Stop Spraying New Brunswick debunks the ForestInfo website

Stop Spraying New Brunswick (SSNB) wants to remind the public that the ForestInfo website is NOT an independent source of information:

The ForestInfo website describes itself as: “We’re a group of researchers, scientists, government and industry working together to share resources and information about Forest Renewal and Vegetation Management.”

SSNB’s take on this: The fact that industry is contributing to the information on the Forestinfo website means that this website is INFLUENCED by industry. Government should be separate from industry. In fact there is no unbiased information site about forestry management practices available to the NB public. Forestry is New Brunswick’s largest resource industry. The public has every right to be concerned.

Three investigative articles highlight the cause for concern re government working too closely with industry:

– Walrus: “Big Agro on Campus” by Bruce Livesey. LINK: https://thewalrus.ca/big-agro-on-campus/

– National Observer’s “Has Ottawa Sold Out to Big Agro and Its Toxic Chemicals?” by Bruce Livesey stated: “the Auditor General of Canada has carried out three investigations into the PMRA since 2003 — and found it wanting.” LINK: https://www.nationalobserver.com/2017/07/25/news/has-ottawa-sold-out-big-agro-and-its-toxic-chemical

-National Observer’s “Ottawa Ignoring Hazards of Top Pesticides Sold in Canada” by Bruce Livesey. LINK: https://www.nationalobserver.com/2017/08/09/news/ottawa-ignoring-hazards-top-pesticides-sold-canada

The Auditor General of Canada carried out three investigations into the Pest Management Regulatory Agency of Canada (PMRA) between 2003 and 2017. The most RECENT Auditor General of Canada’s report of 2018 (another New Brunswicker in Ottawa!) again finds that health Canada and their ability to protect our health in disrepair:

This auditor general’s report was released in 2018 on the state of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA): http://www.oag-bvg.gc.ca/internet/English/parl_cesd_201810_01_e_43145.html . This report outlines that there is more need for progress on CEPA as it has made none in 10 years. Proposed amendments followed:  https://www.grnewsletters.com/archive/meg/Amend-toxins-law-for-healthy-smart-choices-with-modern-science-551647101.html

Industry and New Brunswick’s Department of Energy and Resources (NBDERD) have repeatedly said that the Office of the Chief Medical Health Officer (OCMOH) has said glyphosate is safe to use. This is easily debunked if one decides to READ the report. REASON: The report only examined the following: it looked at what other provinces were doing, and what use rates were in NB, and glyphosate use in forestry is by far the highest at 61%, followed by industry at 27%. AT NO TIME did the Office of the Chief Medical Officer of NB investigate the existing research or read the health Canada review. LINK: https://www2.gnb.ca/content/dam/gnb/Departments/h-s/pdf/en/Publications/GlyphosateActionPlanResults.pdf

The ForestInfo website makes claims, which SSNB debunks below:  

1) The ForestInfo website claims: “Current Herbicide Spraying practices on public land (forests, NB Power rights-of-way) is not harmful to New Brunswick’s deer population” and publishes that “Less than 1% of the total land mass is sprayed in NB annually.

DEBUNK by SSNB: This is a play on numbers; if you look at the forested area harvested in NB, which is 50,000 hectares, 1/3 of this area is sprayed. Based on NBDERD numbers, 10,000 hectares are planted each year on clear-cuts. Half of this area is sprayed twice; Martin Noel, DERD spray program expert claims that an average of 15,000 hectares is prayed annually.

Based on published research on browse production in clear-cuts (Adams et. Al. 2009, Boring et al. 1981, Thill et al. 1990, Hughes and Fahey 1991, Ford et al. 1993, Robichaud et al. 2002), these areas would produce 1 ton of deer browse per acre, or 2.2 tons per hectare. By multiplying 15,000 hectares sprayed X 2.2 tons of browse each hectare could have generated, we find that a total of 33,000 tons of the BEST deer browse that Crown land could have produced, is destroyed annually. This is enough food to feed 33,000 deer. This potential food is killed annually by herbicide spraying on Crown land in New Brunswick.

2) The ForestInfo website states that the remaining 2/3rds of the forest, which is not sprayed, produces lots of deer food.

