Some people in KIngs County are raising questions about logging cuts since 2012 that carved out more than five square kilometres of forest.

Daimen Hardie takes in the view from a hilltop inside the clear cut area and says he's never seen anything like it.

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Daimen Hardie started expressing concerns when cutting began in Kings County in 2012. (CBC)

"I'm used to large clearcuts," said Hardie, whose group Community Forests International owns an organic farm and woodlot in the area. 

"In Ontario I planted trees in large, burned-out areas, But I've never seen anything this wide scale in such steep terrain."

From Hardie's vantage point, the cut stretches out in all directions. Small piles of branches and chips hint at what grew there, species like poplar, birch and pine. In some areas of steep terrain, whole trees were cut and left where they fell.

Between October 2012 and October 2013, contractors working on behalf of J.D. Irving Ltd. cut 562 hectares here, or approximately 5.6 square kilometres.

According to company officials most of the terrain was clear cut, 392 hectares, while 170 hectares was cut using two forms of selective logging.

Some of the land belongs to the company and some to another private citizen, but the vast majority of the cut area sits on Crown land.

Rules were followed

According to officials with the Department of Natural Resources, the maximum size for a clearcut in this area is 200 hectares.

Although the clearcut in this case exceeds that limit, buffer zones of land left in between mean the area is actually counted as five different clearcuts, none of which violate the rules. The largest single cut measures 105-hectares.

In an email to CBC News, Sheila Lagacé, a department spokesperson, said, "after verifying, the Department of Natural Resources concluded that the policies in place for harvesting on Crown lands."

Still, Lagacé said the department has already carried out one inspection on the site and have another planned for the near future. So-called forest compliance audits are conducted regularly in all areas of the province, to double check that companies harvesting on Crown Land follow the rules.

Neighbours say stream ran brown

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Susan Tyler says the brook in the area ran brown after cutting was carried out and heavy rain from Hurricane Sandy came through the area in 2012. (CBC)

Susan Tyler is the only permanent resident on the road leading in to the harvested area.

She and her late husband moved to Whaelghinbran Farm on the Negro Brook Road 40-years ago. In 2012, the couple sold the farm to Community Forests International, a deal that allowed the Tylers to continue living on the property.

Soon after, in July 2012, Tyler says she was contacted by J.D. Irving Ltd. and a meeting between herself, the company and Community Forests International was arranged.

The company informed the property owners of their plans for the Crown land and offered to select cut along the boundaries and refrain from spraying herbicide too close, which could compromise the farms organic certification.

Still, Tyler says she was worried.

"We had no idea what would happen, but they promised to make these bows to our type of forestry," she says.

In October, 2012 when harvesting began, Tyler says the operation went on 24-hours per day and continued through the heavy rains brought by Hurricane Sandy, causing significant damage to the roads leading up to the cut, eventually impacting the brook that runs through their property.

"We had some apprentices here and they were sleeping across the brook," she said.

"They came up to the house for breakfast and said, 'The brook is running brown.'

"It was mud," Tyler said.

This spring Tyler says the stream changed course, cutting a new channel through an old pasture and bypassing a farm pond that used to fill every spring.

Building silt barriers

Daimen Hardie says his group initially contacted the Department of Fisheries and Oceans in October 2012 with concerns about the brook.

He says subsequently the provincial departments of environment and natural resources were also notified.

"When that didn't turn up any immediate action we contacted JDI and the contractor that was working on-site. No one seemed to want to take any responsibility however and the situation was quite urgent, so we took things in to our own hands."

Hardie and his colleagues erected silt barriers near the damaged section of the road. They also planted species like alder and dogwood to prevent future erosion.

Both JDI and the Department of Natural Resources say they did not receive specific complaints about the brook.

Road damage that contributed to run off entering the Negro Brook occurred on a provincial owned road, the Negro Brook Road. JDI says it is is not authorized to make repairs to the road.

Company emphasizes planning, jobs

Although J.D. Irving Ltd. initially agreed to an interview for this story, the company decided instead to supply information by email.

Mary Keith, the vice-president of communications, says the total area cut in this case amounts to less that one per cent of all forest land harvested in the province every year.

In June 2012, a survey for rare plants was carried out and none were identified. The area was mapped and buffer zones set aside prior to any cutting.

Keith says wood from the site went to feed six facilities, including sawmills and pulp mills. Approximately 40 people were employed by the harvesting operation itself, while more than 1,000 people are employed at the mills that received the wood.

Already some of the 5.6 square kilometres has been replanted, and the remaining portions will receive seedlings this summer. Keith says up to six species of trees will be returned to the land, replacing the short-lived species that grew there. 

Keith said the area harvested was independently audited and found to be in full compliance with environmental requirements.

"As more of our harvest activity takes place in areas planted on New Brunswick Crown land over the last 30 years, the proportion of clear cutting will continue to reduce in favour of more selective harvesting," she says.

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J.D. Irving map for Sussex woodlands (Courtesy J.D. Irving Ltd.)

Corrections

  • - The total amount of area cut in this case amounts to less than 1-percent of the area harvested in NB every year. Earlier information from JDI indicated the number was 'less than 2-percent' which we originally reported.
    May 28, 2014 9:49 AM AT

Clarifications

  • - Road damage that contributed to run off entering the Negro Brook occurred on a provincially owned road, the Negro Brook Road. The company says they are unable and unauthorized to make repairs to this road. Although the Thomspon Road, which leads directly to the harvest area is also a public road, the company has done significant repair work there, subsequent to the harvesting, at their own expense.
    May 28, 2014 9:49 AM AT