Before the arrival of the Europeans to the land now known as New Brunswick, “Perley (1847) wrote that red pine obtained a height of 70 or 80 feet and a diameter of 2 feet and greater. He said that white pine sometimes attained heights of 160 feet and a diameter of 5 feet, 3 feet off the ground. Some hardwood species attained great size as well. Perley (1863) reported that butternut was abundant on rich alluvial river banks and grew to 80 feet in height, with circumferences of 6 to 8 feet.” – excerpts from: Judy Loo and Nadine Ives, The Acadian forest: Historical condition and human impacts. The Forestry Chronicle, May/June 2003, Vol. 79, No. 3.
Below is a timeline which describes some of the major changes and events that have shaped our forest today.
1696: As of this date it is known that mature pine and spruce trees are being removed, marking the advent of what would be called logging in New Brunswick.
1700: France begins to remove the great pine from the shores of the St. John River for use as ship masts.
1764 – 1776: Last recorded incidents of wolverines in New Brunswick. Eight pelts were sold at St. John during this time.
1769: Commercial shipbuilding begins and continues through the 1800’s.
1780: Fewer than 4000 European Settlers in North America .
1800: Approximately 25 000 European Settlers in North America
1803: Up until this point, New Brunswick is supplying most of the pine masts for the entire British Navy. Up to 200,000 mature white pine removed in a single year.
1805: Napoleon cuts off British timber supply from Baltic regions. Intensive commercial logging begins in New Brunswick to fill British demands. New Brunswick exports of timber multiply by twenty times from 1805 to 1812.
1811: Lower St. John River Valley said to be “denuded of great pine”.
1824: Thomas Ballie is appointed surveyor general and adopts a ‘public auction’ approach to the sale of Crown lands. This helps accumulate large tracts of land in the hands of large timber interests as there is no limit to how much one individual can own.
1825: Great Miramichi fire burns up to 20700 square kilometers after several land-clearing fires joined together.
1830’s: Logging begins in remote areas of the province. Steam sawmills were introduced and other wood products including laths, deals, and planks start to be exported.
“Boom/Bust” cycles of the lumber industry favours “Lumber Barons” who at this point are accumulating vast tracts of land, large sawmills and can ride out economic low periods. Strong alliances are built between lumber barons and politicians of the day.
1835: White Pine still being harvested but begins to decline after this period. Spruce begins to become more marketable.
1849: An appeal by Mi’kmaq people in the New Brunswick House of Assembly: In old times, our wigwams stood in pleasant places along the river sides. These are now all taken away from us; and we are told to go away. Upon our old camping grounds you have built towns, and the graves of our fathers are broken up by the ploughs and the barrow. Even the Ash and the Maple are growing scarce. The lands you have given us are ruined or taken away.”
1850: By this time 640000 acres of land has been cleared in New Brunswick for agriculture.
- Most of the tall white pine within 5 km of a stream large enough to float timber had been felled.
1860’s: Timber wolf is extirpated from New Brunswick.
Log jam at Grand Falls, ca 1882. Photo: George Taylor.
1890: Introduction of Beach Bark insect-disease in Halifax.
Early 1900’s: Constricting markets cause the collapse of the lumber supply. The provincial government, desperate to avoid imminent fiscal crisis, promotes the development of the pulp and paper industry.
Lumber Mill on the Tobique River, Plaster Rock. ca. 1910. Photo: Isaac Erb.
1911 – 1919: Spruce budworm devastation documented in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia by Arthur Gibson.
1913: Crown land is divided into two forms of license – sawmill license and pulp license. Pulp mill license are allowed to be extended for 15 years, sawmill license for 10 years.
1921: Last recorded Grey Wolf in New Brunswick is killed. Grey Wolf is extirpated from New Brunswick.
1930: Two large pulp companies, Fraser Company and International Paper, are granted long-term licenses and attractive tax and royalty payments for over 70% of the province’s public lands.
River de Chute Mill. Photo: H.F. Albright.
1930’s: Extirpation of the Woodland Caribou from New Brunswick forests due to loss of mature forest habitat, and brain worm introduced from growing population of white tailed deer.
1937: New Brunswick becomes the first province to impose specific management responsibilities on licensees; Ontario and British Columbia follow over the course of the next decade.
1937 – 1947: Dieback experienced in white and yellow birch.
Mid 1900’s: Much of the fertile lands of the St. John River Valley are converted to agricultural land. Dams result in a 99% reduction in the original rich tolerant hardwood forests of the Upper St. John River Valley.
1948-1954: A government investigation found that pulp and paper companies met regularly to fix prices for woodlot owners.
1950s: Coyotes begin to enter New Brunswick.
Local entrepreneurs, community leaders and labour increasingly criticized the major pulp and paper companies for not managing the forest in the interests of the people.
1954: Pesticide 2,4,5-T is used for the first time to control unwanted growth on cutover lands.
1957: Dutch Elm Disease kills most of the mature elm trees in New Brunswick.
1960’s: The amount of wood harvested begins to steadily increase to present times (2 million cubic metres in 1965, to 5 million cubic metres in 1995). Logging employment begins its steady decline to present times (4500 workers in 1965 to 2500 workers in 1995).
