UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Public timber allocation policy in Newfoundland Munro, J.

Abstract

Early public timber allocation policies -were perceived by many in Newfoundland to be having a continuing influence on forest management policy. A thorough review of these policies and the resulting development of forest industry had never been undertaken. It was decided to carry out such a review by testing three hypotheses on past timber allocation policy. These hypotheses are stated as follows: the pattern of use of the coastal forest resource was established centuries ago by transient fishermen and early settlers and this has had a profound influence on public timber allocation policy; early government timber allocation policies for the forest resource of the interior of the Island and Labrador were a giveaway; and the early timber allocation policies led to undue concentration of ownership of the interior timber resource of the Island of Newfoundland. These hypotheses are evaluated by examining the historical record to determine the evolution of early timber allocation policies and the subsequent development of the forest resource. The influence of early settlement on timber allocation is established by a literature review which documents traditional attitudes and uses of the coastal forest resource. An extensive review of timber allocation legislation and a search of government records was undertaken to establish early timber allocation policies and the results that were achieved in terms of forest-based industrial development. Examination of the historic record' allowed a judgement to be made on the extent to which the forest resource of Newfoundland and Labrador has proven to be intramarginal, marginal or submarginal in an economic sense. This provided the basis for the evaluation of the second and third hypotheses. The study concludes that the attitudes of early settlers towards the use of the forest resource have had a profound influence over public timber allocation policy. The existence of the 'three-mile limit', a band of common-property forest around the coast of the Island, is identified as a direct result of this influence. The importance and special function of this part of the forest resource should be recognized in an explicit statement of forest policy by the government. It is also concluded that the early timber allocation policies for the forests of the interior of the Island and Labrador were not a major giveaway of economic rents at the time. Initially the government tried to capture more economic rent through higher charges but, in order to encourage development, it was forced to lower its fees and extend the term of timber licenses from 21 to 99 years. This was because much of the resource was found to be marginal or submarginal for the developments that were initially undertaken. While considerable concentration of ownership of the forest resource in the interior of the Island of Newfoundland did occur, this was the result of a rational reallocation of timber licenses from economically nonviable to economically viable developments. Scattered resources, which had proven to be submarginal for small-scale development, later proved to be intramarginal when combined into large limit areas for major pulp and paper mills. Finally it is suggested that the policy since 1949 of encouraging further large-scale forest development be questioned and more emphasis be placed on using available intramarginal and marginal resources to preserve and expand established forest industry. While historically the forest resources of Labrador and remote parts of the Island have proved to be submarginal, the prospects for these resources to support viable industries should be reviewed periodically to see if further development attempts should be encouraged.

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