Marcus Zwicker, General Manager of WestFor, presented to Digby Municipal Council and spoke about the company’s general practices.
“I’m sure you’re all aware of what WestFor may or may not be,” he said.
The presentation involved numbers regarding how much crown land WestFor cuts annually, and the percentage of clearcuts.
Over 2.1 million acres of land in Nova Scotia is owned by the province, meaning it is crowned land. WestFor manages 1.25 million acres of this. 52 per cent of wood from this territory in 2016 was harvested via clearcutting methods.
Zwicker also described the company’s main roles within which he listed harvesting trees, practicing silviculture – the growing and cultivation of trees – and road building, among others.
The company comprises 13 mills that came together and now function under one agreement. The company looks to sell Nova Scotia’s wood to markets such as New England and Europe, which Zwicker said are the most promising markets.
After the presentation, Councillor David Tudor asked Zwicker what he had to say to people alarmed by current methods. Zwicker replied, referencing points made during the presentation like the use rubber tires on power equipment and the outlawing of skidders on crown land to limit damage to terrain, as well as the guidelines set by the Department of Natural Resources that WestFor follows.
“We have certified people that go in and do a pre-assessment. We also follow DNR guidelines which specify what treatment to use block by block,” said Zwicker.
“These treatments are determined by condition of soil, level of regeneration, and makeup of forest, which all determine when we return to harvest again. It’s not an argument, sir, it’s a fact,” said Zwicker, in response to Tudor.
Clearcutting critic Jay Stone also attended the meeting. He says he doesn’t believe a word said at the meeting, and doesn’t trust these government guidelines followed by WestFor. Stone is an urban forester, and says the company doesn’t follow proper practice.
“I’ve seen what this company does, how it cuts forest, and I can tell you no one likes it,” said Stone.
The presentation comes after residents of Digby County submitted concerns regarding clearcutting methods on crown lands to the municipality.
Zwicker listed the “Old Natural Forest” as a challenge for WestFor due to its which dead trees and lack of silviculture treatments. Jay Stone wonders why these forests are even touched.
“These are beautiful old forests,” says Stone.
“Why do we have to cut them at all?”
A 10-year lease, allocating more fibre from crown lands, including both hardwood and softwood trees, to WestFor has received major backlash from Digby County residents. The lease agreement remains unsigned, according to Zwicker.