DEBUNK by SSNB: This information has never been substantiated or quantified.  We should consider where forestry companies plant their plantations (as reported by Greg Adams, JD Irving’s researcher); Plantations are always planted on the richest and most fertile Crown land available which is typically called a “high site index. This removes the most productive Crown Land Sites that would produce the best deer food for deer. This means that the remaining 2/3rds, which the Forestinfo website suggests provides deer food, are actually poorer sites (rocky, wet, boggy and steep sloped), and these are left to regenerate naturally. The assumption has been made by Forestinfo, that a lot of deer browse is produced on these sites, but these poor growth sites have NEVER been studied to quantify the amount of deer browse produced.

3) The ForestInfo website states: “Deer eat cedar and balsam fir during the winter”.

DEBUNK by SSNB: Deer DO eat cedar in winter, but they seldomly eat balsam fir. It is not surprising that we see more and more displaced deer in communities and on farms to find food, because so much deer browse is destroyed annually by herbicide spraying on clear cuts and plantations. The forestinfo website cites 5 research papers, which they suggest support this statement. But the research papers cited do not support this claim: 

– Morrison et al (2002)found that deer only selected two species consistently: red and striped maple.  They also selected hobblebush and common elderberry.  They actually assessed the use of 19 species of browse in winter, but NEVER mention balsam fir. 

The other four papers have similar problems: 

– Tefler (1972) looked at hare and ungulate diets on the Acadia research forest and did NOT distinguish between deer and moose browse. We know that moose select balsam fir, and because browse for both ungulates was combined, balsam fir is mentioned in the paper – but in no way did this paper conclude that fir was required by deer.

– Mautz et al,1976 as well as Gray and Servello, 1995, actually fed deer by hand to see how palatable these foods were – deer were hand- fed fir, but they didn’t select it themselves. 

– The final paper (Ditchkoff and Servello 1998) summarized LITTER FALL – things that fall from treetops as a very useful source of deer food in winter. Cedar, hemlock, arboreal lichens and hardwood leaves were listed as the most important foods in litter fall. There was NO MENTION of balsam fir.

This is a clear example of how the Forestinfo website and others massage the science on this issue and use what appears to be solid research to state false claims; They CLAIM that they have science, but their use of it is misleading, unscientific and inaccurate.  Stay on this page for the truth.

4) The ForestInfo website mentions a current scientific study in northern New Brunswick, which is being conducted on 140 radio-collared deer.

DEBUNK by SSNB: This is NOT an independent study! This research project is largely financed by Irving, one of the 4 large forestry companies operating on our Crown land.

5) NBDERD Biologist statement (from CBC news interview) and JDI Biologist statement (from the John Gilbert letter on the JDI website): The decline of New Brunswick deer population is due to Coyotes and winters.

CBC article of Fall, 2018: “Rise in deer sightings and collisions in Moncton prompts warning” Link: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-brunswick/linda-comeau-deer-wheeler-blvd-moncton-1.4875905

DEBUNK by SSNB: The excuses blaming harsh winters and coyotes may seem palatable on the surface, but NB data does not support these excuses:

This graphic based on government data compares deer harvest rates between New Brunswick, Quebec, Nova Scotia and Maine (USA):

– 30 years ago, hunters in Maine harvested over 20,000 deer. In 2015, deer harvest numbers in Maine were as high as they were in 1985. When we look at New Brunswick, we see that in 1985, NB hunters harvested 30,000 deer, but in 2015 the number was only 6,000! Maine and New Brunswick have similar winters and they both have coyotes, so can anyone explain this SIGNIFICANT difference?

– In Quebec, where forest herbicide spraying was banned in 2001, deer harvest numbers have tripled since 1985. Quebec has more severe winters than New Brunswick, and northern New Brunswick and central Maine have nearly identical winters. Both provinces have coyotes – therefore, winters and coyotes cannot explain the huge disparity in harvest numbers since 1985. Coyotes and winters influence short-term changes in deer numbers, but the ceiling – how high deer numbers can grow under good conditions – is controlled by habitat availability. During years of deer herd growth, the maximum number a deer population can reach is limited by how much food is available. This is a fundamental wildlife law and it applies especially to herbivores. Coyotes select many different prey types, and have an omnivorous diet. Further, Brent Patterson in Nova Scotia (1998) found that unless coyote had a crust on top of snow that deer would punch through (i.e. Severe winter conditions), most chases to kill deer were unsuccessful.  Further evidence that debunks the idea of winters limiting deer numbers also originates from NBDERD data on deer harvest increases the past 5-10 years:  the largest increases in both deer and moose numbers have occurred in NORTHERN zones, where winters are more severe. The flip side of this is also true: Charlotte County (the southernmost point in NB, and the zone with the easiest winters) harvests only 10% of the deer that were once harvested there in 1985.  How can that be if it experiences the easiest winters? Coyotes and winter weather do not recognize land ownership, so why are there so many deer on private land?

