Politics, science and the spruce budworm in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia

Sandberg, L Anders

This article explores the intersection of forestry science, politics and public policy in the case of the spruce budworm in Maritime Canada. It portrays a complex interplay of science and policy in environmental politics, and it seeks to explain the differential responses to the threat the budworm has posed to the wood supply over the past half century. It presents distinct and contrasting syndromes at work in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Particular attention is paid to the role of the forest science community in the two provinces. A close examination reveals both a politics of science (the political and economic forces exerted on science), and a science politics (a conflict realm within research), as interrelated yet distinctive influences. Each case displays a separate logic together with powerful feedback loops between scientific viewpoints, ecology, and policy choice. The recognition that broader forces shape the formulations and application of forestry science carries potential lessons for future analysis.

Dans cet article, les auteurs examinent comment la science forestiere, la politique et la politique gouvernementale ont interagi dans le cas de la tordeuse des bourgeons de l’epinette dans les Maritimes. Ils montrent l’interaction complexe entre la science et la politique en ce qui a trait a la politique environnementale et cherchent a expliquer les reponses differentielles a la menace qu’a constituee la tordeuse des bourgeons de l’epinette pour les reserves de bois depuis une cinquantaine d’annees. Ils presentent les syndromes distincts et opposes qui sont en jeu au Nouveau-Brunswick et en Nouvelle-Ecosse. Ils accordent une attention particuliere au role que joue la communaute scientifique dans le domaine forestier dans les deux provinces. Par une etude approfondie, ils montrent qu’il existe deux influences inter-reliees bien que distinctes, a savoir une politique de la science (les forces politiques et economiques qui s’exercent sur la science) et une politique scientifique (un domaine de conflit en recherche). Chacune de ces influences possede une logique particuliere qui s’accompagne de puissants liens retroactifs entre les points de vue scientifiques, l’ecologie et les choix politiques. Le fait que les auteurs constatent que certaines influences plus larges s’exercent sur la formulation et la mise en pratique de la science forestiere pourrait potentiellement avoir un impact sur toute sanalyse future.

The spruce budworm is a major insect defoliator of forests in northeastern North America, with balsam fir and white spruce figuring as the most vulnerable species. Periodic increases of spruce budworm populations to epidemic levels have, in the past, resulted in significant tree mortality over millions of hectares of timber. Since these forests are the mainstay of a leading industry, the infestations have received considerable attention in resource-management policy.

In this essay, we explore the contours and effects of the science that framed the management of the spruce budworm, using the provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia as case studies. Our aim is to explore the intersection of science, politics and public policy. To highlight this intersection, we compare the histories of spruce budworm management in the two jurisdictions. They begin, in the post-war era, with strikingly different approaches but end with an apparent policy convergence in the 1980s and 1990s.

We start from the assumption that science is not simply a problem-driven enterprise that advances incrementally towards better knowledge and practice. Rather, science for management is influenced by many factors beyond field measurement, laboratory experiment and peer-reviewed reporting. In effect, science is shaped and constrained by political, economic and cultural attributes and is carried out on a contested terrain.

At one level, the science underpinning resource management is constrained by societal forces, and scientific thinking is influenced by powerful political and economic interests. Any management methods that work against such interests may be challenged, marginalized or discredited. This is what we call the politics of science. It contends that scientists are not immune to the external forces that surround them. Scientists can be influenced by interest-group politics as reflected, for example, by funding priorities, agency sponsorships or advocacy agendas (Worster, 1994). They may also be affected by the institutional frameworks (such as professional affiliations or bureaucratic mandates) in which they operate (Bocking, 1997; Beyers, 1998; Beyers and Sandberg, 1998; Sandberg and Clancy, 2000). In the ensuing analysis, we focus on the political economy of pulp and paper industry development, its pressures on the forest fibre supply, and the strengths and weaknesses of various stakeholder groups in the forest community as factors influencing the divergent management policies towards the spruce budworm in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

But these tenets do not fully capture the policy consequences of science debates. Not all science can be deduced from external societal forces or institutional locations. Nor are scientists necessarily captured or corrupted by vested interests. In important ways, scientific practice can remain relatively independent of the over-arching political context. In this sense, science amounts to systems of beliefs and assumptions dedicated to the explanation of specialist knowledge domains. An exclusive language links participants in a shared endeavor while ruling out rival perspectives or prescriptions. Discourse analysis points to sets of metaphors or epistemic figures that delimit or enframe policy debates and the actions of scientists (Demeritt, 2001).

