PORT BLANDFORD, N.L. — After having a request for a meeting with the provincial minister for Tourism, Culture, Industry and Innovation (TCII) Christopher Mitchelmore turned down, the Port Blandford Citizens Against Clearcutting committee say they’re disappointed.
In a press release issued on Wednesday, April 18, the committee says the disappointment is related to how tourism is the “lifeblood of their committee” and the major industry for Port Blandford.
The matter goes back to opposition against the Department of Fishery and Land Resources (FLR) five-year plan to use clearcutting to harvest areas of the zone two forest in the area, including the nearby Southwest River Valley. The committee was formed in February to prevent clearcutting in the region.
Over the past couple of months, the group—along with the town of Port Blandford—have held public meetings, and have met with the FLR minister Gerry Byrne to discuss the issue. After this meeting, the group prepared a proposal for harvesting in the area which is more conducive to its plans, not involving clearcutting.
The Packet contacted TCII for comment on the refusal for the meeting. In response, the minister said the consultation process of the five-year forestry management plans is present in these situations.
“All departments and all stakeholders have ability for input," read the statement. "Appeals can be made to the Department of Fisheries and Land Resources. As tourism minister, I am more than happy to meet with any group, however, this particular matter is led by Minister Byrne of FLR.”
In the release from the concerned citizens committee, member Linda Davis said the clearcutting would harm the tourism industry in favour of the harvesters.
“The government gets royalties, the harvesters get money," said Davis. "We can’t find one thing that’s going to be of any benefit us. We’ve said many times before that we aren’t trying to hurt the harvesters. We just don’t see why any government would ask its people to risk one industry for another.
“We have no commercial harvesters in our town. It’s highly unlikely that we will see one dime or one job from this. We have been told by government that nobody wins if somebody loses. Haven’t they figured out that the only people who will lose here if clearcutting goes ahead are the people of Port Blandford?”
She adds she feels this is a tourism issue, not just one for FLR.
“We need government to understand what’s at stake for this town.”
However, despite the disappointment with the failed TCII meeting, the group says they were pleased P.C. MHA Jim Lester of the provincial government’s opposition spoke about their petition in the House of Assembly on Monday, April 16.
According to Hansard, Lester presented the reasons for the committee’s petition to the House.
“Mr. Speaker, these residents are really frustrated with the situation,” said Lester. “They've met with ministers and MHAs and they're still at a point of confusion. Many of these, as stated, rely on the tourism industry for their incomes. Tourism is a great contribution to our economy as it attracts outside monies into our province.”