– In 2007, the maximum deer harvest in New Brunswick was 10,000 and the population size topped out at around 100,000 deer – less than half of the maximum value in 1985.

– The deer population was extensively studied by annual surveys from helicopters over the public forests over a 15-year period by NB Department of Natural Resources (NBDNR) Deer Biologist Rod Cumberland. Examination of annual deer harvest records from the New Brunswick Govt. show that this resulted in a total loss of three-quarter of the deer population over the last 30 years (400,000 in 1985, down to 100,000 in 2015). Rod Cumberland has explained the difference between annual population variations and long-term effects. He explains how Crown land deer yards became vacant, and when the herd did grow from 2000-2007 the deer numbers increased on private land – evident by the increase in urban deer problems and the increase in deer around homes and agricultural areas that led to the nuisance deer program.  Deer yards remained vacant even during this period of herd growth.  Rod Cumberland’s research was well-documented while he was deer biologist at NB Department of Natural Resources (which now is NBDERD), and his data has been reported by CBC and in several public presentations:

Links to a few of Rod Cumberland’s presentations:

– January 2017 presentation to NB Dept of Environment: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JEPecNN_Z9Y

– August 2016: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BGtcm26vdd0

– Interview on “Is Our Forest Really Ours” (this interview can be viewed in three sections on this website as well on the “Why should I care” page): http://isourforestreallyours.com/Isourforestreallyours/Ep_17.html

6) In November 2017, the Government of New Brunswick was boasting that deer numbers were up based on the fall deer harvest of 6,300 deer.

CBC NB article from Fall, 2017: Deer hunt up, preliminary numbers show https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-brunswick/deer-hunt-2017-up-1.4397312

DEBUNK by SSNB: In November 2017, the Government of New Brunswick was boasting that deer numbers were up based on the fall deer harvest of 6,300 deer, but this is not impressive at all. Compare the following numbers:  In 1985 New Brunswick hunters harvested 30,000 deer.  This is a decline of 80% in 2017!   The State of Maine – with a land base nearly identical to New Brunswick’s harvested 30,000 deer in 1985 but in 2017 harvested 27,000.   With the same winters and similar coyote densities -. If winters and coyotes were the cause of our low numbers, then why did they not have the same effect in Maine? The neighboring province of Nova Scotia harvested double the number of New Brunswick. Based on government annual deer harvest records, the deer population in Quebec is 3X that of New Brunswick (see figure below). Incidentally, forest herbicide spraying of public forests was banned in Quebec in 2001.

Some stats based on government data comparing deer harvests in New Brunswick and Maine:

year       Maine           NB

2014      22,000        6,935

2015      20,000        4,378

2016      23,000        5,386

2017      27,000        6,441

2018      30,000        6,130

Since 2015, Maine’s deer harvest has increased by 10,000 from 20,000 to 30,000. Meanwhile, NB’s deer harvest has gone from 4,400 to 6130, which is an increase of less than 2000. What is worse: while Maine’s harvest increased by 3000 in the fall of 2018, NB’s dropped – despite an increase in doe permits.

7) Forestinfo claims that herbicide spraying is not harmful to animals.

DEBUNK by SSNB:

a) SSNB challenges DERD to account for the effects on forest indicator species. NBDERD Minister Holland has called for an overhaul to the Crown lands and forest act and he re-iterated this in the Public Forum to discuss a model bill proposed by SSNB on October17, 2018. Here is the clip of what he had to say: https://vimeo.com/321329911?fbclid=IwAR3zUchztYkG7EAEu-0tMg6rOmCng7-n9e4zVVS-ELfBxlVwx5zLMhMogn8

For those who want to hear what all 4 elected NB political party representatives had to say at this bill drafting forum, including invited experts Rod Cumberland and Charles Theriault: Youtube of the entire meeting: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qv12weUlXHA&feature=youtu.be&fbclid=IwAR21nQtHYDuT4f_zGdLYXqyRrFSMchY-vDlWTK64sq3TpOYdtd12zqJ0pBY. Previous Liberal Environment minister Andrew Harvey’s comments can be heard during the last 12 minutes.

