NLFIA responds to Gros Morne National Park’s Early Intervention Budworm Control Program Involvement
The NL Forest Industry Association (NLFIA) recently welcomed the opportunity to provide stakeholder comments regarding Gros Morne National Park’s participation in the Healthy Forest Parnership, Early Intervention Budworm Control Program.
NLFIA represents 96 percent of the province's commercial forest resource production. Valued at $383 million annually and providing direct and indirect employment to over 5,000 people, the sector contributes significantly to the rural economy of Newfoundland and Labrador. Established in 2017, the Association's founding members believe collaboration and partnerships are key to strengthening, growing and transforming the forest industry in the province. Given the importance of forests to our industry, and to the well-being of our citizens, NLFIA strongly supports participation by all jurisdictions in the Early Intervention Budworm Control Program.
We provide the following comments for consideration:
The sector is gravely concerned with the impending spruce budworm infestation and the potential threat to forest inventory levels. The 1970’s outbreak resulted in 90 percent of productive forests of the Island being impacted with an estimated loss of 5,100,000 cubic metres. (Otvos & Moody, 1978)
Simply designating an area as “Protected” does not ensure a forest or ecosystem will remain in its current condition or continue to represent the values for which it was originally protected. Threats of forest pests like spruce budworm and hemlock looper, blowdown from excessive winds and increased fire risk from a warming climate are issues that require active management. Just because humans draw boundaries on maps, does not mean that these threats and natural disturbances will abide by those same boundaries.
Currently, there are areas of Gros Morne National Park that never fully recovered from the 1970’s outbreak. Areas that were once pristine boreal forest, now resemble grass-land savannahs. Coupled with knowledge that the park is still dealing with an introduced species (i.e. moose), we feel intervention and management is crucial to the future health of the ecosystem.
To date, Quebec alone has suffered moderate to severe defoliation on over 7 million hectares infested since 2006, and budworm populations have been on the rise across Atlantic Canada. Populations have been active in the Goose Bay area of Labrador since 2007 and island numbers were first detected in the Cow Head area in 2013. Gros Morne National Park is considered a crucial hot spot (Fisheries, Forestry and Agrifoods, 2021).
The National Park system in Newfoundland and Labrador has allowed other forest management activities to occur on its land base, to try and re-establish forests that were disturbed by the 1970’s outbreak and have not naturally regenerated. This includes moose hunting, scarification, prescribed burning and planting in Terra Nova National Park.
This is not the first time spraying has occurred in the park. In 1988 Gros Morne staff requested a spray program to be conducted by the province to try and combat high numbers of Hemlock Looper in and around their campgrounds. This was not a population suppression or foliage protection initiative, but rather an attempt to appease public pressure because of the numerous complaints received by park users regarding significant amounts of insect larvae dropping down on picnic tables, campers and camping equipment (Crummey, 2021).
The primary spray agent being proposed for this program is Bacillus thuringiensis kurstaki (Btk). Btk is a naturally occurring soil bacterium used to control caterpillars of pest species such as gypsy moth, spruce budworm and cabbage looper. It is federally registered and approved for use by Health Canada. It has been used globally for over thirty years and has no known toxic effects on humans, other mammals, honeybees, birds, or fish (Province of British Columbia, 2021).
Canada is recognized as a leader in sustainable forest management and resource stewardship. Forest management decisions and activities are founded on science-based research and established planning processes.
The spray program is not being proposed by the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador alone. The request comes from The Healthy Forest Partnership (HFP). The partnership began as a means of researching an early intervention strategy to control spruce budworm populations across Eastern Canada and the United States. It is spearheaded by the Canadian Forest Service and the University of New Brunswick, and includes participation from the provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador, and the State of Maine.
As stewards of the forest, our member companies are committed to the sustainable use of Our Forests. Sustainable forest management provides for the long-term health of forests while providing social and economic benefits for our residents.
Our FORESTS Our FUTURE