Animals in New Brunswick who depend on old growth forest are at risk of local extinctions due to rapid habitat loss in our public forests. Pine marten, fisher, flying squirrels, goshawk, the barred owl, woodpeckers and a long list of song birds are just some of the species at risk. We need to know more about what habitats and conditions these creatures need to thrive.
Older forests with their large trees, dead trees, and downed logs and wood debris are rapidly being clearcut and subdivided with logging roads. Younger forests which might provide suitable habitat in the future are being clearcut before they get old enough. An increasing number are replaced altogether with plantations.
The Conservation Council’s research has revealed that across the 1.1 million hectares of public land in northern New Brunswick which constitutes our Appalachian region, old spruce-fir and mixed wood habitats fail to meet the minimum necessary to maintain viable populations of species such as the American marten, black-backed woodpecker and flying squirrel.
When we examine the impact of the planned logging between 1990 and 2017, in some areas the amount of suitable habitat declines precipitously. In the Kedgwick River watershed, the area of large mixed wood habitat and old tolerant hardwood habitat will decline by 51% and 71% respectively under current cutting plans.
Habitat conservation plans could be established, watershed by watershed, across public lands for all old forest types. Clearcutting should become the exception, with partial cutting the rule. The phase-out of herbicide spraying should occur soon, as was done in Quebec in 2001. Measures could include the creation of new special habitat management areas, the establishment wildlife corridors and stepping stones to facilitate species movement, the modification of riparian buffers, the establishment of low impact harvesting zones, changes to road networks, and the targeted protection of specialized habitats, biological hotspots and old growth remnants.