Although instances of their use have dropped significantly over the years, herbicides remain an important tool for regenerating harvested timberlands. Here’s why.
After the trees are harvested and an area is prepared for reforestation, the nutrient-rich soil and ample sunlight provide ideal conditions not only for timber regeneration, but for the growth of many other plant species. Herbicides help keep certain “pioneer” species like Canada blue-joint grass, raspberry, and trembling aspen from overtaking newly-planted tree seedlings like spruce and pine species.
Areas are typically only sprayed once, and most often that is during the first five years postharvest, either prior to or after planting seedlings.
Ensuring the health and safety of employees and neighbors is critical for Resolute and others conducting regeneration activities. Environmental considerations are also at the forefront of our approach to the sustainable and responsible management of the forests under our care. The spray program is one of the tools that we use to ensure the success of our regeneration initiatives and is conducted in compliance with government approved forest management plans. Spraying is only conducted where necessary, and only approved herbicides are applied by experienced and qualified experts.
Natural regeneration versus herbicide use
Since all of the areas that are harvested in Canada must be promptly regenerated, managing pioneer species is a recurring challenge. And there are different methods of dealing with it. Some of these spaces are naturally regenerated and some re-grow with the help of herbicides. In Ontario in 2013, for example, 46% of the harvested areas regenerated without the use of herbicides.
- If some areas regenerate without it, isn’t that proof it’s unnecessary?
The objective is to regenerate to a specific standard. Different areas see varying amounts of success depending on the method of control used. And many different methods have been tried, including laying down mulch mats, bringing in grazing livestock and even developing an indigenous fungus as a microbial biocontrol agent.But the fact is, nothing is as effective as herbicides.
And if herbicides are not used, some areas see reduced crop growth and even outright crop failure. Just like a vegetable garden in your yard, if a competing species is left unchecked, it can overwhelm the seed crop. This happened in Nova Scotia forests where herbicide use was banned. A survey published in 2007 based on 101 plantations surveyed in the summer of 2005 found that most (87%) of their conifer plantations in the area failed outright and nearly all (97%) failed to meet the generally accepted regeneration standards 6-8 years after harvest.
As a simplifying generalization, there are no alternatives that are as cost-effective, efficient or reliable as modern chemical herbicides in many forest regeneration scenarios. In fact, when the environmental impacts and risks of various site preparation techniques are weighed, herbicides can be far less dangerous than site preparation with large machinery, fires and manual brush clearing.
- Why must herbicides be applied aerially? Wouldn’t it be better to have crews apply it at ground level?
The areas scheduled for herbicide application average around 200 ha per day and are typically very remote. Aerial application of these products is not only economical, it is better than sending crews in, which can be disruptive to an area that is regenerating. As for accuracy, technologically advanced systems are used to minimize risks of drift outside of the target areas. And legislative requirements and guidance systems ensure that water-bodies next to aerially treated sites are protected by standing timber buffers.
In Ontario, Resolute only conducts aerial applications. We rely exclusively on helicopters, which increases the control over spray areas as compared to a fixed wing plane and provides precision when working with smaller areas.
- What is the most common herbicide used? What are its effects?
There are a few different types, but the most common active ingredient is glyphosate. Herbicides with glyphosate are some of the most thoroughly tested in the world. Their history of safe use is supported by one of the most extensive worldwide human health, crop residue and environmental databases ever compiled on a herbicide product.
Glyphosate is particularly effective at controlling competing vegetation in plantations of conifer trees, the dominant commercial tree species harvested throughout the boreal in Canada.
It also has a relatively favorable environmental behavior profile, which means that it doesn’t linger in soils, vegetation or water, it doesn’t accumulate in animals, and it has a very low potential to leach into ground water. It also has a relatively low innate toxicity to humans and wildlife.
- But is it really safe?
