WestFor GM calls for cooperation over forest management

by Michael Lee

  • <p>MICHAEL LEE PHOTO</p><p>Marcus Zwicker, &#0010;centre, gives a &#0010;presentation on &#0010;WestFor at the &#0010;Mersey Tobeatic &#0010;Research Institute in Kempt on August 17.</p>

After woodlot owners criticized WestFor Management Inc.'s forestry practices at a meeting last month, the company's general manager says everyone needs to work together.

"Everybody is entitled to their opinion. That's all I'm going to say," said Marcus Zwicker.

"I have opinions of things and other people have opinions of things. I would comment that probably in the best interest of all forestry land owners, private, crown, industrial freehold, that we should be working together to try and come up with resolutions and solve problems for markets and for forest management.

"It would be the best approach to solve these problems."

Zwicker was at the Mersey Tobeatic Research Institute in Kempt on August 18 to give a presentation on WestFor.

The group is comprised of 13 mills which have access to more than 500,000 hectares of public land in western Nova Scotia.

Zwicker said WestFor operates on approximately 60 per cent of those lands, but only about eight per cent of all wood harvested in Nova Scotia came from western Crown land in 2016.

But some say the consortium has made it difficult for private operators to sell wood, particularly pulpwood, because of how much is being cut on Crown land.

Gerald Keddy, the former member of parliament for South Shore-St. Margaret's, helped lead a meeting of woodlot owners and contractors on July 19 in the Forties.

Keddy, who is a private woodlot owner, said he suspects the stumpage fees are lower than on private land, but finding those figures has been difficult.

The province has not released the information citing an adverse affect to businesses and private stumpage rates.

But Zwicker says WestFor's current annual allowable cut is 0.76 cubic metres per hectare per year, which is below the provincial average of just over one.

"If anything, if you look back at it, we're actually harvesting less than Bowater did off their land base to supply the same mills," he said, a point Mayor David Dagley of the Region of Queens Municipality also made to LighthouseNOW earlier this year.

"They're actually receiving a smaller portion of their fibre supply from these lands than what they did historically for a 20 year period."

Zwicker said WestFor is in "the same boat" as private landowners when it comes to low grade fibre, simply because there is no market for it, pointing to Brooklyn Energy and others who are not accepting as much.

He said forestry is fragmented among different land holders and managers, but an opportunity exists to work together.

The province has halted the approval of long-term Crown land licences, including a 10-year Forest Utilization Licence Agreement with WestFor.

The group is currently working under an interim one-year licence which was set to expire at the end of 2016.

It was extended to the end of March and again to the end of September.

Liberal Party leader Stephen McNeil promised an independent forestry review during the last election, but to date the government has not announced who will lead the review or what the terms of reference will be.

The Ecology Action Centre in Halifax recently issued a statement identifying certain elements that need to be included in order to make the review credible.

They include choosing the right person, or persons, with strong credentials, not just an industrial forestry consultant; and to incorporate the commitments of the Natural Resources Strategy into the terms of reference.

Among its concerns, the Ecology Action Centre cited impacts to wildlife, species at risk and other sectors, clear-cutting and herbicide spraying, and a culture within the Department of Natural Resources that is impeding forest management other than large-scale industrial forestry.

Zwicker did not know how a forestry review would affect WestFor given there is no terms of reference.

"I'm not sure exactly [what] he or she, or what group, will be reviewed because like I said, they haven't outlined a terms of reference yet."

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