Residents livid with glyphosate say they'll chase spray helicopters out of their communities
Foes of controversial herbicide attempted to intercept spray helicopters Tuesday morning
On Monday night, Peter Ganong noticed a pair of helicopters had landed just across the road from his house in Brockway, about 56 kilometres north of Saint Andrews.
Ganong lives by the Brockway airport. The patch of pavement on Route 3 is riddled with strawberry plants and may not seem deserving of "airport" as a designation, since it's only used occasionally.
But Ganong said the arrival of those helicopters was no less concerning than if military jets had landed. He ducked into the nearby woods and started to photograph workers preparing to spray the herbicide glyphosate the next morning.
"I've strongly considered moving out of New Brunswick because of this," Ganong said.
He sent the pictures he took to friends and neighbours, who shared them on social media. The next morning about a dozen people showed up at the Brockway airport to confront the pilots and workers.
But the clash Ganong and his neighbours were expecting never materialized. All they heard was the sound of the helicopters leaving just before the group arrived.
That left a runway of people seething. And they're vowing to run any more spray operators out of their community.
"Year after year, there's less fish, there's less birds, there's less bugs, there's less bees," said Ganong. "It's just not the forest it used to be."
"I just see it gradually disappearing. It's screwing up the ecosystem."
Ganong has lived in Brockway for two decades, and had a family hunting camp for years before that.
He doesn't consider himself an activist, but when surrounded by like-minded strangers Tuesday morning, he admitted that might be changing.
"It's the first time I've met most all these people," said Ganong
Among those outraged by the spray operation are people from different backgrounds and nearby communities.
"This is not right, it's not fair," said Cynthia Howland, a grandmother from the Passamaquoddy First Nation. "Politics aside, end of the day, it's wrong. It's absolutely wrong."
She became tearful as she thought of how the spraying had disrupted her hopes for this year.
"This was going to be the first year that I harvested traditionally. This was going to be the first year that I was going to go out and gather my own food. I will not do that now; I will not feed that to my grandchildren."
The land being sprayed is unceded territory, she said.
"This is the territory that my ancestors walked on. This very dirt is my ancestors."
Also among the protesters were two candidates from separate political parties, who ran unsuccessfully in Monday's provincial election.
"We've had enough of the spraying," said John Gardner, who ran for the Liberals in Saint Croix before being dropped from the party slate. "So we came out here this morning to not just support the people in this area, but people around the province."
Kimberly Reeder, who ran for the Green Party, said there are better ways to manage forests.
"We can do that with [forest] thinners, which would create way more jobs than spraying ever has."
Several in the group questioned the timing of the spraying, taking place the morning after the Progressive Conservatives won a majority government. They were the only major party that didn't promise to ban the spraying of glyphosate.
Those who found themselves at the Brockway airport Tuesday morning were stressed about going another four years without a ban being considered.
Some believe the election may have served as a cover for the spray operation near their home, but those working with the forestry industry say that's not how the process works.
It takes months to apply for and approve a section of Crown land for spraying.
"It's mind-boggling that they would be outraged that this treatment was happening when it's been advertised for months and [went] through all the regulatory requirements," said Mike Legere of Forest NB, an organization that represents some of the forestry companies that commission the spraying by Forest Protection Ltd.
"But what concerns me more is how ridiculous this interpretation of the timing of the spray. To suggest that it's some sort of conspiracy plot to try and match our desire to manage forest land with some political platform
"It's absolutely ridiculous."
Who is spraying
Signs in the area did state that the area was scheduled to be sprayed Tuesday with glyphosate by FPL, or Forest Protection Ltd., for AV Nackawic.
Forest Protection owned in a partnership with the province and several forestry companies. Directors include Mike Holland, New Brunswick's minister of Natural Resources, Tom MacFarlane, the deputy environment minister, Jason Limongelli, vice-president of J.D Irving Ltd., Kevin Topolnski of Acadian Timber Corp, Kevin Larlee, vice-president fibre supply and government relations with AV Group, Andy Barrieau with the Fornebu Lumber Co., Terry Noble of Twin Rivers Paper Co., Mike Legere of the New Brunswick Forest Products Association, and several Natural Resources Department staff.
Legere said anyone has the right to peacefully protest spraying, but he cautioned against letting things escalate.
The glyphosate opponents who were unable to confront workers on Tuesday said they're preparing themselves for next time.
"It's time to get prepared," said Reeder. "So once we're done today, well, one of the things we decided to do now is have go bags ready."