Nova Scotia

Forestry consortium combats criticism from private woodlot owners

The 13 companies that make up WestFor, which is licensed to log on western Nova Scotia Crown land, are taking heat from private woodlot owners who say they are flooding the market.

WestFor licensed to operate on western Nova Scotia Crown lands, accused of flooding market

Private woodlot owners in southwest Nova Scotia say WestFor is hurting their bottom line. (CBC)

The manager of a consortium of forestry companies that log on western Nova Scotia Crown land says his group isn't to blame for the struggles of private woodlot owners who say they can't find buyers.

The 13 companies that make up WestFor are taking heat from some private woodlot owners who say the consortium is flooding the market.

Marcus Zwicker, the general manager of WestFor Management Inc, which is licensed by the province to operate on western Crown land, admits forestry is experiencing "a serious contraction" because of fewer buyers.

But he said the problem isn't an oversupply of lumber for mills.

WestFor general manager Marcus Zwicker said the low-grade market is facing a glut. (CBC)

He said the companies within WestFor produce 90 per cent saw material, and only a small amount of low-grade pulpwood, which is used for heating or electricity. Zwicker said it's the low-grade market that's facing a glut.

"Today, if you look across the province, and my members in particular, very few of them have any amount of more than maybe two weeks worth of inventory in their yards," Zwicker told CBC's Information Morning.

He added that last year, WestFor bought more from private woodlot owners than it had in the past three years. 

This comes after concerns from private woodlot owners about WestFor's impact on their livelihoods, and calls from a municipality in Annapolis County for a moratorium on WestFor clear cutting on Crown land within its boundaries. 

"We've reduced our harvest," said Zwicker. "We've actively taken steps to work with both private woodlot owners and other NGOs to reduce the amount of pulpwood we're making."

'Almost putting us out of business'

Colin Hughes, who owns a forestry company near New Ross, said he sees trucks loaded with wood from Crown land heading to pulp mills. Meanwhile, he can't find a buyer for the wood he harvests on his private land. 

"It's almost putting us out of business," said Hughes, owner of G&C Hughes Enterprises Ltd. and Colin Hughes Forestry. 

Hughes said WestFor continues to harvest when Nova Scotia mills are buying less wood or shutting down altogether.

He works in the Christmas tree capital of the world where many families rely on occasional logging as a source of revenue, but said it's an issue for all Nova Scotians. 

Colin Hughes is worried about the glut of wood on the market. (Submitted by Colin Hughes)

"From one end of the province to the other, this is a very upsetting situation because you've got friends and neighbours and family and customers that support these local towns."

Reductions in wood cutting

WestFor is operating on a six-month extension of an interim license with the province of Nova Scotia, as the two sides currently negotiate a 10-year agreement. 

Zwicker said he's working on finding more companies who want to buy low-grade pulpwood, such as biomass plants.

Zwicker said he hears concerns from people like Hughes daily, but that the issue is larger than WestFor. 

"The amount of wood being cut in the province of Nova Scotia over the last 10 years has been reduced by almost 50 per cent from where it was in 2006," he said.

"And that's had a huge economic impact both on the private woodlot owners and the contractors, the silviculture workers, the tree planters, everybody, most of them which are small businesses that we deal with."

With files from CBC's Information Morning