Clearcuts around Mount Carleton an eyesore to hikers, a teaching exhibit to industry
Clearcuts as far as the eye can see greet tourists at Mount Carleton Provincial Park
On a clear day, you might see 10 million trees from the top of Mount Carleton, according to a hiking map provided by the Mount Carleton Provincial Park in northern New Brunswick.
But these days, the panoramic view from the highest peak in the Maritimes also reveals nearly 100 clearcuts, tracts of land shorn of trees.
"It's an eyesore for sure," said Michel Gallant of Bathurst, hiking down from the summit with his family.
"You see this beautiful lake, and you see these beautiful mountains, but they're all bald. So, it's all brown instead of green."
Instead showcasing an untouched and natural vista, Mount Carleton now offers a bird's-eye view of the province's busy forestry industry, Gallant said.
"I find that the clearcuts are getting really big, and they're getting really close together," he said. "I find there's no old growth left."
Clearcuts now run right up to the park border. The clearcuts are plainly visible just by using satellite maps available online.
At 820 metres, Mount Carleton offers visitors a unique perspective of northern New Brunswick.
But only the eastern side, over the length of the park that includes Bathurst Lake and Camp Lake, offers a view that isn't marked by clearcuts that encroach on the borders of the 174-square-kilometre park.
A dozen tourists interviewed at the summit described the cuts as "ugly," "brutal" and "disappointing."
"We certainly noticed a lot [of clearcuts] on the way here and on the way up the mountain and here at the top especially," said Jeff Jardine of Fredericton, who hiked the mountain with his 10-year-old daughter and eight-year-old son.
"It is a bit of an eye-opener. I think ideally you wouldn't be able to see any clearcuts from the top of the mountain."
Clearcuts are not just visible from the summit, but throughout parts of the park, including from lakes, camping sites, and hiking trails.
"Instead of looking at forest you're looking at clearcuts, and it's very disturbing if you are a tourist or anybody in the park," said Susan Mulherin, the president of the Friends of Mount Carleton conservation group.
Last Wednesday, Mulherin said, she brought friends from Calgary and Ottawa to Bathurst Lake inside the park to conduct an annual survey of the loon population.
"They were just astounded," Mulherin said. "They couldn't believe the amount of clearcuts around that lake."
In 2005, she said, an attempt was made to have the immediate forest surrounding the park protected from logging. But during a camping trip the following year she found those woods being clearcut.
"There were three lumber companies cutting day and night," Mulherin said. "So, we could not only hear the machinery cutting all day, we could also see the lights at night on the ridges around the cabin, which was certainly not what we'd signed up for."
Stephanie Bilodeau, a spokesperson for the Department of Tourism, Heritage, and Culture, told CBC News that Mount Carleton Provincial Park management once requested the permits allowing cutting around the park be reduced.
The clearcuts had become a common complaint among park visitors. But according to Bilodeau, the park's plea was rejected by the Department of Natural Resources.
CBC News requested an interview with the Mount Carleton park manager or anyone else with the Department of Tourism, Heritage, and Culture but was told no one was available.
Three separate forestry companies hold licences for logging around Mount Carleton Provincial Park: Twin Rivers Paper Co., Fornebu Lumber Co. Inc., and AV Group.
According to forest company representatives, the logging operations around Mount Carleton provide a look at "a working forest" and showcase how important the industry is to the province.
"I think it's a golden opportunity at the park to have some sort of interpretation of what's happening on that site," said Mike Legere, the executive director of Forest NB, a forest industry advocate that represents the three companies operating near Mount Carleton.
"So the public and tourists can see the core relationship or the co-existence of intensely and semi-intensely managed forests with the park itself."
Given that the summit is the highest point in a small province, people are bound to see industry operations from that vantage point.
"I would not call it embarrassing," he said. "I would call it an opportunity for people to learn what's happening. I would argue that many of the people visiting that park, probably their livelihoods are gained by what they see just outside of the boundaries of the park."
Legere said clearcuts are designed to simulate natural occurrences, such as budworm infestation and forest fires, and are necessary to sustain forests.
"We grow more wood per hectare than any other jurisdiction in Canada, and that's a testament to good sustainable forest management," said Legere.
Legere's arguments are echoed by the province.
"We don't manage the forest for view ways," said Mike Holland,minister of energy and resource development.
"When you stand at such a high vantage point, yeah, you can you can see almost to Miramichi, so there will be clearcuts that are that are visible that are there," he said.
Holland said he was not minister when the park requested the province restrict logging permits near the park and couldn't speak on the decisions made before his time.
But he promised more conservation areas in a province that has been criticized for protecting less than five per cent of its landmass.
"We've got significant, significant, growth projected for conservation and protected natural areas and our waterways and our buffer zones," Holland said. "And at the same time ensuring that industry continues as well."
The charity says the province will face catastrophic nature loss if it doesn't conserve more land.
But where the conserved land will be, and whether it will be near Mount Carleton, remains to be seen.
"I don't have any particular geographical areas identified on the map," Holland said. "However, I was just in a meeting, like literally the last meeting I was in, where we look north, south, east and west and mapped out potential areas for the province where we can increase conservation.
"And there are great spots everywhere.
No forestry operations are taking place within the park itself, Holland said.
Despite the obvious logging, some tourists still find the view breathtaking.
"To me, it's still really, really beautiful," said Lucie Mercure.
And others don't expect the clearcuts to stop.
"It's a necessary evil," said Jardine. "In a province like New Brunswick, where we're struggling to generate work and industry, we take what we can get."