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'Health and sustainability of ours forests… at a great risk'

Letter to the Editor
Letter to the Editor


Dear Editor,

I write you today to express my urgent concerns about the forestry license for management districts 17 and 18 issued to Active Energy Group and/or its affiliated companies Timberlands International and Advanced Biomass Solutions (herein referred to as “the Company”).

The forest is a vital resource for Newfoundlanders living on the Northern Peninsula in general and particularly in Main Brook, a town with a deep and rich history in the forestry industry. I was fortunate enough to have built a business and made a career in the forests for nearly 60 years, have seen it all, and have an everlasting connection to the forests in the area. I believe that the health and sustainability of our forests and the communities that depend on them are at a great risk and am compelled to speak up.

It is questionable whether allowing the Company to exploit our forests for 20 years will provide any net economic benefit to the forests or residents of the Northern Peninsula in the long run. In my opinion, proceeding with this project with the Company without first performing provincially legislated due diligence is short-sighted at best and negligent at worst as it pertains to environmental impact and the financial stability of the Company. A preliminary glance of the Company’s 2016 financial statements show an extremely leveraged company has lost nearly $22M since it was incorporated in 1996, had over $10M in short-term liabilities due on revenues of only $19M, and paid out over $1.8M in interest alone.

In an article dated Sept. 29 in the Northern Pen, the Company CEO Richard Spinks is quoted as saying, “We think we’re now at the stage where we’ve done everything we need to do,” said Spinks. “And then it would be up to the government to decide.”

Nothing could be further from the truth! In a review of environment assessment registrations with the province, the only registrations pertaining to management areas 17 and 18, #1471, #1745, #1842, and #1905 occurred in 2010, 2014, 2016 and 2017 respectively and were submitted by either the Department of Natural Resources and Forestry and Agrifoods Agency. No registrations from Active Energy, Timberlands or Advanced Biomass Solutions have been submitted. Provincial legislation, “Environmental Assessment Regulations, 2003” clearly articulates that the type of business the Company wishes to conduct requires an environmental registration in Part III sub-section 30 and an up-to-date five-year management plan for both districts 17 and 18 (Zone 8) by the Department of Fisheries and Land Resources (DFLR). In my extensive searching, I have found no evidence of an environmental registration by the Company. It is absolutely critical that the province fulfill its legislated due diligence before selling off our resources to a foreign company to be exploited for 20 years of financial gain to the benefit of the few.

I am not here to be a barrier to economic development. In my 32 years in municipal government, economic development was critical to the success of our town. However, I cannot stand idly by while unsustainable, short-sighted attempts at economic development are put forth by the province. The negative economic and environmental consequences of clear-cutting would be disastrous. The evidence is abundant; just ask our neighbours in Nova Scotia. Animal habitats on land and water are degraded or destroyed, the soil loses moisture, fire risks go up, heavy metal (mercury) leachate more easily enters the water table, rivers and ponds, residents and outfitters lose access to generational hunting and firewood grounds, tourism suffers from a bleaker landscape, and we are left with a depleted forest in 20 years that takes 80 years to grow back. What benefits remain for our children and grand-children for the 60 years or more it will take to replenish the forest?

In my opinion, and I expect that of the majority of the residents on the Northern Peninsula, we are not willing to trade 20 years of 45 to 65 jobs and the depletion of our natural resources to the benefit of a private foreign corporation in exchange for all these negative outcomes. Trading 20 years of economic activity in forestry while risking the degradation and destruction of land and sea that supports ecotourism, wildlife and hunting, fishing and boating, firewood and regional identity and a 60-year recovery period would be a monumental injustice against the people of this region.

I am not here to convince you that awarding this license to Active Energy will lead to a bleak future for our forests and natural environment; that is what we have environmental legislation and scientists for. However, I am confident that when the Company submits an environmental registration for the project and management plan as required by legislation, an environmental impact statement will be required, and public consultations will occur that will validate that the long term negative consequences I list in this letter. I seek your support in ensuring that the Company is reminded that they have not yet “done everything [they] need to do.”

Leander Pilgrim

Main Brook

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