In May a group of contractors and forest management heads got together in Truro, N.S. to discuss reactivating the association. The impetus was the shortcomings of the Registered Buyers Program which historically provided silviculture funding for small private woodlots. It may not be known throughout Canada that 60-70% of N.S. woodlands are privately owned by 30,000 owners. Since 1998, funding has been generated by a combination of landowners paying a percentage of wood sold, receiving mills paying a percentage of wood bought and the province paying a percentage.
Initially, the program generated substantial funds for silviculture treatments. However, in recent years funding has shrunk with wood sales plummeting and with no significant increases in base rates in 14 years and rate reductions in some treatments, the Registered Buyer System is now seen by contractors and woodlot owners as badly broken.
Also significant is the projected 50% reduction in clear cutting legislated to occur in 3-4 years, which will require signifcantly more wood to come from private woodlots. Most woodlot owners will not harvest wood unless there are guarantees of followup treatments.
Most contractors and forest workers have said they are ready to give up the woods unless there are significant improvements to wages, profit margins, a reasonable length of season and timely delivery of the program.
The average age of silviculture workers is 49 years.
The gathering of 35-40 contractors voted to reactivate the association, elected a board of directors and put together a list of priorities.
The association has met with our proposals to improve the Registered Buyer System with DNR senior staff and is now waiting for time study research to justify our needs.
There's no question the industry is hurting bad. The last big recession of the early eighties moved our logging industry to serious mechanization and some believe with a shrinking workforce it is inevitable that silviculture will see similar changes. The other question is will signiicant cost increases to silviculture treatments kill the economic benefits of silviculture investments?
Looks like the association will be busy.