Activist suspects retribution in clearcutting around cabin

Barb Sweet
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Eugene Conway suspects his activism on forestry issues was behind clearcutting around his central Avalon cabin. — Submitted photo

Eugene Conway can’t help but wonder if his forest preservation protests brought down havoc in his own backyard.

Conway’s cabin, which he built in the 1970s with a permit on Crown land in the Clam River area of central Avalon Peninsula was once sheltered from the road by a stand of forest.

But not anymore.

“It was well protected from the main road coming in. Now when you drive in over the ridge, it’s sitting out in plain view,” he said, adding the clearcutting netted less than 20 cords of wood for the contractor.

He figures it took place sometime in October.

A friend of his was using the cabin

and told Conway what happened. Conway recently got in to take some photographs.

 “While I always expected Forestry officials would find some way to get back at me for my efforts in stopping the clearcutting of Lockyers Waters and Halls Gullies, I never thought Forestry bureaucrats would stoop so low as to clear cut the area around my cabin,” Conway told The Telegram.

Conway first became active in forestry issues in 1990 protesting a logging trail, where silt was being dumped in the Clam River.

In 1996 with the help of the International Association for Lichenology, he was instrumental in stopping a proposed clearcut logging of about 12 square kilometres in Lockyer’s Waters, an Avondale watershed about 40 kilometres from St. John’s. Conway was seeking to protect the rare and endangered tree lichen boreal felt lichen erioderma pedicellatum.

In 2006, he led the location of 2,000 endangered boreal felt lichen in the Fox Marsh area after foresty constructed a road into Halls Gullies, preventing clear cut logging of 35 square kilometres of old growth forest.

He said since the clearcutting around his cabin, it has been broken into, a problem he never had before, as it was sheltered from view.

“It’s an open target now,” Conway said.

There are a few trees left at the back of his cabin. Now in his 60s, Conway doesn’t expect the rest to grow back in his lifetime.

“I was disgusted at what had been done, acting so small and getting back at me. There was absolutely no need of it,” Conway said.

He said there’s no point in him complaining to Natural Resources.

“One time I would have kicked up one hell of a stink,” Conway said. “They wanted to get back at me and they got back at me.”

According to a spokeswoman for the Department of Natural Resources, a person applying for a licence to occupy a remote cottage does so on the condition forest management activities may take place in the area.

The department said Conway has a licence for a cottage in the commercial cutting area known as Mushroom Gully in Forest Management District 1. In this area, commercial cutting is approved under the department’s five-year sustainable forest management plan.

The spokeswoman said the department maintains a required 20-metre buffer around remote cottages.

 In this case, the department said it maintained a buffer exceeding the minimum requirements.

“The department appreciates, respects and acknowledges the efforts of individuals who advocate for conservation and forestry-related matters, and does not conduct forest management activities as retribution for forestry advocacy,” the emailed statement said.

Organizations: International Association for Lichenology, Department of Natural Resources

Geographic location: Clam River, Avalon Peninsula

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Recent comments

  • Bill
    February 13, 2012 - 16:43

    What? NL politicians & bureaucrats childish? Naaaaaaaaaaaaaa----

  • Paul
    February 13, 2012 - 09:48

    if established buffer zones have been maintained then his complaint is going no where. were any regulations violated? if not, its just too bad for him...I understand why he's upset but there isn't much to be done about it.

  • What a Load
    February 13, 2012 - 09:17

    Oh yeah, it's a great conspiracy. There's hundreds of remote cabins on the west coast going through the same thing so I guess the "Forestry officials" are getting back at them too, or did you think that they would treat you any differently than anyone else. Nothing like being at the center of the universe. I suppose you actually believe government staff are out there cutting the wood too, crawling out from behind their desks with chainsaw in hand.

  • Don II
    February 13, 2012 - 09:08

    I sympathize with Mr. Conway and suspect that he is probably right in his suspicions. It appears that the Government of Newfoundland is full of petty and petulant people who abuse their authority and power on a regular basis to punish the people in Newfoundland and Labrador who disagree with Government policy. It appears that in some cases, the bureaucrats dole out the punishment on their own initiative and other times they are instructed or ordered to punish somebody by politicians or their superior bureaucrats. I was recently informed about a old Government file from 1960 in which the Government of the day wanted to close down a business that was competing successfully with another company which was promoted and preferred by the Government of Newfoundland. The file showed that the Government sent the RCMP to measure the distance of the target business from the center of the highway. The target business premises was legally situated and nothing could be done to close the company down. Health and safety inspectors were sent to do a thorough "white glove" inspection on the target business. The target business passed the inspection so nothing could be done to close the company down. The next attack was when inspectors from the Finance department were sent to audit the target companies books. All was found to be in order and nothing could be done to close the company down. Next, the Justice department threatened to pursue protracted and expensive litigation against the target company on the basis of trumped up charges. Finally, the Government passed the protected highway regulations and attempted to make the application of the regulations retroactive to the target company. Eventually, the target company was closed. After 50 years, it is still business as usual inside the Government of Newfoundland. This is how the Government of Newfoundland operates on a daily basis. If the public really knew how their Government is run there would be serious consequences for politicians and bureaucrats. That is why the Government of Newfoundland will not allow real open, transparent and complete access to information. That is why the Government of Newfoundland will not allow the Auditor General complete access to the information regarding Government operations. It appears that there is a lot of unethical, improper and illegal activity going on perpetrated by the Government of Newfoundland. The time to clean up the House that Joey built is long overdue!

    • Grassy Knoll
      February 13, 2012 - 12:22

      You said you were "recently informed" about a file but did not actually see the file, so this is just a story. Given that it is about the Smallwood years it could be true but it's still just a story.

  • Kent
    February 13, 2012 - 09:00

    Small-minded people are attracted to bureaucracy like flies are attracted to dung. Way to go Department of Natural Resources, you must really be proud of yourselves today.