Rumours have been circulating that a deal is about to reached in which the Newfoiundland and Labrador government would sell central Newfoundland timber rights to an offshore firm, Rentech, which would use the wood to produce fuel pellets for export.
An online report by CBC’s Azzo Rezori (Apil 13) and now a Telegram column by Russell Wangersky (April 15) have added to this speculation, but there has as yet been no word from the government that this might indeed be happening.
Let us hope it is not so.
According to wood pellet industry literature, the concept behind wood pellets for fuel is to make use of waste resulting from the production of value-added wood products such as finished lumber.
That makes sense both economically and environmentally.
In the absence of sufficient wood waste, however, the temptation must be there for profit-
driven companies and cash-strapped governments to short-circuit the process and turn valuable trees into fuel pellets.
Government has previously funded pilot projects that would produce wood pellets for fuel, none successfully. Those experiments should tell us something.
There is more to our forests than trees and the fuel potential they contain.
Successive governments in this province have subscribed to the principles of sustainable forest management (SFM), which respect forest ecosystem values while continuing to provide economic returns to communities.
After lengthy consultations in 2012 and 2013, a new SFM strategy is expected to be unveiled soon.
As a participant in those consultations, I heard nothing that would favour having large swaths of our forests turned into fuel pellets, or matchsticks, or any other such products that undervalue our forest resources.
We are fortunate in this province to have a heritage of still largely intact forests that have the potential to sustainably support multiple forest uses. However, large-scale fuel wood production is not one of them.
John D. Jacobs
Nature Newfoundland and Labrador