Questions and comments on WWNS about sustainability of current wood harvesting in Nova Scotia following Report from the Independent Review

For the Record, some recent discussions on Woods and Waters Nova Scotia (Facebook page) are replicated below. These are verbatim copies except that I have replaced full names with initials, which has been my practice when replicating discussions from WWNS. The most recent items by date are posted at the top. I will update this page if more discussion ensues.

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Sep 6, 2018 (more discussion added – Sep 6, 3:40 pm)

More from DW re. yesterday’s forestry contributions [see entries under Sep 5, 2018 below] from DW and TM :

“ I am in agreement with TM – the forests surrounding the Pulp Mills have been heavily cut off over the years . Upon walking through some of these lots one doesn’t see any planted conifers . Where does replanting take place ? Does Northern Pulp only replant on land that Hamm et al have long term title to ? Is that where the plantations have been planted ? That would make sense from a corporate view .

“As you get farther away from the mills there are still some very good forested areas . North Nova Forest Owners have some inventory . As do some private owners elsewhere in the Province . As TM points out – prices offered by N P and Irving are so low they see the need to sell logs as sawn lumber to the public .

“The Scotsburn saw mill owned by a relative of the majority owner of Northern Pulp, see no need to pay a higher price as they have a ready supply of generally small logs from Northern Pulp bought at biomass wood rates from the Gov of N.S. I sat and watched trailer loads arriving at Scotsburn of generally smaller logs . One can see the sawn product sitting in front of dryer doors – it’s all 8 foot stud wood . They make so much of that they have to contract out some drying to Groupe Savoie’s dryers. The export buyers are waiting for the finished product .

“Because Northern Pulp has such a hold on the wood supply from Crown Lands they can influence price paid . Some private forest lot owners seem to think there is no other market for logs and stud wood . That is simply not true but they are fed that story by Mill buyers and some harvesters . We and others are about to change that message . I’m not the only one working on this . Private owners in Cape Breton are also at work . My message to Tom and all is ” stop selling your wood to Scotsburn and Northern Pulp” . Become allied with Private owned saw mills including newly incorporated co-op sawmills . Own shares in new band saw mills . Cut less and saw that to be sold at a higher price – much of it at a retail / end user price .

“ Some of you reading this know that selective cutting done every 5 to 6 years or so will allow a managed forest to grow faster and allow a selective harvest over and over . 8 to 10 selective cuts over 50 to 60 years will yield more value than clear cutting this year and you still have a forest all during those years and at the end.

“ If your forest soils are poor and acidic get some HRM compost and add a bit of limestone and spread that around growing trees . Or get some old baled and weathered hay and mix it with sawdust from your bandsaw mill , add bags of leaves from the town pickup, add some ground lime and mix up , let stand a year and spread that in late fall around growing trees . Similar to what blue berry growers do . Install a heavy duty bushcutter on a 4WD farm tractor and control the competing brush/ grass /weeds . Give the trees you want to grow some canopy room and they grow nearly twice as fast .

“I urge people to select some smaller and some nearly mature conifers or sugar maple that have an open canopy and measure the circumference four feet above ground every fall of these selected trees . Do the same for trees with restricted canopy . Compare the difference . Then I rest my case . At the suggestion of a forester in N.B. I’ve done this . He and the trees made a believer of me.

“ Plantation forest wood is at least 60 years away . Climate change will slow forest tree growth for most trees , especially balsam fir . Just ask an Irving forester -they keep very good records . They select seed from superior trees and grow seedlings for replanting where applicable .”


Thanks D.


GF: It’s okay to talk about selection cutting. It’s a good treatment but what’s in it for the land owner ? When a machine worked on our lot the stand had previously been treated ,spacing etc . The machine could cut a tree every 10 seconds . We moved the machine into an area untreateded for a selcetion cut . The machine cut a tree every 30 seconds . The machine has a constant hourly operational rate . Who is going to pay for the 20 seconds trees are not cut ? If this trickles into reduced stumpage a lot of wood is going to get locked up.

KG: Great advice to wood lot owners…mills have been lying for decades to keep prices low…they have most truckers and contractors in their back pocket!

MB: Seems like a good plan. are there actually band saw mills looking for investors? COuld such a Mill produce certified lumber?