Here the power of ideas may bear a relatively independent analytic status. Each particular domain of science knowledge involves a history of inquiry that embodies relations of intellectual power. Rival schools of thought contend for primacy. Institutional centres in the academy, the state and even the corporation offer media for this battle. Some of this involves Kuhnian “normal science,” but much involves a competition among paradigms or systems of knowledge. For instance, many scholars have explored how modern western science has overwhelmed and supplanted both ethnoscience and traditional or indigenous systems of knowledge (Shiva, 1993; Banuri and Apffel Marglin, 1994). In contrast, others have shown how colonial science can inspire and influence the ideas and thinking in the colonial mother countries and across a broader commonwealth (Grove, 1995; McManus, 1999). Equally, there have been deep and consequential tensions within modern scientific disciplines. Dunlop (1981; see also Perkins, 1982) argues that scientific debates and scientists’ findings had a decisive role in the ban of DDT in North America in the 1960s. Sandberg and Clancy (2000) explore the deep rifts among foresters in Nova Scotia. Here we are concerned with two different scientific traditions of pest management, occupying two different institutional settings (provincial departments of agriculture and lands and forests, respectively), as factors for the different spruce budworm management regimes in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. This clash between scientific ideas and paradigms we label science politics.

We begin with a brief history of the chemical control of the budworm. We then explore two contrasting periods of pesticide use. The first, extending from 1950 to 1978, reveals a prominent politics of science as contrasting political and economic conditions underwrite the adoption of chemical insecticides in New Brunswick, and their non-adoption in Nova Scotia. But there is more to these stories. In each case, the history and strengths of intellectual paradigms, or the dynamics of science politics, were crucial in the perpetuation of the diverging practices. The second period extends from 1979 to the present. Here we see a convergence of circumstances in the two jurisdictions, due in no small degree to shared developments in industrial and environmental politics, but also to the cumulative changes in forest environments. As a result, both provinces emerged with a similar strategy, adopting biological insecticides as the main strategy for protecting fibre resources from budworm damage.

This study supports the findings of students of science in various colonial contexts, who have noted the paradox that cutting-edge scientific endeavors may occur in colonial or peripheral rather than in metropolitan contexts (Saldahna, 1996; Sivaramakrishnan, 1996; Barton, 2000). New Brunswick, a staples-dependent hinterland dominated by resource capital, has in many ways been a pioneer in developing industrial forestry methods for Canada. The budworm question played a central role in propelling New Brunswick to this height. Nova Scotia figures as a leader, as well, though at the opposite end of the chemical-spray continuum. While holding a similarly peripheral position, Nova Scotia stood out for 30 years among North American states and provinces in completely rejecting the insecticide spray option.

Spruce Budworm Management in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia

In New Brunswick, the spraying of the spruce budworm began in 1952 as a short-term containment strategy. However, the continuing logic of comprehensive chemical spray was soon accepted, as the budworm was found to rebound quickly and move readily across space. The spray program thus became an annual fixture. At full stretch, between 1952 and 1984, the annual coverage ranged from one million to almost 4 million hectares (APEC, 1993), with an all-time peak in 1976 when 3,880,000 hectares were treated. Since the mid-1980s, budworm spraying has declined sharply, to the point that only 250,000 hectares were sprayed in 1992 and 90,000 in 1993. This decline was due less to a change in management policy than to the decline in the incidence of spruce budworm in the province.

The airborne agents have also changed over time. DDT, the magic bullet of the chemical-pesticide revolution, was used from 1952 to 1970. Thereafter the less toxic fenitrothion became the agent of choice. Over the years, the use of fenitrothion has been gradually phased out in favour of the biological insecticide Bt (Bacillus thurengiensis). By 1993, Bt accounted for half the total area treated (APEC, 1993). A year later Agriculture Canada, the federal department in charge of licensing chemical insecticides, announced its intention to ban the airborne application of fenitrothion (The Globe and Mail, 1996), and by 1998, it was banned altogether. Other chemical insecticides were used on occasion, but only on a short-term basis (Rashid, 2002).

