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An embarrassment of riches brings a wealth of responsibility

“’s a huge industry vital to the economy of three of the four Atlantic provinces...”

We were in the Netherlands (quite) a few years ago a couple of days after the tail end of a hurricane had blasted its way across that flat expanse of lowland. The patches of trees (only a few hundred acres each) that represent all that is forested in that heavily agricultural country were seriously damaged with limbs and blowdowns all over the place.

But by the time we arrived two days later it had all been fastidiously cleaned up: there wasn’t a twig on the ground anywhere—so precious are those rare tracts of forested land in this tiny, crowded country. Human nature dictates that we treasure what’s scarce.

With an area, including lots of water, of 41,500 square kilometres, (little more than half the size of New Brunswick) Holland squeezes in 17 million inhabitants. When only the land mass is considered, that’s about 500 people per square kilometre.

Canada, by comparison, hosts 36.3 million souls in a land mass of almost 10 million square kilometres for an average population density of about .27 persons per square kilometre.

This huge, largely unoccupied land mass boasts almost 10 per cent of the world’s forests, about 30 per cent of the world’s boreal forest, and the world’s largest forest industry. Inherent within that comes an abundance of wildlife most other nations can only wonder at and envy.

And if we enjoy a plethora of something—well, we can afford to devalue and lose some of it, right? What the hell.

The forest products industry in New Brunswick supports about 13,000 jobs directly and another 9,000 indirectly. In Nova Scotia, the sector supports about 6,000 jobs directly and another 5,500 or so indirectly. Newfoundland & Labrador shows about 5,500 direct and indirect jobs combined, while in PEI it’s only a few hundred.

Bottom line, it’s a huge industry vital to the economy of three of the four Atlantic provinces—but there’s always a trade off between industrial forestry and the natural environment and disagreement as to where the acceptable balance is. People seem to be increasingly asking, however, if we can do forestry better; if we are sacrificing too much in the way of wildlife habitat and our children’s legacy; if we have failed to achieve an appropriate balance between industry and the necessary sacrifice of some of our natural assets.

We’re throwing some light on the questions inside this issue.

And so, we invite readers to respond on this very important matter, pro or con, so we may all benefit from the discussion—the thoughts, the knowledge and the experience of others.

~ Linda & Jim Gourlay
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