DW: “Some comments about a post made by GF; GF says that it takes much longer to do selection cutting with the large harvester that is designed to be used for Clear Cutting . That is correct – smaller machines have been designed and tested that are designed for selection cutting . They cost much less than the large ones . I don’t know of any smaller machines that have entered the Nova Scotia harvesting fleets – Yet . The pulp mills will resist the selection cutting because that spells the end of cheap wood .

“ If the government decides to require a Bill of Lading for every load from Crown Land that further reduces cheap wood . We keep hearing about loads that have disappeared . Where did they go ? Who got paid for those loads ? Hardwood loads are diverted to buyers of fuel wood . Conifer logs are delivered and called biomass instead of being called saw logs of higher stumpage value . If the diversions are curtailed the owners of the forest lots being cut get more stumpage and or a higher price for the logs from the saw mill or pulp mill . By selection cutting the forest lot owner is ensured of getting current log prices . If the owner of the logs gets them sawn at a co-op saw mill which he/she is part owner of , the net return is increased from that wood . Alternatively , the logs can be sold at auction to the Mill bidding the highest .

“Most mills resist higher prices if the log mix is small logs mixed in with lumber logs . Small Studwood has less value than large lumber log wood . Large diameter Sixteen foot logs bring a higher price than does Eight foot logs or studwood . Proper division of the wood at the landing can increase the overall price paid for the wood . Not all commercial harvesting firms want to take the time to sort and sell to different buyers . They just want to slash everything and move on . Many of this type will refuse to change and will quit or go broke when the Pulp Mills can’t get enough cheap Crown wood by clear cutting .

“Farms often have a small forest lot that can be selection cut by the owner working the lot a few hours a day . Time is often available between seasons on the farm . There are also some individuals that chain saw cut selected marked trees while the owner skids the whole de-limbed tree to a landing where it is cut into logs and studwood . Large lots tend to be selection harvested by more mechanical means . There are at least two lot designs that reduce the harvesting time .

“ Don’t confuse people and companies that Manage wood lots with those that tell you that your lot can only be clearcut . Beware of harvesting firms that work using big forwarders on wet land leaving big ruts that will never grow another tree . This is one main reason they want to spray glyphosate . Bush cutting by tractor over those big ruts is too time consuming . Those lands can be cut during the frozen winter months .

“ Some EU countries require 4 trees to be planted for every one harvested . They gradually increase the forest volume and 60 to 80 years into the future have a more valuable sustainable industry . In the meantime much CO2 is stored by growing trees . “

GF: he machines do exist. Hants equipment is bringing them in . I dont know of any in NS yet but one is in operation on pei
You need to fall trees by hand . The unit then process the tree . Cost is $40000. You then need to have another machine to forward wood .
There is another type on the island as well . Cost is $250000. The owner cuts for a week , then he can use the same machine to forward the wood switching the harvesting head to a grapple .
They are currently thinning the plantations on the island.
The driving forces behind these purchases has been the governments lead to put in district heating plants . Wood is sorted for logs ,stud and biomass. There getting a good price for the biomass . Our local coops have been working quite some time to get similar units in NS.


Sep 5, 2018

The Lahey Forestry Report is starting to generate some reactions and response. Here is a submission from Don Wilson that will hopefully kickstart constructive feedback and dialogue. More to follow. Thanks D.

“ We have known for a few months now that wood supply to the two pulp mills is in short supply resulting in chips being made from logs that contain higher value sawn lumber . Currently sawn lumber is in high demand at a very high price -especially when compared to the value of wood chips for any use .

“Crown forest logs are being delivered to the two Pulp mills and too much of that is designated as Biomass . Both soft wood logs and hardwood logs are being diverted to wood chips for the making of kraft paper sheet . Both mills use some hardwood chips because the kraft product is stronger . It is unknown how much volume of logs from Private lots may be diverted for chips . We also know that saw logs at two N.S. sawmills were chipped and burned so that electric power could be delivered to NSP as per a long term contract .

“In order to bring transparency to the end use of cut timber a Bill of Lading for every truck and trailer load of wood leaving the forest must be generated . The B/L must include the name of the Mill receiving the load , the species of tree(s) , the quantity by weight of the load and the intended use of the load. This must become a public record . After all Crown land wood is from a public forest . ( Not withstanding that it may be owned by First Nations ). Calling a load of saw logs as Biomass will be no longer possible . A weigh scale and inspector is placed at the truck receiving entrance of both pulp mills . Each load has a bar code attached to logs upon loading and to the B/L plus a GPS chip is attached enabling load monitoring . No loads are diverted out of Province or to fuel wood without prior permission . Chipping for the export market should be ended .