Based on the extensive body of scientific literature and studies, as well as information we have received from Health Canada, we believe that glyphosate-based herbicides are safe. They have an excellent fifty-plus year safety record, and their use has been approved by Health Canada.
In a recent re-evaluation of the use of glyphosate-based herbicides, Health Canada concluded that “products containing glyphosate do not present unacceptable risks to human health or the environment when used according to the proposed label directions.”
Over 800 studies have demonstrated that glyphosate does not cause cancer, birth defects, DNA damage, nervous system effects, immune system effects, endocrine disruption or reproductive problems. In addition, numerous field studies on this topic have been undertaken in Canadian forest ecosystems. What they found is perhaps best understood in terms of what glyphosate does NOT do:
- It does NOT kill all other plants to create a single-species forest plantation.
- It does NOT poison birds, fish, aquatic invertebrates, small mammals, large mammals or amphibians.
- And it does NOT cause a reduction in soil microbial populations or significantly impair their function.  In fact, some studies even recommend the use of this treatment to create foraging conditions that support woodland caribou over moose.
- What about the recent comments published by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer?
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) of the World Health Organization (WHO) rated glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans,” the same category (2A) they use to classify sunshine, aloe vera, cell phones, coffee and being a barber.
Health Canada addressed this announcement in their re-evaluation decision published on April 13, 2015:
The WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) recently assigned a hazard classification for glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans”. It is important to note that a hazard classification is not a health risk assessment. The level of human exposure, which determines the actual risk, was not taken into account by WHO (IARC). Pesticides are registered for use in Canada only if the level of exposure to Canadians does not cause any harmful effects, including cancer.
- Can you eat blueberries that have been sprayed with glyphosate?
In the consultation documents from Health Canada, it was found that products containing glyphosate acid are unlikely to affect your health when used according to label directions and that dietary risks from food and water are not of concern.
The recommendation to avoid eating berries in posted areas after spraying with a glyphosate-based herbicide does not necessarily reflect a high level of risk, but rather is invoked as a simple extra precaution with no substantial down-side, according to Natural Resources Canada. In following years, berries can be picked and eaten. Even without washing the fruit, the presence of the substance naturally diminishes at an exponential rate to approximately 50% of the initial value after 13 days and to 4% of the initial value after 61 days.  One study found that, a year after treatment with glyphosate, regrowth was normal and there was no effect on blueberry yield the season following treatment. , 
A recent survey of blueberry farmers in Maine showed that 76% of the growers surveyed use herbicides, such as glyphosate for weed management. In fact, a significant portion of growers who self-identified as “no-spray” or organic used the herbicides glyphosate and sethoxydim, (30% and 15%, respectively) showing that some farmers may not consider herbicides as “pesticides,” as they are often less toxic to vertebrate wildlife and human beings than insecticides and fungicides.
Resolute continues to monitor the research. We believe, however, that our use of herbicides as part of our sustainable forest management strategy is appropriate and evidence-based. It is also important to remember that Ontario’s forest management regimes and regulations are among the most stringent in the world and that Resolute supports and complies with them.
For more information:
 Nicholson, J. 2007. Survey of plantations established between 1998-2000 (6-8 years of age) on eastern Crown land without herbicides. Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources, Forest Management Planning, Forest Research Report 83, 27 p. (http://novascotia.ca/natr/library/forestry/reports/REPORT83.PDF)
 Giesy, John P., Stuart Dobson, and Keith R. Solomon. “Ecotoxicological Risk Assessment for Roundup® Herbicide.” Reviews of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology (2000): 35-120.
 Mihajlovich, Milo, and Peter Blake. “An evaluation of the potential of glyphosate herbicide for woodland caribou habitat management.” Alces 40 (2004): 7-11.
 http://cfs.nrcan.gc.ca/pubwarehouse/pdfs/32344.pdf Page 4
 Roy, D. N., et al. “Uptake and persistence of the herbicide glyphosate (Vision®) in fruit of wild blueberry and red raspberry.” Canadian Journal of Forest Research 19.7 (1989): 842-847.