As elsewhere, public political concern combined with medical and ecological research findings to drive the succession of favoured chemical agents. Rachel Carson’s landmark study Silent Spring, which triggered a global debate on the effects of chemical pesticides, included a section on the New Brunswick forest spray program. It was widely debated in the local media (Carson, 1962; Burnett, 1992; Kingsmill, 1993). Ultimately it was a parallel (health and medical) discourse linking fenitrothion spray to the relatively higher incidence of Reye’s syndrome among children that jolted an otherwise placid New Brunswick public into protest (Miller, 1993).

Forest scientists in New Brunswick did not, however, fully embrace this position. Until very recently, there remained a faction that favoured chemical spraying, arguing that the social and economic benefits outweigh the environmental and health costs. It also argued that Bt is both less effective than chemical insecticides and considerably more expensive than fenitrothion (Baskerville, 1995: 58). Some of these forest scientists were prepared to use alternative biological, biorational and chemical insecticides and pheromones registered for potential use with Agriculture Canada (Kettela, 1997a).1 At present, New Brunswick forest managers are committed to a Spruce Budworm Decision Support System. It relies on Bt spraying to maintain the fibre supply while claiming high precision with respect to monitoring the extent of potential damage, providing detailed information on various options, and promising the highest efficiency in terms of control and costs based on the most advanced technology (Rashid, 2002).

In stark contrast to the New Brunswick situation, the province of Nova Scotia resisted the application of chemical insecticides throughout the formative years. The province only started applying Bt in 1980, and sparingly at that. Nova Scotia foresters also seem more confident that Bt will be sufficient, and that it can be effective if applied carefully in the right places at the right times.2 Yet their program is not as developed technologically as the New Brunswick system.

The use of Bt is often claimed to be less harmful to human and environmental health than chemical insecticides. But it is by no means certain that Bt and other biological controls are harmless. Contrary to common belief, for example, Bt harms not only the budworm but the whole insect family of lepidopterans (Scriber, 2001). The Forest Entomology Project of the Canadian Forestry Service – the federal body in the forefront of researching and legitimizing the spray program acknowledges this by stating that its “pest management strategies use pest-specific agents that regulate destructive insect populations at levels such that their impact can be tolerated without knowingly disrupting the environment [emphasis added].” A more critical view describes Canada’s forests as an emerging “battleground of bizarre biology” whose arsenal of “cannibalistic bugs, gut-sucking larvae and deadly bacteria … would tumble the Geneva Convention if any of it was used in conventional warfare” (The Globe and Mail, 1996). With respect to the use of naturally occurring insect viruses to control the spruce budworm, there are also risks (Golden, 1994; Green et al, 1990; Orton, 1998).

The renewed interest in biological controls is part of a wider institutional embrace of the integrated pest management (IPM) approach. This advocates a combination of chemical, biological and cultural methods to combat agricultural and forest pests. A recent position paper, issued by the Canadian Institute of Forestry, describes integrated pest management as based primarily on proactive, long-term silvicultural measures. These are aimed at reducing forest susceptibility to pests through selectively removing high-risks stands, modifying growing conditions to improve stand resistance, altering stand microclimates, or increasing the prevalence of natural enemies. Secondary measures are reactive or short-term and consist primarily of harvesting stands that harbour pests or applying to the forest synthetic or natural products that are detrimental to pest survival. However, since very few proactive measures have been taken, historically, the de facto focus tilts towards chemical and biological controls.

The Politics of Science and the Spruce Budworm, 1950 to 1978

Powerful economic interests have shaped the spruce budworm debate in New Brunswick. As elsewhere, the chemical revolution of the postwar era was important, with giant chemical companies aggressively marketing insecticides as the definitive path to pest management in agriculture and forestry. Many scientists were caught up in these technological developments and their commercial applications. Fischer speaks of the rise of a technocorporate state, an iron triangle composed of government, capital and their scientific and professional advisors (Fischer, 1990). By 1951, for example, the staff of the U.S. federal Bureau of Entomology and Plant Quarantine had largely adopted the chemical paradigm. Insecticide manufacturers exerted a tremendous influence on the Bureau, even to the extent of dictating the character of much of its research (Sawyer, 1990: 272). Russell (2001) has shown the connections between United States military strategy and propaganda and insecticide research and advertising from the First World War to the publication of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring.

At the regional level, the New Brunswick science community was similarly open to business and government pressures. The story actually began in northern Ontario. Here the powerful federal minister C.D. Howe responded to urgings from pulp and paper leaseholders for a response to boreal forest budworm damage. Howe authorized the Forest Insect Control Board, a federal-provincial body that significantly raised the profile of entomological research in federal scientific circles. This coincided with an expanding federal role in forest policy in general, in which support for research played a major role.

