CORNER BROOK — If somebody voices their displeasure alone in the wilderness, does it make any noise.
Don Ivany, regional director for the Atlantic Salmon Federation, certainly says the answer is no. However, following the release of the auditor general’s report, he now feels at least somebody is in the woods is hearing those concerns.
John Noseworthy identified a number of concerns pertaining to forestry management in this province. Specifically, he said not all required annual operating plans and annual returns were on file and the Department of Natural Resources did not have a adequate system to monitor whether the reports were received. The department was not verifying actual harvest levels, he said.
Also, Noseworthy found the department did not live up to its commitments to prepare ecosystem-based planning guidelines nor a review of the 1998 environmental protection guidelines.
Ivany said the findings were in line with what he and Atlantic Salmon Federation representatives have been expressing for 20 years. Being involved in forest management processes, he said he felt the environmental stewards had “lost the game before they got to the table.”
“One of the problems we have with respect to forest management, which is supposed to include all values, is there has always been a heavy bias towards the harvesting sector,” he said. “In large part that’s primarily because that is the political will.”
As an example, Ivany said he expressed concerns with the cutting Corner Brook Pulp and Paper was doing in the Hughes Brook and Humber Valley watershed last year. He said the company harvested wood in areas his group had concerns about, even before the minister released it through the environmental assessment process.
Without following proper regulations and with no monitoring mechanisms being executed, the conservationist said the rich river valleys are being impacted negatively. Construction of access roads disturb fish habitat and provide further public access to waters, he said, while extensive harvesting of timber in watersheds can change a water regime — creating more runoff, changing water temperatures and increasing siltation.
“It comes down to there being a lot of politics here,” he said. “You could understand it, if it was a few years ago when we had three mills operating in this province and there was a wood supply shortage.
“Let’s face it, two mills have closed and we are down to two paper machines in one mill that used to have four a short while ago.”
Ivany also applauded the auditor general for raising concerns about the amount — and lack of accountability — of subsidies being paid to the pulp and paper mill in Corner Brook.
“When you consider that this industry is in a downturn, it’s undergoing a transformation, and the future is very unstable, we need to be questioning government’s decision to provide these subsidies and give these mills access to cheap wood, and ignore all these other rules and regulations,” he said.
Ivany said these measures to save or prolong the pulp and paper industry are coming at the detriment of other resources — naming caribou herds, fish stocks, and the tourism-related industries.
“We need to get our governments, our politicians, to wake up and start recognizing the value of these other resource opportunities and the potential that exists there,” he said.
He said a balanced ecosystem-based forest management system is needed.