“To complicate matters we are organizing Private forest land owners by County into forest product Co-ops that will mostly do selection cutting to ensure a continual forest harvest . The logs that contain lumber are milled in each county and sold within N.S. with the excess being sold to the USA , the EU and the Caribbean . Conifer Logs as small as 4.5″ are first milled – making 2 x 4 ” and 2 x 3 “planks . The bark and slab is burned in the wood drying furnace . Any excess biomass will be sold at auction to the highest bidder . These Private forest owners are no longer hostage to the whims of the two Pulp Mills . Small trees are left in place to grow where applicable . Popular stems 6″ or more are sawn into boards – usually .750” thick – used as siding , fence boards , etc etc . the remainder of the stem and slabs are chipped as biomass in lumber drying furnaces .

“Locations for the band saw mills have been found in Pictou , Colchester and Cumberland counties .
SFM is the trade name for this lumber . Log and lumber haulers are waiting . So are saw dust , bark and chip haulers. Many existing saw mills are looking for a portion of the logs that are now first sent to a Pulp Mill .

“ If Northern Pulp closes rather than rebuild we could take over the tree nursery and expand the production to fill the need for replanting clear cuts . If not this we will establish an SFM tree nursery .

“Selection harvesting doesn’t require large hi volume harvestors .

“ We do not forsee enough cheap wood supply for the two Pulp Mills – even with plantations that take 50 plus years before harvesting . In Quebec Domtar has experimented with using compost to hasten tree growth with some surprising results . Cutting unwanted underbrush is done with farm tractors and bush cutters driving between the rows of planted trees . Popular trees grown as above can be harvested in 20 years . Balsam fir in about 30 years
“Growth of both can be slowed by unseasonal hot days with little rainfall .

“Sugar maple trees are also only select cut . Mature sap running trees are left spaced away from each other . Sap is collected every spring and delivered by stainless steel transport tanker to several very large plants that use reverse osmosis to reduce water content and boiling in a large evaporator finishes the reduction into syrup and sugar products . The removed water is bottled and sold . Modeled after operators in Vermont and Quebec / Ontario .

“Private forest owners attract tourists that stay in small cabins throughout the property . Streams are protected and stocked with trout . Natural ponds maintained by the Beavers assist the trout population . The Deer population is controlled as needed by hunters .

“Hemp grows much faster than trees on under-used farm land and can be used in papermaking . Another strain of Hemp yields seeds that are cold pressed to gain a very valuable oil . Currently priced about $ 32.00 a litre . The remains after pressing can be used as a bio-fuel for industrial furnaces such as at apartment buildings , office buildings , etc etc “

Note : Change = Jobs

– DW


K.G.R.: What a mess

G.F.: I think there is a guy in NB making mail order caskets from pine.


Further to the Lahey Report these comments from TM:

“Sawlog (studwood) prices are not up for me at the Scotsburn mill and are still at least 12-15 years old province wide. This according to the latest price list from HC Haynes.

“I’m not sure of a big cutting happening on private land. Where is all this wood? Drive around, there are patches, but no big swaths of good timber. I’m told that upping the price doesn’t seem to bring on the private cutting as in days past. The wood isn’t there (I contend) and woodlot owners realize that 15 -20 year old prices isn’t worth it.

“The industry has too much capacity for the forest that’s left. Some mills may have to close and prices definitely have to rise. Perhaps this can come about if the Crown wood is decreased, as it should be.

“I don’t understand how plantation forestry can be any kind of savior. That wood is 40 years away and natural regen could handle it if stands were older when cut. The idea that we keep all mills running isn’t going to work.

“Having a separate hardwood industry/management would be helpful. Allowing the softwood guys to direct this resource is unconscionable.

“There seems to be extremes in this report because that’s what Lahey heard. Aldo Leopold’s Type A and Type B foresters is the reason. True when he said it in the 1940’s, true today.”

Thanks for your input T.


A.M. The logging trucks I see as I drive the province’s roads tell me there’s far more cutting than is sustainable in our forests. One one trip of 4 hours 2 weeks ago I counted 13 trucks…two with full loads the rest heading in the same direction empty. On any random day/highway between 2 and 10 trucks can be seen hauling wood. Where is this wood coming from? Going to?

B.S. Exactly. I travel from Halifax to digby regularly, there’s always many trucks heading to Heflers loaded with logs


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