 Hodges, Laurie; Talbert, Ronald E.; and Moore, J. N., “Effects of Glyphosate on Highbush Blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum L.)” (1979). Agronomy & Horticulture — Faculty Publications. Paper 401. http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/agronomyfacpub/401
 Hanson, E. J. “Response of highbush blueberries to postemergent herbicides.” IX International Vaccinium Symposium 810. 2008.
 Farmer Survey: Rose, A., F.A. Drummond, D.E. Yarborough, and E. Asare. 2013. Maine wild blueberry growers: A 2010 economic and sociological analysis of a traditional Downeast crop in transition. Maine Agricultural & Forest Experiment Station Miscellaneous Report 445
 Herbicides are less toxic: D’Appollonio, J., D. Yarborough, and F. Drummond. 2010 Maine wild blueberry pesticides chart. University of Maine Cooperative Extension. http://www.extension.umaine. edu/blueberries/files/2010/06/2010PesticideChart3-2010forWeb.pdf
Addressing the conservation of woodland caribou in Canada: A work in progress
Woodland caribou is an emblematic species of the boreal forest. It is such a national symbol in Canada that it is featured on the 25 cents piece and has been for decades. Due to the observed decline of populations of woodland caribou over several years of monitoring in several regions in Canada, the species was added to the Canadian government’s list of threatened species in 2002 . Since that time, the country’s provinces, First Nations, communities and the forest products industry have collaborated to take action for the long-term recovery and survival of this noble creature.
Three quarters of the caribou’s territory has already been safeguarded
- In Quebec, 76 percent of the caribou’s range is off limits to harvesting
- In Ontario, 77 percent of the caribou’s range is off limits to harvesting
Caribou, Predators and Habitat Change
Caribou protect themselves from predators, such as wolves, coyotes and bears, by spreading out over large areas of land. While you might find two to three moose per square kilometer (250 acres) in the boreal, you’ll generally find just one to two caribou per tract of 100 square kilometers (25,000 acres).
This strategy of spreading the population over vast regions makes it much less likely that a caribou will encounter a predator, which allows the species to grow and propagate without having to constantly be on the lookout to avoid or escape being hunted. In many cases, caribou fall victim to wolves, coyotes and bears who are actually hunting for bigger game, like moose. Woodland caribou, unlike their tundra dwelling relatives, don’t assemble in large herds that make it easy for wolves to hunt. In addition, because of their smaller size, compared to moose, they don’t offer as much of a meal when they do happen to be caught.
When tracts of forest are harvested, low vegetation, herbs and new trees quickly colonize the fertile and newly open area. This type of ground cover provides a rich and abundant source of forage, which attracts several herbivores species, such as moose. As a consequence of the influx of moose, wolves, coyotes and bears also find their way to the area in order to hunt. As the number of predators increases, the likelihood of one of them running into a caribou also goes up, which eventually leads to reduced caribou populations.
Resolute protects land to increase caribou habitat
In order to ensure that caribou habitat remains safe and abundant well into the future, Resolute is promoting forest management practices that target large tracts of land while leaving sufficient forested areas to meet the caribou’s habitat requirements. The areas identified for caribou conservation must be large enough to allow caribou to rely on their dispersion strategy to reduce encounters with predators. In addition to this approach, we have also supported several initiatives to set aside additional territory, some of which are currently under discussion as part of the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement (CBFA).
Up to now, Resolute has made the following contributions in land toward the conservation of woodland caribou habitat:
- In Northeastern Ontario, the Company, along with CBFA partners, supports a proposal for an additional caribou conservation area covering almost 8,348 square kilometres on the Abitibi River Forest (3,223 square miles).
- In Northwestern Ontario, predecessor companies of Resolute Forest Products contributed some of their tenure lands for the creation of Wabakimi Provincial Park, which covers an area of 8,920 square kilometers, and is one of the largest parks in the province.
