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New Brunswick - Can't see the Forest for the *spruce* Trees

The old saying we use to portray shortsightedness or the inability to look at the situation as a whole is often "You can’t see the forest for the trees".  Never has this phrase been more applicable than when it comes to herbicide application practices currently in New Brunswick.  On one hand, we have just experienced the lowest whitetail harvest in over 40 years in the province, a bewildering 4,313 deer by early tallies.  For comparison, in 1985, hunters in New Brunswick harvested 31,205 deer and the population continued to soar.  At the same time, we have CBC publishing articles and interviews detailing that the Whitetail Population in New Brunswick is at catastrophically low levels. 

DNR NB data with relation to fecundity of whitetail deer also paints a troubling picture. As you’ll see from the below table and chart, the percentage of adult (2 years old and older) does which are successfully impregnated each year in New Brunswick has been drastically reduced over the past 20 years as this data has been collected.  In 1994, 92% of all does aged 2 and older were successfully bred each fall, and as of 2014, that number has dropped to about 74%!  Given that there have been a couple of medical journals released which appear to show a potential link between glyphosate and sterility in humans and reproductive issues in some mammals, it demands questioning as to whether there are sterility issues appearing in the Whitetail deer of our province as well.  We would like to see this further investigation into the declining pregnancy rates to determine if this is more than a coincidence.

Percentage of Does BreedingSetting aside this newer data, as far back as 2009 DNR has been scientifically tracking the effects of the silviculture operation on the abundance of deer food in the province.  Earlier this year, during an interview with Rod Cumberland, he brought to light a report created in 2009 outlining these concerns.  This report, entitled Deer Technical Report Number 16, was obtained by WildernessObsession through an official Right To Information application.  The document we received, attached here, was very enlightening.  We recommend you read this document in its entirety, but here is an excerpt that you may find particularly enlightening:

“Only 13.7% (4/29) of all regenerating stands occurred as naturally regenerating cuts with large amounts of hardwood and shrub browse species available over an area of approximately 24,000 ha.  This translates to less than 3% of the total area in early successional stages supporting significant deer browse indicative of naturally regenerating stands”

“Based on … field studies, 62% of southern and 67% of northern Crown land cut blocks were regenerating as plantations, with little to no available deer browse, apart from sparse alder and birch along road ROW”

Deer Technical Report Number 16

It seems, however, that it’s not only the whitetail population that is at risk.  Scientists assert that as many as 9 species that currently live in New Brunswick are at risk of extinction due to the destruction of “Old Growth” forests because of the 21% increase in annual allowable wood harvest.  These species are marten, fisher, pileated woodpecker, northern flying squirrel, barrel owl, white-breasted nuthatch, northern goshawk, and hairy woodpecker.  Science has established that these species are entirely dependent on Old Growth forests.  Nine species that are being eradicated before our very eyes.

Obviously, the concern about increasing their already high wood harvest amounts go beyond simple numbers.  If we take a quick look at the below animation, you'll see that in some areas of the province, the only areas that haven't already been cut are those that have been off-limits.  We can't paint the picture any better than this:

New Brunswick’s Department of Natural Resources has an official position on herbicide application in the forest.  It can be found here.  Unfortunately, this article contains blatant untruths and misinformation.  Consider for a moment, the following is a direct excerpt:

“The World Health Organization (WHO) is among the independent, authoritative organizations that have studied glyphosate herbicides. WHO has found that these herbicides do not pose a risk to humans, wildlife or the environment.”

That’s a very reassuring sentence.  After all, the WHO is quick to call attention to any chemical they believe could possibly cause cancer in humans.  Unfortunately, it is just not true.  As you can see here, WHO lists Glyphosate as a Group 2A chemical, meaning that it “probably causes cancer”.  The technical definition for Group 2A chemicals is as follows, which you’ll certainly agree cannot truthfully be skewed to state “do not pose a risk to humans”:

“Group 2A: The agent is probably carcinogenic to humans.
This category is used when there is limited evidence of carcinogenicity in humans and sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity in experimental animals. In some cases, an agent may be classified in this category when there is inadequate evidence of carcinogenicity in humans and sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity in experimental animals and strong evidence that the carcinogenesis is mediated by a mechanism that also operates in humans. Exceptionally, an agent may be classified in this category solely on the basis of limited evidence of carcinogenicity in humans. An agent may be assigned to this category if it clearly belongs, based on mechanistic considerations, to a class of agents for which one or more members have been classified in Group 1 or Group 2A.”

Earlier this year, Health Canada completed a re-evaluation on the use of Glyphosate (Herbicide) and released a 350 page report.  This report was supposed to be a scientific review of the health and safety concerns of using the product.  Unfortunately, it appears to be a case of “political science”.  After reviewing the 350 page proposed re-evaluation, Certified Wildlife Biologist Rod Cumberland sent them the following letter.  This letter was sent to every MLA in New Brunswick as well as the non-political Regulatory Information Officer, and as of 6 months later, Rod has not received a single reply to his letter. 

Rod Cumberland to Health Canada

Those of us at WildernessObsession are deeply concerned that a letter with such valid concerns has been simply ignored with no response from any of its recipients.

New Brunswick’s largest forestry company, J.D. Irving Forestry division, was the chief lobbyist to achieve this increase in wood allotment for their benefit.  To their credit, the Co-CEO Jim Irving has publicly stated: “If there's good science to the contrary to what we're doing, by gosh, let's stop,” he said. “We'll stop right now and we back up. No problem.” 

The time has come to hold them to their words.   The science is mounting, and now is not the time to debate semantics of what he meant by “good science”.  We can only hope that a global leader such as Irving will not be afraid to lead the way to truly sustainable natural forests that benefit both the health and welfare of the animals living in their home province, but more importantly, the people!

In a time when the provincial finance minister has released a list of program cuts and tax hikes aimed at cutting $600 Million from the operating budget for New Brunswick, the mind reels at the fact that there is no mention of cutting the subsidization of herbicide spraying on crown land.  Both of the neighbouring jurisdictions, Quebec and Nova Scotia have saved millions by either banning or no longer subsidizing these activities, and for us to honestly be discussing REMOVING TEACHERS from our public school system with no mention of this option is bewildering.  To me, this shortsightedness is the very definition of “Can’t see the Forest for the Trees”.  If we’re not careful, it won’t be long before we no longer have our beloved Acadian Forests, we no longer have our wildlife and we no longer have our health; instead we’ll be left only with a province of monoculture softwood trees.

*Editor’s Note*

We are a group of independent outdoorsmen.  We are not endorsed by any group or organization and simply want to air our concerns.  We would welcome dissenting facts from experts in their field and will happily and openly discuss any aspect of what you’ve just read.  Feel free to utilize the contact form below to begin the discussion”


2015-11-28 09:42:29


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