Province 'proposing to harvest' trees in former birch reserve

Province says they're proposing to harvest trees from former birch reserve near Gander but says there's no imminent plans.

Cabin owners fear cutting of trees would destroy pristine reserve

Cabin owners near Home Pond by Gander are asking the government to keep a birch tree reserve in place to protect the area from commercial and domestic cutting. (Chris Ensing/CBC)

The Newfoundland and Labrador government says its proposing to cut wood from a former birch reserve near Gander, despite concerns from cabin owners in the region.

In a statement, a spokesperson with the Department of Fisheries, Forestry and Agrifoods confirmed the decision to open the area for proposals to harvest trees.

"We are aware of concerns expressed by cabin owners," the statement said.

Cabin owners near the birch reserve are on the defensive after hearing at a forestry management meeting in August that a business was looking to cut the birch trees in the area. 

"The department promotes the use of visual landscape design techniques to reduce the impact on the visual resource while allowing commercial harvesting in support of rural business and the provincial economy. The department is working to find a balance that will support the use of the resource by all stakeholders."

Minister Steve Crocker told CBC Radio's Central Morning there were no immediate plans for the birch reserve near Gander. 

"This stand is included in the five year plan," said Crocker. "But as of right now there is no harvest imminent."

Steve Crocker is the Newfoundland and Labrador Fisheries and Aquacutlure Minister. (NL Government)

Derm Molloy said he and other cabin owners are concerned that cutting the trees could lead to destruction of the reserve.

"Once you get commercial cutting, then you'll have domestic cutting and everything else that goes with it," Molloy said. "Our birch stands, our pristine wilderness, will virtually be gone forever."

The birch trees run eight to 12 kilometres along the side of Home Pond near Gander, in the same area as about 30 cabins, with 40 more applications awaiting approval. There's also a commercial sap harvester nearby.

The reserve was put in place in 1997 by Corner Brook Pulp and Paper and has remained untouched for 19 years. 

Crocker said that any harvesting would go through an environmental assessment where the province would hear from stakeholders in the area.

Derm Molloy holds a photo of the birch trees on the edge of the reserve near Home Pond. (Chris Ensing/CBC)

"I don't know about destroying an environment," said Crocker. "But again their concerns, I'm certainly willing to listen to their concerns."

Some cabin owners met with Gander MHA John Haggie over the issue.

"[Haggie's] brought forward their concerns to me and we've had a great discussion about it," said Crocker.