- In Quebec, Resolute was among the first companies to propose and implement an action plan for caribou. The Company also contributed to the government process to identify protected areas suitable for caribou protection.
Safeguarding caribou with sound management
With over 75% of the caribou range located north of the managed forest, we rely on numerous strategies, best practices and guidelines developed specifically for caribou conservation to provide suitable habitat for woodland caribou within the 25% of the range that falls in the managed forest. Ontario’s Caribou Conservation Plan is one example of a government guideline supporting caribou sustainability. These strategies, which are built into our forest management plans, focus on providing habitat for caribou across the landscape on a long-term basis, and minimizing disturbances to caribou populations by using the following guidelines:
- The development of road management strategies in each forest management plan identifies the location of roads, building techniques and closing procedures with caribou conservation in mind.
- Areas that are important to caribou, such as caribou calving lakes, are prioritized for protection.
- Conifer regeneration, which will result in suitable caribou habitat in the future, is prioritized in accordance with habitat protection decisions.
- Harvest operations across the landscape are scheduled over time, in order to minimize overall disturbance levels for caribou populations.
The 150-Year Plan
Perhaps the most widespread approach to harvesting, is known as a “dynamic caribou habitat scheduling,” where areas in which an optimal harvesting sequence can be carried out over a span of 100 to 150 years are identified, so that suitable caribou habitat is constantly maintained in a caribou population range. By applying this technique, large areas of suitable habitat are continuously maintained for caribou across the landscape. These caribou “deferrals” move over in the region where and when previously harvested areas have acquired the desirable caribou habitat attributes. It is only when the caribou have other areas in which to safely move, that those previously deferred areas can be harvested. This approach concentrates harvest operations in defined areas, in order to minimize disturbance levels at any given time for caribou populations across the broader range of the species.
Resolute has clearly expressed its commitment to sustaining woodland caribou populations with a combination of sustainable forest management practices, conservation of caribou habitat and the application of dynamic habitat scheduling in harvested areas to minimize disturbance and maintain sufficient caribou habitat across the landscape. Our company will continue to prioritize the conservation of this noble creature and national symbol well into the future, while also seeking additional partners and innovative approaches to further benefit woodland caribou populations across Canada.
There are about 17,000 First Nations people working in Canada’s forest products sector. Maybe that’s why it shouldn’t be a big surprise that the investments we’re making in Northwestern Ontario represent $100 million in new business for six First Nations partners.
A Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) was officially signed in Thunder Bay, Ontario, on February 10th, 2015, that sets out a framework for negotiating business contracts related to these investments.
Contracting aboriginal businesses
Originally signed in June 2013, the agreement has yielded contracts for a number of services including:
- Construction at Resolute’s sawmills,
- Transportation for hauling chips, biomass and lumber from the sawmills,
- Yard service to manage the loading and unloading of logs, lumber and by-products, and
- Harvest and delivery work.
Ramping up activities in Northwestern Ontario
We’ve been busy in Northwestern Ontario. There’s the construction of a new sawmill in Atikokan, the upgrade and restart of the idled Ignace sawmill, the production capacity increase at our Thunder Bay sawmill, and the addition of a wood pellet plant at the Thunder Bay site.
To date, we’ve invested C$90 million in these operations. And we expect these investments to create 200 new Resolute jobs and another 200 woodlands operations jobs, in addition to significant indirect employment.
But this agreement goes beyond numbers. It truly underscores the commitment Resolute and its operating communities are making to work together to create jobs and economic opportunity for Northwestern Ontarians.
Supporting First Nation economic goals
“Speaking for all Chiefs here today, this agreement is ground-breaking and incredibly important to our First Nations,” Chief Earl Klyne of the Seine River First Nation said at the signing, adding: “It reflects a balanced approach to sustainability, not only supporting environmental goals, but the social and economic goals of the region as well.”
