. When the mill was in its conception stage, very learned foresters said we did not have enough wood for a 500-ton-per-day mill. Politics overruled and allowed it to be, by killing the Small Tree Act.
The mill has expanded a lot in capacity since then. So has the mill in Port Hawkesbury expanded over what was originally planned in the 1950s. The sawmills we have today are huge in comparison to what we had 50 years ago. Some of them are using more wood than the Mersey paper mill used to take. Add the wood waste plants when they cut forests for fuel, and we have a lot of wood being cut per day. We are developing mill waste issues here that are huge and (which) sadly burden the public purse all too often – to build, to maintain, and to clean up. By having our mills so big, the raw material is being trucked long distances, and one only has to review our Department of Transportation trucking rates to get a sense of that cost. In my lifetime we have gone from men cutting using crosscut saws all the way to bigger and bigger machines cutting smaller and smaller trees.
This is all too similar to what went on in the groundfish industry in the 1980s. And we all know what happened in the 1990s with the cod.