1962: The first woodlot owner marketing board is established. By the 1970’s, woodlot owner marketing boards are formed across the province. They allow for region to region negotiation among the large mills, sawmill owners and small producers but lack the power to regulate prices and set the proportion of wood coming from private woodlots.
1982: The Crown Lands and Forest Act combines 84 licenses into 10 license controlled by firms with processing plants (mills). The 10 corporate licenses are given management responsibility over Crown land. The Department of Natural Resources is given responsibility to be the regulator of corporate plans.
September 14, 2001: The pulp and paper companies licensed to log New Brunswick’s public lands write to the Minister of Natural Resources stating that the government “must” revise its public policies regarding New Brunswick’s public forest to allow the companies to double their annual cut of spruce and fir by 2050. They also demand compensation if their super-sized wood supply is compromised in any way.
2002: The N.B. Forest Products Association jointly commission and fund a review of forest management options with the Department of Natural Resources. The review is completed by Finnish consultants Jaakko Poyry. The report released in November 2002 recommends doubling the rate of cut.
2002: New Brunswick implements the Protected Natural Areas Act, increasing protected areas in New Brunswick from 1.2% of the Province to approximately 4% of the Province.
2003-2004: An all party Select Committee of the Legislative Assembly hold public hearings throughout New Brunswick. It hears considerable concern over the status quo approach to forest management and significant opposition to the Jaakko Poyry recommendations. The Select Committee makes 24 recommendations based on public input it receives. Recommendations include reducing the amount of clearcutting, maintaining natural forest diversity and assigning wood allocations to communities when mills close.
2004: Eight per cent of the Acadian Forest is converted to softwood plantations. Herbicides have been sprayed on 8.5% of the Crown landbase. In 1970 mature forest (trees over 80 years in age on average) made up 70% of New Brunswick’s forests. The amount of mature forest has been reduced to 45% today. Forest harvesting has been the major cause of this decline.
September 15, 2004: The Select Committee on Wood Supply tables its report in response to the public hearings. The Committee rejects much of the Jaakko Poyry report and instead endorses managing the forest for greater diversity, and “creating greater benefits for the people over the long term.”
2005: Minister of Natural Resources Keith Ashfield establishes a Task Force on Forest Diversity and Wood Supply responsible for proposing a variety of options for managing the public forest.
December 7, 2006: The Supreme Court of Canada upholds an earlier court decision that gives First Nations rights to log “Crown” lands for personal use.
January 2007: Premier Shawn Graham launches his Self-Sufficiency agenda. Co-chairs Francis McGuire and Gilles Lepage are tasked with developing a self-sufficiency plan. The forestry recommendations in the final Self-Sufficiency Task Force report call for converting more forest to plantations.
2006-2007: Timber harvested from public land in New Brunswick reaches a record high of 5.4 million cubic metres at a time when mill closures across the province are leaving scores of people unemployed and communities devastated.
The Crown lands UPM holds license to in New Brunswick should not be harvested, during the nine to twelve months the mill is shut down. These are natural resources that belong to the people of this province, not Finland, Quebec, Newfoundland or anywhere. We cannot allow the company to rape the land, fill their pockets and destroy the future of this province.” – Chris Allison, President of Communications, Energy and Paperworkers (CEP) Local 689 in Miramichi, in a letter to the Telegraph-Journal, June 13, 2007.
August 2007: The government of New Brunswick announces a timber transfer policy scheme that involves a one-time fee being paid to communities affected by a mill closure as part of a community economic development fund. The fee comes from the seller of the timber allocation in the amount of $10 per cubic metre of timber transferred. The one-time fund is a small fraction of the annual wages and income generated from an operating mill every year.
November 1, 2007: The Public Lands Coalition, a collection of affected community groups, conservation groups, woodlot owners, mill workers and municipalities, forms and calls on the provincial government to place a moratorium on cutting, exporting and transferring timber allocated from Crown land to closed mills.
December 2007: Timber transfer scheme expires with 3 timber transfers going to J.D. Irving Ltd.
January 2008: Premier Shawn Graham commissions a report from Don Roberts of CIBC World Markets and Peter Woodbridge to look at the future of the forest industry in New Brunswick, and to suggest measures to enhance its competitiveness. Four out of the ten pulp and paper mills operating in the province of New Brunswick have permanently closed as has an Orientated Strand Board (OSB) mill and a significant number of sawmills.
March 2008: A government commissioned survey of public attitudes toward forest management on public lands carried out in 2007 by researchers at the University of New Brunswick and the Canadian Forest Service is released. The survey results suggest that New Brunswickers feel that environmental protection should supersede ensuring more wood supply for the forest industry.
August 27, 2008: The Task Force’s report, Management Alternatives for New Brunswick’s Public Forest, is publicly released. It presents seven alternative approaches to forest management whose consequences for our forest are modelled over 100 years, evaluating using a list of indicators, and compared to the impacts of the current approach to forest management. A summary of the CIBC/Woodbridge Report is also released. The full report is not made public at the time.
January 2009: The government of New Brunswick responds to the forest reports and creates its own scenario for forest management, which is very similar to the industry scenario. The Conservation Council condemns the new forest plan as being detrimental to the diversity and health of the forest.
March 2009: The Conservation Council and the Falls Brook Centre host a forum on community forestry, which sets the foundation for the establishment of the New Brunswick Community Forest Alliance to be launched in 2010.