In attendance at the signing were Chief Windego of Nigigoonsiminikaaning First Nation, Chief White Cloud of Lac des Milles Lacs First Nation, Richard Garneau, president and chief executive officer of Resolute, Chief Klyne of Seine River First Nation, Chief Mainville of Couchiching First Nation, Chief Henderson of Mitaanjigamiing First Nation, Chief Jordan of Lac La Croix First Nation.
Signaling an upturn for local forestry operations
MPP for Thunder Bay-Atikokan and Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry, Bill Mauro was also there and reminded attendees not only of Resolute’s proactive work with area First Nations communities and businesses, but also about the broader positive signs of such an investment. “These relationships are beneficial for both Aboriginal communities and for Resolute in signaling an upturn for local forestry operations,” he said.
Michael Gravelle, MPP for Thunder Bay-Superior North and Minister of Northern Development and Mines seconded this notion and added that, “Resolute has made significant investments in Northwestern Ontario at a time when there are growing signs of recovery in the forest products sector. As the sawmills ramp up their activity, these operations will help encourage the future prosperity of our Aboriginal communities.”
Front left to right: Chief Will Windigo, Nigigoonsiminikaaning First Nation, Chief Judy White Cloud, Lac des Milles Lacs First Nation, Richard Garneau, President and Chief Executive Officer of Resolute Forest Products, Chief Earl Klyne, Seine River First Nation, Chief Sara Mainville, Couchiching First Nation, Chief Janice Henderson, Mitaanjigamiing First Nation, and Chief Norman Jordan, Lac La Croix First Nation
Related article: Resolute and First Nations
High carbon stock forests around the world have an important part to play in the capture, storage and release of carbon in the fight against global warming.
When people talk about greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, one of the most maligned gases is carbon dioxide. Excess carbon in the atmosphere is not good, but carbon is one of the essential gases that make life on earth possible. Forests both store and release significant amounts of carbon as part of a natural cycle. And good forest management not only reduces a forest’s potential as a carbon source, it can also increase the effect of its carbon storage capacity.
The Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement (CBFA) is the largest partnership of its kind in the world, bringing together 21 forest products companies and nine environmental groups to achieve the joint goal of ensuring the sustainability of the Canadian boreal forest for generations to come. Resolute Forest Products is a founding member. The signatories of the CBFA have committed to:
- Expand the network of protected areas in the boreal forest of Canada
- Develop recovery plans for boreal forest species at risk, particularly woodland caribou
- Take action on climate change
- Improve the prosperity of the communities that rely on the industry
- Openly share the environmental performance of the forest products companies in the CBFA
Early Successes in Sustainable Forest Management
Resolute committed to the agreement, spending thousands of hours in staff time to see through the following objectives:
- Determining where and how we will establish protected spaces in the boreal forest, and how we will protect caribou. To that end, Resolute made a proposal to increase the protected land in North Central Quebec to 12 percent, equivalent to 2,670 square miles (1,710,000 acres), with the main focus on protecting the best habitat for woodland caribou
- Matching funds raised by participating environmental, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to conduct research into endangered species management
Embracing the spirit of the agreement, proposals were also made for Ontario:
- Along with the Ontario Regional Working Group, Resolute proposed 3,225 square miles (2,063,000 acres) of caribou conservation area in Northeastern Ontario
- Resolute proposed an additional 785 square miles (504,000 acres) of forest in Northwestern Ontario for conservation, providing additional protection of caribou and other species
We Stand By Our Commitments
We believe that this is the time to create a more inclusive framework for protecting the boreal forest and the communities that rely on it. Specifically, it makes sense to bring into the CBFA First Nations, governments and the elected representatives of boreal communities—groups whose lives are directly affected by its outcomes. By including these communities and returning to the spirit of compromise and understanding on which the CBFA was founded, we are confident that the future of the boreal forest will be assured for generations.