SaltWire E-Edition

How does the forest industry work?

DON CAMERON Don Cameron is a registered professional forrester.

If you or a family member are not involved in the forestry sector, it may be one of those industries that you know very little about. You may have some understanding or assumptions based on bits and pieces of information you have picked up over the years. The following is a very brief overview of some forestry facts of Nova Scotia.

First, it is useful to understand that due to our long history of land distribution, approximately 70 per cent of the province is owned by private individuals, companies and other organizations. So, with only the remaining 30 per cent being Crown land, and a significant amount of that being parks, federal land, or protected areas, private land plays a crucial role in ensuring a sustainable forest resource and industry. There are approximately 30,000 individuals and families that own approximately 50 per cent of the land base.

The total amount of protected area has increased over the last several years to the current amount of approximately 13 per cent. The parks and protected areas do not allow for any timber extraction or other extractive uses.

Over the years, when a tree was harvested in the forest, on average, approximately 70 per cent of the timber was trucked to sawmills. Of that, about 40 per cent was sawn into lumber, and 40 per cent went into chips that were then transported to the pulp mill to be used for making kraft pulp from where it was sold globally for many value-added paper products. The remaining material at the sawmill would be about 14 per cent bark and six per cent sawdust, both of which are usually used as some form of fuel, mulch or agricultural product.

The remaining 30 per cent of timber harvested, of the poorer quality, would go directly to the pulp mill. Approximately 80 per cent of that would be turned into chips; 14 per cent bark, and four per cent fine material. On average, 50 per cent of the harvested tree ended up at the pulp mill to be turned into pulp.

The loss of the Northern Pulp pulp mill has had a dramatically negative impact on the forest industry. Obviously, if the lone pulp market is eliminated for 50 per cent of the wood that is harvested, it is going to mean that operations will have to be radically changed and a large segment of the market and revenue stream gone. Because only about 40 per cent of harvested timber is sawlog quality material, it means that the poorer quality timber has to go to a different market. On the flip side, if only the best-quality logs are harvested, it creates poorer quality, high graded forests, the poorer quality trees dying and falling in large numbers, and is not a solution for the 40 per cent portion of the better quality timber that doesn’t produce lumber that has historically been chipped and sent to the pulp mill.

The short-term “COVID bump” that created soaring lumber prices over the late winter-to-spring period has eased and is expected to continue to decrease. This will further exacerbate the poor timber market situation for the forestry companies, contractors and woodland owners. The closure of the pulp mill has been very challenging for most of the forestry sector. This sector is located throughout the province, mostly in rural areas, and forms part of the backbone of the economy. The health of the forestry sector includes a large spinoff impact from the industry, including forestry companies and staff, private contractors of various types, trucking companies and drivers, mechanics, equipment and automotive suppliers, service garages, petrochemical suppliers, grocery stores, restaurants, and other service and product providers.

As a result of the loss of the pulp mill market, many forestry companies have decreased their amount of forest harvesting, downsized, laid-off workers, sold machinery, delayed investment and decreased silviculture investment. The provincial silviculture program is largely based on the amount of funding or silviculture work provided by forestry companies who are required by law to re-invest in silviculture treatments based on the amount of harvesting completed on privately owned land.

There has been, and continues to be, a need for growth in value-added timber products in Nova Scotia that would provide a higher financial return for timber to the entire supply chain, similar to some Scandinavian countries. Maybe now is the time for such foresight and investment.

“The closure of the pulp mill has been very challenging for most of the forestry sector. This sector is located throughout the province, mostly in rural areas, and forms part of the backbone of the economy.”





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