If you follow the news or social media in New Brunswick you might have the impression that white-tailed deer are vanishing from this Province. These ‘disappearing deer stories‘ are usually associated with condemnations of current and past forest management policies in New Brunswick. If you are interested in forest management, the 2008 Erdle Report provides a comprehensive review of alternative forestry management policies. While management of Crown forest lands in New Brunswick might be far from optimal, the evidence that those practices are having a decisive impact on deer populations is mixed. Data available from the New Brunswick Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and published by the CBC show that deer populations in the 1970s are similar to those that we have seen in more recent years:
Note that the title in the CBC story referred to above is ‘New Brunswick deer herd down 70% in 30 years, DNR numbers show’; it could just as well have been titled ‘Deer populations revert to 1970s levels, DNR numbers show’. That would have been less-alarming and generated fewer clicks, I suppose.
In recent years, there has been a great deal of discussion with respect to forestry management policies in New Brunswick. That should not be surprising, given the historical importance of the industry to many communities in the Province and the impacts of closures of sawmills and pulp mills on those communities. A significant factor in forestry management discussions has been the tension between the goals of employment (and tax revenue), wood/fibre production, sustainability of production in ‘working’ forests, preservation of ‘old growth’ forests, and conservation of flora and fauna in those forests. These issues are not unique to New Brunswick; in particular, declines in employment in the forestry sector have been a national concern.
The New Brunswick Department of Natural Resources has commissioned a number of panels and reports over the years which touch on all of these aspects, and I recommend that anyone interested download and review the relevant documents. One key point I found in these documents is that the issue is not just one of pitting the ‘corporate evil-doers’ against the ‘little guy’ but that even the ‘little guys’ are guilty of mismanagement of the forest resource. Our forests (both public and private) have been treated by too many of us as a mine, rather than as a sustainable resource. For additional perspectives, the video documentaries of Charles Theriault may be of interest. I am not an expert in forestry management – far from it – but, as I have stated before, I am neither a fan of the sudden shifts that we have seen in forestry policy in recent years, nor am I convinced that we are managing our natural resources in our long-term interests.
The quality of drinking water in New Brunswick has received quite a bit of attention recently, particularly with respect to the threat posed to water quality from hydraulic fracturing (fracking), either from drilling activities or disposal of waste materials produced during the process. Several reviews have called for collection of baseline water quality data so that any adverse impacts of fracking on water quality can be assessed. However, water quality issues in this Province pre-date fracking, despite the mistaken belief held by some that water in N.B. has always been ‘pristine’, pure and safe. It wasn’t that many decades ago, after all, when many municipalities (not to mention industries) dumped sewage and processing waste into the St John River with little or no treatment.
Given that the Provincial government estimates that there are over 100,000 private water wells in N.B., the safety of groundwater should be of concern. If you live in rural N.B., when was the last time you had your water tested – not just for bacteria, but for chemistry? Urban centres now are surrounded by sprawling rural 1-acre lot suburbs; each house has its own well and septic system. How well is water quality being managed in these locations?
For that matter, if you live in an urban area, how much do you know about the water testing and reporting done by your municipality? Sewage treatment plants dump treated wastewater back into the environment, usually into the nearest watershed; how much do you know about the quality of the grey water released?
It’s my opinion that these questions all pertain to baseline water quality, and that quality should be of concern to us all. In this post, I will review some information available on a number of topics relating to water quality in N.B. and pose a few questions.
[Note: I suggest reading these two previous posts, found here and here, on this subject for additional background material.]
Do residents of Local Service Districts (LSDs) in New Brunswick pay too much or too little for the services they receive from governments?
That is a question that has been raised before in this Province and we will see it raised again across New Brunswick, especially now that the Province has moved forward with some of the recommendations of the Finn Report, namely the creation of the Regional Service Commissions (RSCs). The latter are charged with delivering ‘local’ and ‘provincial’ services on a regional basis. For LSDs, that means that services that have been provided to residents of LSDs by the Province (e.g. road maintenance, snowplowing, policing) are gradually being transferred to the RSCs, which have been given the task of providing those services on a cost-recovery basis.
For several decades, the Province has levied a tax rate (referred to as the ‘Special Provincial Levy’) of $0.65 per $100 of assessed value on LSD residential properties to pay for those services. Over the next few years, that $0.65 will gradually be shifted from the ‘provincial’ to the ‘local’ portion of property taxes and the RSCs will be given the task of recovering enough in tax revenue to pay for those services. Will the existing LSD tax rates provide RSCs with enough revenue to cover service costs? As the cost of a number of those services has increased significantly, LSDs that have experienced a slow rise (or decline) in the assessed value of properties may see substantial hikes in property taxes to make up any deficiency in revenue.