Mill addresses public concerns on wood harvest; fails to satisfy critics

By Lois Ann Dort    

Port Hawkesbury Paper (PHP) reacted to recent concerns about forest management in a news release on March 10. The release stated that the forest cut in the Loon Lake area had not been designated as old-growth by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) as has been claimed by some members of the public in recent media accounts including in an interview with Scott Cook in this paper last month.

Last week DNR regional resource manager Mark Pulsifer told The Journal that the Loon Lake area had not been classified as old-growth forest but due to the concerns raised by local residents, department staff would be on the ground re-assessing the area.

The PHP statement also said that the selective harvest practice used in the Loon Lake area was specifically geared to create a suitable environment for the regeneration of yellow birch. “PHP has been doing this treatment in these stand types for considerable time and has a high level of success with regenerating the existing tolerant species.”

Speaking to concerns that wood harvested in the area was being used for biomass and not sold for the highest profit, PHP wrote, “The supply of low-grade fuelwood to the boiler (such as those harvested on the Loon Lake site) follows the allocation of higher quality material (sawlogs, studwood, or pulpwood) which is directed to wood processing facilities for primarily lumber and paper production. It would not make economic sense to send higher quality material to the biomass facility because the economic value would not be fully realized. With the available supply of wood bark and low-grade fuelwood, there is no need to allocate higher valued material to the biomass facility.”

Danny George, a local woodsmen in Guysborough who has been a vocal critic of the cutting practised by PHP in the Loon Lake area, spoke to The Journal on Monday about the company's comments. Speaking to the value obtained from wood cut in the area George said he'd observed wood cut recently on the site, 24,000 board feet, which he would have classified at 15 per cent veneer (higher valued wood than biomass). When he asked how the wood was classified, he was told none of it was classified as veneer. George believes wood is not being properly classified at the site.

George said that he wants to see transparency in both the true value of the wood as realized by PHP and closer scrutiny of the agreement between the Dexter government and Nova Scotia Power (NSP) on the Biomass facility at Point Tupper. “The real problem lies in the deal cut between Dexter (former premier of Nova Scotia) and NSP. DNR is taking the hit for this and NSP is getting credits (carbon credits for green energy) for this. But nobody will point the finger.”

When it comes to the money, George said PHP stumpage and silviculture rates are not available to the public. “It is public land. When you can't put numbers on the table it leaves you at a disadvantage,” he said of the PHP representatives addressing public concerns.