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'Dead zones' after wilderness chemical spraying worry residents

09/29/2017

JONATHON NAYLOR / FLIN FLON REMINDER

SEPTEMBER 20, 2017 04:00 PM

Officials say chemical spraying safe way to balance outforest.

A chemical-spraying program is sparking public apprehension,but officials call the campaign a safe way to ensure ecological balance.

Canadian Kraft Paper Industries has been spraying herbicideon certain sections of wilderness in the Flin Flon-The Pas region that werepreviously harvested by the company’s mill operations in The Pas.

The government-sanctioned herbicide is designed to killhardwood trees and broadleaf shrubs, which helps softwood trees, namely spruceand pine, become established in those areas.

This helps Canadian Kraft Paper meet a provincial mandate toensure the forest resembles its pre-harvest composition.

The spraying worries local resident Rod Harrower. He sharedphotos of formerly lush areas near Kisseynew Lake that are now barren,referring to them as “dead zones.”

“That tells you the concerns that anybody should have bylooking at it,” he said of the photos.

“If you look on the pictures, the cattails are dead, theswamps are dead, the grass is dead.

“Everything is just gone.”

Harrower worries about the impact the spraying could have onwildlife and believes the herbicide could seep into waterways.

Flin Flon MLA Tom Lindsey has also been hearing concernsabout the spraying.

He said people are worried about possible long-term healtheffects, both for humans and wildlife, and whether the spraying could impactdrinking water.

Lindsey shares those concerns, noting there were timesduring his career in workplace health and safety when chemicals were useddespite insufficient information about their safety.

He said he questions whether killing broadleaf trees isnecessary for softwood trees to survive, or whether it simply speeds up theprocess.

A spokesperson for Manitoba Sustainable Development, thedepartment that oversees herbicide spraying, said Canadian Kraft Paper’scampaign gives softwood trees a better chance of survival.

“If a young forest stand contains a large amount of hardwoodtrees and broadleaf shrubs, softwood trees can be suppressed and havedifficulty establishing on the site,” the spokesperson said. “Herbicide resultsin a temporary reduction in vegetative competition, which provides softwoodtrees with an opportunity to become established and increases the probabilitythat softwood will be a major component in the future forest.”

Forest renewal, the spokesperson said, is not just aboutensuring new trees grow back after harvest, but also maintaining continuity inforest composition.

“Major shifts in forest composition could have negativeimpacts on the range of values the forest provides,” said the spokesperson. “Inorder to avoid major shifts, the province requires that the forest industryreplace harvested forest with a forest of similar pre-harvest composition.Herbicide provides a tool that can assist industry in maintaining this balanceon some sites.”

The spokesperson said vegetation impacted by the sprayingwill normally re-establish quickly, with shrubby vegetation often starting torecolonize the site by the following growing season.

As for health and environmental concerns, the widely usedherbicide in question – known as VisionMax – has been deemed safe by regulatorsin Canada and the US.

Canadian Kraft Paper notified the public of the sprayingprogram in an Aug. 2 Reminder ad. The spraying was scheduled to take place fromAug. 15 to Sept. 30.

The ad invited residents to submit objections to SustainableDevelopment. The Sustainable Development spokesperson said no objections werereceived.

Harrower believes the advance notice was too vague, failingto inform people that “they’re going to kill everything that’s got a leaf onit” in the sprayed areas.

He said the real issue is not whether the province approvesof the spraying, but whether it is an appropriate measure.

“What they’re doing is maybe legal and permitted, but shouldthey be doing it?” Harrower asked rhetorically. “That’s the question we’ve gotto [ask].”

Other than the Kisseynew Lake area, areas subject tospraying include Sherridon Road, North Star Mine Road, West Arm Road, PayukWinter Road and Dickstone Mine Road, among others.


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