As Northern Pulp closure nears, woodlot operators scramble to ship final loads

Forestry workers are rushing to cut and ship their final loads of wood to Northern Pulp before the Pictou County, N.S., mill stops accepting deliveries on Friday.

"I love to cut wood, but under these circumstances, there's not a lot of Christmas spirit in it. Let's put it that way," said David Meister. He works on a woodlot his family has harvested for generations near New Ross, N.S.

One week ago, Premier Stephen McNeil announced he was keeping his promise to the Pictou Landing First Nation and would not allow Northern Pulp's effluent treatment facility to operate beyond the Jan. 31, 2020, deadline.

Meister, who also raises cattle on his land, said it's the end of the line for most of his forestry business.

"The majority of our revenue, about 80 per cent, was pulpwood sales and log sales," Meister said.

Submitted by David Meister

For the first time, Meister said he cut wood on Christmas Day and Boxing day.

But there's no guarantee he'll be able to deliver the wood he's cut.

"There is literally not enough trucks to move the wood up there in time," Meister said.

Meister said his potential losses pale in comparison to larger operators.

Northern Pulp employs 350 workers and supports more than 2,000 forestry-sector jobs.

Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press

Chris Hughes runs two forestry companies in New Ross.

He said his delivery trucks can make the trip to Northern Pulp and back in roughly six hours.

But even with all his trucks making two trips a day, wood will still be left behind.

Kassandra Nadeau-Lamarche/Radio-Canada

"Just in our immediate circle, there's probably 40 or 50 loads," he said. "We'll probably get half of that in. And the rest of it, unless something remarkable happens, or there's a change of heart, the rest of it's just a total loss."

Hughes believes the only hope for his industry is a groundswell of support from Nova Scotians to reopen Northern Pulp until the environmental cleanup of Boat Harbour can begin.

"If the average person out there that's sitting down with their family ... gives two thoughts of where 90 per cent of these families will be in this industry ... I'm sure that their hearts are a lot bigger than what's being shown. I'm sure of it," he said.