EXPLANATION:

A large number of deer yards have been clear-cut since 2009 ( deer yard surface area has plummeted from 216,000 to 150,000 hectares). Most alarming is, that this also includes another 4% or 26,000 cubic meters per year cutting on preferred south-west slopes where deer seek out forest during the winter(Source: department of Energy and resource Development). During the winter, deer seek out mixed forests on south-west sloped areas because of the protection these provide from the cold and snow, the available deer food, and because they offer warming temperatures during the day. The south-west orientation makes it a warmer place to be, and normally there would be good, abundant growth of the forest on these slopes. (These south-west slopes are also attractive for logging which removes the necessary protection and browse for deer once they have been clear-cut and sprayed). Other areas where deer congregate in winter are in cedar bogs. The NB Forest Management Strategy has increased the annual allowable cut by 660,000 cubic meters per year for the next 25 years. 47.5% of this cut will come from conservation forest, which is 315,000 cubic meters per year. This decreases the area of conservation forest by one quarter, from 30% to 23%. Conservation forests are important because they include deer wintering areas (to be cut by 47%), old growth wood stands (to be cut by 37%), wetlands, and buffer zones along rivers and streams, all of which are vital to deer, waterfowl, and other mammals, birds and fish. It has been calculated that the old growth forest will be reduced from 26 percent to 10 percent.

– Government research by NBDNR wildlife biologists presented in Nov. 2014 show that this reduced amount of conservation forest will not meet minimum habitat thresholds for several species of vertebrates. These are ‘indicator species’; and include 9 species will suffer a loss of forest habitat significantly below thresholds: (1) American marten, (2) fisher, (3) Northern flying squirrel, (4) Red-tailed hawk, (5) Barred owl, (6) Black-backed woodpecker, (7) Pileatedwoodpecker, (8) White-breasted nuthatch, and (9) Pine warbler.

Note: The NB Forest Management Agreement(s) in 2014 increase maximum allowable size of forest clear-cuts from 75 hectare to 100 hectare, and reduces wait-time to clear-cut nearby forest from 10 years to 5 years. This change has a big impact on habitat for wildlife.

b) There is ample cause for concern about glyphosate and its effects on animals and humans, which means that New Brunswick’s Department of Environment should exercise the precautionary principle and ban herbicide spraying on public land. New Brunswick’s Department of Environment has the jurisdiction to stop issuing licenses to the spray herbicides on public land.

EXPLANATION: Until recently, glyphosate was thought to only affect plant-specific enzymes. This resulted in only short-term toxicity studies, because there was no concern for long-term, low-dose effects on mammals and other creatures. HOWEVER, a few independent studies emerged showing effects on lab animals after long-term low dose exposure, casting doubt on the assumptions of the past.

Retired NB molecular biologist and virologist Dr. David Coombs has explained the genotoxicity of glyphosate, which means that glyphosate has been shown to cause damage to DNA. The genotoxicity of glyphosate was noted in 2013 on a study on GMO soybean workers who had been exposed to glyphosate mixtures as determined by a test called “The Comet Assay”. When an agent is genotoxic, dose does not matter.

The results of the Comet Assay debunk the “risk/hazard” arguments of presenters used by Forestinfo and NB Govt. The IARC scientists addressed this in their reports.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zOu8KNHHWfg (Part 2)

News about the problems around the process used by the EU were recently exposed in The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/jan/15/eu-glyphosate-approval-was-based-on-plagiarised-monsanto-text-report-finds

From this article: “A separate analysis of research methods used to evaluate glyphosate by the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) also raised questions about regulatory independence:

  • It found that EPA regulators used unpublished industry reports in 63% of the studies they evaluated, whereas the IARC relied solely on publicly available literature.
  • Almost three-quarters of the peer-reviewed papers looked at by IARC found evidence of genotoxicity in glyphosate, compared with just 1% of the industry analyses, according to the study published in Environmental Sciences Europe.
  • Jo Lewis, the Soil Association’s policy director, said: “It is unacceptable that pesticide-industry studies receive greater recognition than scientific peer-reviewed open literature in regulatory decision-making. Whilst this paper focuses on the US EPA, similar criticisms have been made of EU decisions and we fear that outside the EU, pressure to approve pesticides will increase.”


