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LETTER: Pictou mill a pillar of economy


In a secret agreement with Northern Pulp, the provincial government agreed to pay for part of the mill’s environmental assessment of its new effluent treatment plant. - File
- File - Christian Laforce

It’s uncanny how some amateurs know so much more about forestry than those in the business. Or at least they think they do.

The Nova Scotia forest industry drives over $2 billion in annual economic activity. The closure of the Northern Pulp mill would be devastating, not only for the forest industry but for the province as a whole.

There are about 11,500 Nova Scotians deriving their livelihood directly or indirectly from forestry, and who are gravely concerned about the mill’s future. Many thousands of them could be about to lose their jobs. These are real jobs that feed, clothe, shelter and educate real people, their families and communities. They are not hypothetical jobs in an alternative reality.

As Nova Scotia’s principal buyer of private pulpwood and sawmill chips, Northern Pulp is the glue that holds the forestry sector together. Sawmills cannot buy saw logs without a market for chips and Northern Pulp buys almost all produced. And 30,000 private landowners, including those with high-value hardwood to sell, need a robust market for saw logs and pulpwood to derive value from their lands. Without Northern Pulp, the fallout will be widespread, immediate, permanent and catastrophic.

But the economy is only part of the story. What of the environment? Industry harvests less than 60 per cent of sustainable levels in Nova Scotia. Only 0.78 per cent of Nova Scotia forested land is harvested annually. More trees are lost through mortality than commercially harvested. Clearcutting has been visibly reduced through interim measures in anticipation of Lahey report implementation. These are quantifiable facts, not opinions.

Every pulp and paper mill in Canada (there are 89) discharges treated effluent into a body of water. All are monitored and required to meet environmental standards. Northern Pulp’s measured environmental performance is typical for a Canadian mill. It is far from the worst, as some extremists allege.

The mill has discharged treated effluent into the Northumberland Strait for over 50 years without adversely affecting the fishery. The new state-of-the-art facility with an engineered diffuser will be better still. None of the concerns leaked by cautious federal regulators represent true technical obstacles. With the government cleanup of Boat Harbour well behind schedule, the legislated deadline should be extended to allow the new system to be approved and constructed.

This is not economy vs. environment: we can have both. There is no reason to sacrifice thousands for a vocal few offering simplistic, naïve solutions. We all use paper, wood and forest products every day. The green economy will demand more of these renewables in place of hydrocarbons, plastics, concrete and steel. We should continue to make them here in Nova Scotia.

Steven Freeman, Bridgewater, 6th generation sawmiller

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