After the Second World War, the New Brunswick government opted for a massive expansion of pulp and paper manufacturing, a move that coincided with the eruption of a new spruce budworm infestation. Here too there was pressure to protect fibre resources for planned industrial use. The response was a fascinating hybrid enterprise, Forest Protection Limited (FPL), established jointly by the major pulp and paper companies and the New Brunswick government, to plan and deliver an aerial spray program of unprecedented scale. FPL’s operations were centred at Budworm City, a logistic base in northern New Brunswick housing 200 people and a 760-metre airstrip. In 1952, the first operational spraying was launched, using war-surplus aircraft and war-tested chemicals. It was sponsored by the New Brunswick International Paper Company and the provincial Department of Lands and Forests.3

FPL became an institutional catalyst for a generation of forest-management thinking. Under its umbrella gathered a cadre of foresters and forest scientists based in industry, the provincial government, the Maritime regional office of the Canadian Forestry Service, the forestry faculty at UNB and the local (Maritime) section of the Canadian Institute of Foresters. This network served to both advocate for and legitimize the chemical spray approach to forest protection.

Significantly, the continuing rationale for the New Brunswick spray option was the need to maintain the forest economy. The influential forester and forest entomologist Barney Flieger provides one example. A native son, he received his forestry degree from the University of New Brunswick in 1926. Over the next 30 years, he worked for the International Paper Company, taught at the Faculty of Forestry in Fredericton and became the first manager of Forest Protection Limited. Flieger also served a stint as Dean of Forestry at UNB. In a 1940 report, he drew attention to the damaging effect of the spruce budworm in the Miramichi region during the epidemic of the 1920s. This publication remained required reading for all UNB forestry students for years to come (UNB Forestry Association, 1958: 35-6; Kettela, Bulletin: 78-9).

In 1953, Flieger set out the economic rationale for a comprehensive spray campaign. This began with the many industrial plants depending on budworm-prone forests and the fact that 60% of provincial revenue came from the forest sector. (Flieger, 1953: 11-12). In 1983, President and Managing Director of Forest Protection Limited HJ. Irving and forest consultant FE. Webb similarly wrote that “no other eastern province is more dependent on its forest industry or more prone to facing critical wood shortages” (Webb and Irving, 1983: 118). They therefore argued that the spray option was necessary to maintain a precarious wood fibre supply.

When the respected forester Gordon Baskerville characterized the New Brunswick “forestry problem,” he concurred that the economic agenda set by government in the 1940s necessitated the spray program (Baskerville, 1995: 37, 45-7). In one sense, Baskerville spent his formative professional years in Flieger’s shadow. After gaining his forestry degree from UNB in 1955, Baskerville worked for several decades in the Maritime Branch of the Canadian Forestry Service. He then served stints as Professor and Dean at the UNB Forestry Faculty and later as assistant deputy minister of the New Brunswick Department of Natural Resources from 1979 to 1982.

The notion of the forest uncompromisingly supplying fibre for pulp, paper and sawmills has been a basic premise or point of departure in all Baskerville’s calculations. When he wrote about the degraded nature of the New Brunswick forest in the 1980s, he offered two avenues for its restoration:”… either there must be relaxation of [harvesting] pressure or there must be massive assistance to the natural growth of the forest.” Baskerville sided with the latter, arguing that the former would result in “a loss of some of the development gained over the last half century. This is not a socially acceptable alternative” (Regier and Baskerville, 1986: 83).

In addition to stressing the need to protect standing timber assets, the spray coalition has shown skepticism of the negative side-effects of chemical insecticides on other flora and fauna (including people). Typically this argument is based on the lack of definitive scientific evidence of harm. Where such evidence is advanced, the spray advocates tend not to accept these findings as sufficiently dangerous to justify scaling down or altering the mode of treatment. In 1990, for example, the Maritime Forest Research Centre in Fredericton studied the aerial spray effort in New Brunswick from 1972 to 1977. It advised that the province continue spraying (albeit on a more targeted basis) to protect “socio-economic values,” in spite of “evidence of heavy knockdowns of tree-dwelling and flying anthropods when insecticides were applied repeatedly to spruce-fir forest in mid-July” (Miller, 1980: 27). Baskerville even questioned the phasing out of DDT in the late 1960s, stating that in general, “studies found varying degrees of local impact, sometimes severe, but little evidence of impact at the population level, except for bioaccumulation of DDT in bird populations” (Baskerville, 1995: 55). The insecticide methods, then, clearly won the day in New Brunswick forestry circles. As a feat of logistics, Baskerville argued, the New Brunswick program “has been outstanding” (1995: 51).4

