RODDICKTON-BIDE ARM, N.L. — “Our logs stay here.”
That was the message Roddickton-Bide Arm gave the provincial government and Active Energy Group during a protest staged Monday afternoon, Jan. 14.
Some 100-200 residents of Roddickton-Bide Arm, including individuals from neighbouring communities, marched from the Green Moose Interpretation Centre to the forestry building to protest the lack of movement on re-opening a sawmill in the community.
All the while, carrying signs, they chanted their message, “Our logs stay here” demanding the right to have their own logs, in forestry area 18, cut into timber.
Roddickton-Bide Arm Mayor Sheila Fitzgerald, with speakerphone in hand, led the speakers.
“The forestry is our foundation, for all of our communities (on the northeast side of the Northern Peninsula) it’s important, it’s jobs, it means businesses staying, it means attracting new businesses, it means a chance for people who are living away to come, and ultimately it means keeping our young,” Fitzgerald said in addressing the protestors in the forestry building parking lot. “Without the forestry we have no foundation.”
Fitzgerald was joined by other municipal representatives from Conche and Englee, loggers and business leaders from the community who spoke during the proceedings.
Trevor Fillier, president of the Northern Peninsula Loggers Association, gave an impassioned speech.
“If we don’t cut the timber at our sawmill there’s nothing moving!” a fiery Fillier declared to cheers from the crowd. “There’s other local pulp wood being sold of this coast and it’s got to stop.
“It’s time for something to be done”
After having their say, the protestors planted their signs right at the front door of the forestry building before leaving.
Some signs called for investigations into the management of forestry areas 17 and 18, others reiterated the demand that timber is cut in Roddickton-Bide Arm.
The Department of Fisheries and Land Resources awarded two five-year permits — for each of forestry district 17 and 18 — to Timberlands International Ltd, a subsidiary of Active Energy Group, to cut wood and develop wood pellets.
The pellet plant was announced for Hawke’s Bay and the product will be shipped to markets in Poland.
The permits stipulate that 25 per cent of each permit’s volume will be utilized as sawlogs and made available to the local sawmill industry.
But that has not been no relief to residents of Roddickton-Bide Arm, who have been without an operating sawmill since the Holson Forest Products sawmill and plant closed in 2012.
In December, Richard Spinks told The Northern Pen that Roddickton-Bide Arm was still a part of the company’s plans.
“Roddickton is perfectly located in the centre of area 18,” he said at the time. “We have had, for more than 18 months, we’ve had a plan … that they would cut their permits and our permits, and we would contract them to do so in our permit area. And all of us must have a home for our sawlogs.”
It’s not economical to truck the sawlogs from Area 18 to sawmills off the Northern Peninsula, said Spinks.
He told The Northern Pen that Active Energy was working with Holson to bring the sawmill back to life.
However, there has been no update on the future of the mill or on discussions between Holson and Active Energy since then.
Residents of Roddickton-Bide Arm and the surrounding area remain uncertain they will see any timber cut at the mill.