Accounting for logging
AFR: Can you please run a few articles on the accounting of woodlot logging from the owner’s point of view and from the logger’s point of view. Million-dollar machines take big interventions on any one lot to be feasible. With bigger and bigger machines and trucks coming into western Nova Scotia, the economics become dictated by that scale of operation.
To anyone interested in harvesting on their woodlot, it becomes really important to understand how to handle the finances of such work in order to see the true, long-term value on the investment. Maybe the man on the ground with a power saw and a small skidder may not be such a bad idea after all. We have to be careful about what we teach our younger generations on making a living in forestry work.
AFR: After reading David Palmer’s article in Volume 23 of the Atlantic Forestry magazine (March 2017), I came to the conclusion that I am sick of the Irvings and other big companies seeking not just their share but want it all. One of David Palmer’s paragraphs talked about SNB being taken to court by Irving for the fourth time, the age-old rich man’s trick to just keep taking others to court until they run out of money and steam. Some call it shrewd business, but there is a difference between shrewd and rude. Some say it is business but I call it unethical greed.
This is so wrong on so many different levels. Shame on you, Irving, for seeking to have full control and denying the average guy from making even a modest income. Shame on you, Irving, for going so low as to keep taking SNB to court hoping some day they will just give up. Shame on you, government, for giving the Irvings unfair advantages by giving them Crown lumber. It’s not government land to give away to just a few companies. It belongs to the public. Perhaps SNB should head up our own cooperative mill that could purchase lumber from the private woodlot owners at a fair price.
This is bigger than who gets the lumber...Throughout the course of history the rich got richer and the poor got poorer until finally the poor revolted with war. If this trend of the rich getting everything continues, I hate to think what is left for our children. We are never more than one generation away from losing our freedom, and it is up to every generation to protect it for our children. We are not doing a very good job, and our children and grandchildren will pay the price.
Giving him the FLIP
AFR: David Palmer’s editorial (“An inconvenient truth about woodlot taxes,” AFR Jan. 2017) on the Farm Land Identification Program (FLIP) is not very clear on how it works, nor why it was created. Apparently the N.B. government of the day, in the late ’70s, was concerned about loss of farmland to development, and out of this FLIP was born. A quote from one of the program’s documents states: “This program is being sponsored to encourage the preservation of agricultural land for agricultural use and to combat land use development trends that prejudice the maintenance of a viable and rigorous agricultural industry.”
A farm landowner could register their land with FLIP and the provincial tax and penalties would be held in abeyance as long as the land was farmed or available to be farmed. Once the land is registered in FLIP it stays as long as it is used for the production of food for humans or livestock. If sold, the land stays in FLIP unless the new owner uses it for other than agriculture, then the 15 years of taxes and penalties are due.
As for the McCains, “The program is designed to identify the land based on the use to which the land is being put, and not the occupation of the owner.” Advocating to increase taxes on private woodlots would surely put a good portion of them in to the hands of the “big guys.”
Palmer admits to the limited market for wood, if you can sell it at all, thanks to our successive incompetent governments. However, if David Palmer or anyone else thinks the gravy train of “tax breaks” on farm land is too lucrative to let slip by, then they can buy their own piece of dirt and register it in FLIP. Then buy the inputs to bring it into production and hope for enough moisture to get it growing, but not enough to wash it into the next county. Then when you are lucky enough to get that bumper crop ready to harvest, an incident halfway around the world reduces the expected profit to zero.
But there are other compensations. Think of all the new friends you will meet with your new farmland: hunters, fishermen, two-wheelers, four-wheelers, snowmobiles, hot air balloons, drones, and anyone else who feels the need to use your investment.
... But then think of the “tax break” you have!
Cyril S. Vail
Belleisle Creek, N.B.
What for WestFor
AFR: There is a movement by concerned citizens here in Southwest Nova Scotia (and elsewhere in the province) to look more closely at the proposed 10-year lease of Crown lands (at least those in Annapolis and Digby counties) to WestFor, a consortium of 13 mills. Work already done by WestFor in many areas has been characterized by extensive clearcutting and other over-harvesting of forest lands. I’ve even seen photographic evidence that many of the crews doing the work are from out of province, so Nova Scotia isn’t even getting all the labour benefits from this agreement. Besides, if rapine and plunder is the order of the day, our own Nova Scotia crews are perfectly capable of that.
I know that clearcutting to the last stick is, sadly, still the biggest single tool in much of this province’s commercial forestry industry, as practiced by the big players, but when such practices are inflicted on the acidic, impoverished soils which characterize much of Southwest Nova Scotia’s forested lands, this is a very big deal indeed.
Big enough that Premier Stephen McNeil has been requested by Annapolis County Council to grant a one-year exclusion of Annapolis County Crown lands to this agreement, and Digby County may be next to do the same. In fact, there are plans afoot at this writing (March 13) to present the idea to other municipalities, in hopes that they may follow suit.
When ordinary citizens get worked up enough to pressure their politicians about a situation like this, you can bet that this is not just the work of some poorly-informed tree-huggers who view all forestry workers as pirates with chainsaws. There is clearly something deeply wrong with WestFor’s plans and the provincial government’s collusion with them, which put mill owners in charge of managing our forests for the next decade. The agreement is seen, quite rightly, I think, as a case of the province selling off the very future of much of the province’s forest industry to a rapacious and uncaring business entity with no concern for long-term future prospects. Forgetting the serious damage to watercourses and wildlife habitats from massive clearcuts, this activity is such a disservice to taxpayers, realizing a small amount of revenue from it now, when the same resource, if managed correctly, could provide a much better return annually for evermore.