Nova Scotia offers a study in contrasts. During the formative phase, the pressure in favour of aerial spray was far less intense than in New Brunswick. At the time of a spruce budworm outbreak in the mid-1950s, the pulp and paper sector was not yet dominant in the forest industry. Furthermore, the major company in the province, the Mersey Paper Company, gathered its main wood supply from the southwestern parts of the province, where the budworm was far less prominent. Thus it was neither a strong nor an early advocate of chemical spray.

The urgency of chemical treatments in Nova Scotia emerged only in the subsequent budworm cycle, with the massive infestation of the early 1970s. This situation was more analogous to New Brunswick in the 1940s. Nova Scotia had recently invited two new pulp and paper companies to establish operations in the province, with concessionary leases to crown timber in each case. The fibre supply was now tightly committed to the operations of three large transnational pulp and paper corporations. Not surprisingly, this sector lent heavy support to aerial spray. The dominant firm in eastern Nova Scotia (where the infestation was most severe) was the Sweden-based Stora Forest Industries. It went so far as to threaten to withdraw from the province, should a spray program not be put in place.

In 1976, after aggressive industry lobbying, the Nova Scotia government approved a spray permit for Stora (against the advice of its own forest administration). Shortly thereafter, however, the permit was cancelled by the cabinet, after intense pressure from environmental groups, reservations expressed by the medical profession, and research findings linking Reye’s Syndrome to an emulsifier in the insecticide (May, 1982). Opposition also came from certain other members of the Nova Scotia forest community, such as the Provincial Forest Practices Improvement Board, a multi-stakeholder forum formed under a new silviculture act. Here a majority of the members opposed spruce budworm spraying (Chronicle Herald, 1976). The wildlife lobby saw the spraying as a threat to wildlife habitats. Small woodlot owners felt the moneys for spraying could be employed more constructively to support the small woodlot owners’ position in the pulpwood market (Liverpool Advance, 1976; Bissix and Sandberg, 1992). These dissenting voices combined to build a successful case against budworm spraying in the mid-1970s (May, 1982).5

In the case of New Brunswick, then, the broader political economy and interest group politics clearly played a role in the acceptance and institutionalization of a spruce budworm spray program. A highly forest resource-dependent province quickly embraced an ambitious fix to a “pest problem” that threatened the leading provincial industry. And though certain public protests were launched in the late 1960s and 1970s, these were largely overwhelmed by the pro-spray forces (Miller, 1980; Swift, 1983: 179-89). In Nova Scotia, by contrast, the province resisted the more moderate pressure from industry and federal forces in the 1950s and declined the spray option. Even in 1976, when the industrial pro-spray coalition rivalled that of New Brunswick, the Nova Scotia government declined to authorize the use of fenitrothion. Clearly, the constellation of groups opposing the spray effort was more successful than its counterpart in New Brunswick (where Forest Protection Limited spread fenitrothion on an unprecedented 3.9 million hectares of forest lands in 1976). But this anomaly cannot be explained solely by the politics of science. Science politics also had an increasingly important role to play.

Science Politics and the Spruce Budworm

We have already noted how the divergence in spruce budworm management in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia can be explained by a politics of science. The high commercial pressure on the overall fibre supply in New Brunswick clearly influenced the decision to adopt a spray model. In Nova Scotia, the lack of pressure on the fibre supply worked in the opposite direction. But there were also important factors in the sphere of science politics that influenced the discrepancy. We argue that two different positions in ecology and pest management, corresponding to the different training, convictions and institutional homes of key forest professionals in the two provinces, had an important effect on the different directions pursued in the two provinces.

During the critical formative years of the early 1950s, the forester communities of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia adhered to separate management philosophies towards forest “pests.” These philosophies differed in their scientific roots, their ethics of nature and their institutional homes in the two provinces. They were, in effect, competing paradigms that pulled in different directions.