8) Forestinfo Research Scientist Chris Edge presented his research conducted on Base Gagetown that shows glyphosate had little effect on frog populations over 60 days.  

DEBUNK by SSNB: We dug a little deeper into Dr., Edge’s research and found a publication of his in 2014 that shows very different results: Edge, C. et. al. 2014.  Variation in amphibian response to two formulations of glyphosate based herbicides.  Environ. Toxicol. and Chemistry 33(11):2628-2632

No long-term studies of effects on waterways, amphibians have been conducted: Only a few short-term studies (less than 60 days) have been conducted. A recent study in Gagetown is one of these studies, and frequently presented by Chris Edge in the past year at info sessions held by Forestinfo, and at UNB. The toxicity of glyphosate mixtures to waterways is known, and therefore instructions for application always are to keep the herbicide away from water. We therefore do not understand the desperation of researchers now trying to prove that glyphosate mixtures in water do not affect aquatic life. The problem is that watersheds have been sprayed, and wet areas under power lines are sprayed as well, with moose continuing to forage until the vegetation dies. We, and our supporters, question very much that waterways are successfully avoided when areas are being sprayed.

9) Health Canada says there is no cause for concern about glyphosate and its effects on animals and humans.

DEBUNK by SSNB: There are many studies that have found health effects, which means that New Brunswick’s Department of Environment should exercise the precautionary principle and ban herbicide spraying on public land. New Brunswick’s Department of Environment has the jurisdiction to stop issuing licenses to the spray herbicides on public land.

When Dr. Len Ritter speaks at ForestInfo presentations in New Brunswick, he always negates the concern for glyphosate by suggesting that dosage rates and exposures are far below levels that show damage to animals and humans. Until recently, glyphosate was thought to only affect plant-specific enzymes. This resulted in only short-term toxicity studies, because there was no concern for long-term, low-dose effects on mammals and other creatures. However, recent independent studies from France by Dr. Seralini (2014) reveal cancerous growths and tumours on lab animals after long-term low dose exposure: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5044955/

In addition, Retired NB molecular biologist and virologist Dr. David Coombs has explained the genotoxicity of glyphosate, from another recent study which shows that glyphosate causes damage to DNA. The genotoxicity of glyphosate was noted in 2013 on a study on GMO soybean workers who had been exposed to glyphosate mixtures as determined by a ” Comet Assay” test. Dr. Coombs clarifies that when an agent is genotoxic, dose and dosage, as well as exposure rates and times do not matter: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zOu8KNHHWfg (Part 2)

The results of the Comet Assay debunk the “risk/hazard” arguments of presenters used by the ForestInfo website and NB Govt.

Dr. Ritter recently (January, 2018) presented the findings of several regulatory agency reviews of glyphosate following the IARC reclassification of glyphosate as a probable carcinogen.  He states this did not change their reviews and conclusions that glyphosate is safe (include my review of the science used by Health |Canada.  After these reviews, The IARC scientists posted a rebuttal to these and more adamantly stressed their position, and clarified further the soundness of their science addressed this in their reports: https://www.iarc.fr/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/IARC_response_to_criticisms_of_the_Monographs_and_the_glyphosate_evaluation.pdf

Recent news about the problems around the process used by the EU were recently exposed in The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/jan/15/eu-glyphosate-approval-was-based-on-plagiarised-monsanto-text-report-finds

From this article: “A separate analysis of research methods used to evaluate glyphosate by the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) also raised questions about regulatory independence:

  • It found that EPA regulators used unpublished industry reports in 63% of the studies they evaluated, whereas the IARC relied solely on publicly available literature.
  • Almost three-quarters of the peer-reviewed papers looked at by IARC found evidence of genotoxicity in glyphosate, compared with just 1% of the industry analyses, according to the study published in Environmental Sciences Europe.
  • Jo Lewis, the Soil Association’s policy director, said: “It is unacceptable that pesticide-industry studies receive greater recognition than scientific peer-reviewed open literature in regulatory decision-making. Whilst this paper focuses on the US EPA, similar criticisms have been made of EU decisions and we fear that outside the EU, pressure to approve pesticides will increase.”

LINK to SSNB Facebook group (14,000 members): https://www.facebook.com/groups/StopSprayinginNB/?ref=bookmarks

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