Stop Spraying New Brunswick is giving the governing Tories a failing grade when it comes to reining in the use of glyphosate on public lands.
The group released it’s annual report cards Friday, giving the government an F, the Liberals a D+ and the Greens a B+.
The chair of SSNB Caroline Lubbe-D’Arcy says the group is disappointed in the lack of action on a slate of recommendations made by a committee of the legislature in November.
“They are obviously taking forever and we are just holding our breath to see what will happen,” she said. “There’s just generally a big disappointment I think on action in forestry management that just needs to change in New Brunswick.”
The standing committee on climate change and environmental stewardship held a series of hearings on herbicide spraying last June and September. Much of the presentations focused solely on the usage of glyphosate in the forestry industry, particularly on Crown lands.
Stop Spraying New Brunswick has called for an all-out ban of the herbicide on public lands, pointing to potential adverse effects to the province’s ecosystem as well as its human and animal populations.
Glyphosate is approved for use and regulated by Health Canada. It is listed as a probably carcinogen by the World Health Organization, in the same category as bacon and working overnight shifts.
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The committee released a report with 20 recommendations in November, including increasing spraying set-backs from human dwellings to one kilometre, along with a comprehensive review of the province’s forestry practices and what impact banning the use of glyphosate would have.
But little has been said by the government since those recommendations were released.
“Lip service is one thing but I think it’s time for some concrete action,” said SSNB board member Kim Copp.
“It’s been a long time with no momentum and I think the recommendations would be a starting point and get the ball rolling.”
A spokesperson for the department of Environment and Climate Change said they will be reporting to the committee in the “coming months.”
“These are complex recommendations. Some items are underway, while some are still being reviewed to understand the impact,” said Vicky Lutes in an email.
Lutes did not elaborate on what recommendations are already underway.
During the hearings last June, representatives from some of the province’s forestry producers argued that glyphosate spraying is the most efficient way to manage cut-blocks in the province. They said the herbicide is used on about a third of cut-blocks in order to clear out fast-growing hardwood vegetation and allow the softwood trees to grow faster and in greater density, allowing industry to harvest more from a smaller footprint.
Others argued that current forestry practices that replace the natural hardwood and softwood mix in favour of a softwood monoculture have a detrimental impact on the province’s ecosystems and biodiversity.
Natural Resources Minister Mike Holland said at the time that his primary concern when approaching the issue of herbicides is conservation and habitat regeneration, which he says may not be analogous with the methods currently employed in forestry.
“For me, the use of a herbicide, if it contains industry to the smallest footprint we possibly can … from my perspective, if it’s a tool that allows me to build conservation in other areas of the province, (that’s for) the very best,” Holland said.
The province has committed to doubling protected areas in the province to 10 per cent by April of next year, but that provides little comfort to SSNB, who say that number needs to be closer to 30 per cent.
“It’s like giving a kid an A for an essay that’s worth a C,” said Lubbe-D’Arcy.
“We need to start being honest about the effort and the actions by our government and not giving praise when they don’t deserve it.”