I’m a woodlot owner myself, although my harvests are limited to my own firewood needs, and I have completed the N.S. Natural Resources’ Home Study Course in Forest Management. I rarely miss Western Woodlot Owners conferences and Woodlot Owner of the Year field days. I’m always impressed by the careful, environmentally sound, and intelligent management I see in so many of this province’s private woodlots – enterprises which, in many cases, have supported families for generations and will continue to do so. Though not directly involved in the industry itself, I know enough to smell a rat.
In 2011 the Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources produced “The Path We Share – A Natural Resources Strategy for Nova Scotia 2011-2020,” a document stemming from a lengthy, publicly-supported process. This paper contains a clear commitment to “reducing clearcutting” (pg. 41), a plan to “work together to maintain healthy forests” (pg. 36), and a pledge to “support biodiversity” (pg. 37). Last August the province released a five-year progress report on this impressive-sounding scheme, but had to word it pretty creatively to hide the fact that the entire process had been tossed out with no public consultation and that there was no real progress or action taken.
It’s sad, and very bad for our forest industry, that our own governments will treat our Crown lands so cavalierly. (Because of what? Ignorance? Greed for those paltry stumpage fees? Lack of vision? Or some reason we’re not hearing about?) When the fuss over agreements as badly engineered as this WestFor one are pretty well the only things the public hears about regarding the forest industry, there’s trouble brewing. WestFor, after all, answers to DNR and only does what it knows it can get away with. Unfortunately for the health of our forests and the long-term economic outlook of the Nova Scotia forest industry, that seems to be whatever it wants. Our government has to get smarter about sponsoring and signing these stupid deals, and our regulatory environment needs to be robust enough so that these deals just can’t happen.
The newly formed Healthy Forest Coalition (www.healthyforestcoalition.ca) is an alliance of individuals and organizations that have come together out of concern for the long-term damage being caused to our forests by DNR’s poor management decisions. It urges concerned citizens to contact their MLAs and municipal councillors and let them know that the current state of forestry on Crown lands is unwise, uneconomic, and unsustainable.
Annapolis County, N.S.
A better hardwood future
AFR: The Nova Scotia forestry sector is not a strong sector, regardless what Minister Lloyd Hines and upper-level DNR officials would have us believe. When a sector is strong, all participants will be doing well. The woodlot owners and operators – and, I suspect, the truckers – are a forgotten segment of this industry. We have no one looking out for our best interests, and as a result have to take 20-year-old prices for our wood, watch mill yards fill up with Crown wood, and face a future where prices will drop even further. How efficient does industry think we can get? Why aren’t we allowed to make a decent profit? I believe it’s because the province insists on following the path “to the bottom” and thinks our woodlands don’t contain much of value. How else to justify such a low price for this very valuable resource?
While I don’t agree with the concept of clearcutting on 50-year rotations for the softwood portion of the forest, this “vision” seems impossible to change. Even after creating an Ecological Forest Classification system, most stands seem to type out to be clearcut. Seems our soils are too thin to partial cut, for fear of the remainder blowing down. But if that’s a concern, how can clearcutting be justified on these same soils? The resulting nutrient loss will spell big problems for future rotations. The answer is because the future is today and “forest stewardship” appears to be a quaint notion of the past.
Okay, so we’re going to reduce our softwood resource to a chip pile, but why aren’t we following a different path with the hardwood portion of the forest? Because we allow the softwood guys to direct the whole show. Why is the province allowing the softwood-using industry to control the hardwood on Crown land? And even worse, allowing the energy-producing guys the same privilege? Same answer as above.
I’ve heard it said that we don’t have enough high-value hardwood to drive a value-added industry. That is blatantly untrue. The great thing about a forest is that high-value trees can be developed with a good plan and time – time that no one seems to have. A common theme these days is rural economic development – how to make our rural areas more vibrant. Many might say that such a small portion (I heard only 20 percent) of our province lives in rural areas that it’s not feasible. The 20 percent doesn’t sound like much, but that makes about 200,000 people in Nova Scotia. Canada-wide that 20 percent is about 7 million. Those numbers sound bigger.
Let’s start the conversation about how to revive the rural areas and do a better job of managing our hardwood resource. Firstly, take all Crown land hardwood out of the softwood users’ control. They don’t use it, and have a low regard and understanding of it. All the hardwood. Red maple and White birch can make high-value products; they just need an “understanding champion” on their side. We’ve recently lost two value-added hardwood mills because they didn’t have a Crown allocation that could secure their future. Maybe that’s not the reason we lost them, but such an allocation would have made them desirable to continue as going concerns. Set up a separate department in DNR to look after this segment and promote this value-added industry. Find new management people, because the present ones are softwood people with the short-rotation view. This will be a truly long-term vision, with a 100-300 year timeframe. Too long for most to be able to grasp, but the way forward with this proposal.
Don’t think in terms of a large mill with two or three shifts per day. We need small- to medium-sized operations of 10-30 people spread around the province in small town areas. Remember the rural development part. When the province makes this commitment, hardwood areas are assessed and blocks go up for allocation. We would then get new investment in these small mill enterprises, once the commitment is made for a guaranteed supply. Private woodlot owners would then see opportunity to manage their hardwood for these new mills, and supply could increase province wide. The goal is veneer, saw logs, and firewood of the highest grade, with prices to match. We want a truly vibrant sector, with all participants benefitting. Get the cheap wood mantra gone. A further benefit is the carbon part, with long-lived hardwood, some of the best carbon sequestration trees we have.
This could happen, but we need the province to realize that the Crown land hardwood needs better management. So does the softwood, for that matter, but I’m tired of fighting that battle.
Green Hill, N.S.