Before the second World War, there was little support among forest scientists for chemical controls. In fact, the no-chemical option was based on a view of the “balance of nature” in ecology, and what Donald Worster has called an ecological pragmatism. The latter sprang from a skepticism about the application of chemical poisons to growing matter, coupled with a search for more benign methods of manipulating nature. In wider natural resource circles (including agriculture as well as forestry) this pragmatic outlook had predominated up to the 1950s. To that time, most forest scientists sought the roots of the spruce budworm problem in human action or in commercial use. Infestations, it was widely felt, had grown in both extent and intensity as a result of poor harvesting practices. Accordingly, the solution lay in different and more appropriate silvicultural methods. Proponents of this “silvicultural hypothesis” believed that past “forest practices have led to increasing susceptibility and vulnerability of the affected forests, [and that] these practices should be altered so as to minimize the conditions which favour budworm damage” (Miller and Rusnock, 1993: 179).

According to the proponents of the silvicultural hypothesis, several processes combined to make forests increasingly vulnerable to budworm outbreaks. The high-grading of large-diameter pine, spruce, beech, maple and birch resulted in a forest succession towards budworm-vulnerable species, such as white spruce and balsam fir. Similarly the abandonment of farmlands opened the way for these same species to get established. Other practices, such as clear cutting, fire suppression and even spraying served to magnify such trends. Other insects and diseases (such as birch die back) also played a role in evolving succession patterns.

The force of this argument was that alternative management practices could minimize exposure to budworm damage. The forest could, in effect, be “budworm proofed.” More specifically, the proponents of the silvicultural hypothesis favoured measures to reduce the extent of overmature balsam fir. These included cutting the fir on short rotations, managing spruce-fir forests for maximum vigour (through selection rather than high-grade cuts), establishing ecological and topographical barriers to contain the spread of the insect, applying silvicultural measures to infested epicenters and restoring or maintaining the presettlement forest to encourage stability and balance (Miller and Rusnock, 1993: 179-81).

Sometime before the second World War, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia agreed to divide the training in forestry and agriculture (Creighton, 1988: 73-4). Fredericton became the undisputed centre of Maritime forestry expertise, while Truro in Nova Scotia became the centre of agricultural research. The former was assigned to the University of New Brunswick (and was joined later by the Maritime Forest Ranger School). The province was also the host of a federal forest research centre and other research efforts by government and private institutions. Cross appointments and movements of scientists among these institutions were common (Lie, 1980:10). This nexus, we will argue, provided a growing opposition to the silvicultural position and growing theoretical support for the chemical spray option.

In New Brunswick forestry circles, proponents of the silvicultural hypothesis were not entirely absent. In 1948, R.E. Balch set up the Green River project near Edmundston, as a site for research and management experiments on the spruce budworm. It involved a wide variety of techniques, though with an emphasis on silvicultural methods (Johnstone, 1991:139-40). These efforts, however, were soon matched and then eclipsed by an alternative chemical control strategy. The International Paper Company, under the direction of Barney Flieger, embarked on the spray program in 1952. The initial rationale was one of “green storage,” aimed at maintaining stands until they could be absorbed at the mills. But the technical justifications in favour of spraying were initially weak and unsophisticated. As Flieger put it in 1953, “Forest spraying keeps trees alive – of this there is no doubt. The outcome, then, unless some new trend appears, seems to depend mainly upon the relative persistence of the insect in epidemic form on the one hand and the forest sprayers on the other” (16).

From these early beginnings, however, the New Brunswick forest science community moved rapidly to the forefront of North American practice in the design and defense of chemical spray containment programs. The adoption of the spray program enframed research directions and data interpretation in support of continued spraying. Over time, the rationale became increasingly elaborate. To answer crucial questions about spray applications in general, Forest Protection Limited funded research through the universities, the National Research Council of Canada and the New Brunswick Research and Productivity Council. In the government sector, the Canadian Forestry Service was emerging as the lead scientific agent. FPL worked closely with the federal service (Armstrong, 1985: 307; Johnstone, 1991:140). The Canadian Forest Service developed hazard maps that showed sites of heavy concentrations of the budworm. Flieger showed that spray objectives could be achieved at reduced dosages with a properly atomized spray, which doubled the treatment area per sortie by the spray aircraft (Armstrong, 1985). Others pioneered the testing of aircraft guidance systems and the development of spray-cloud modelling to apply treatments more efficiently (Armstrong, 1985: 307, 312). Baskerville points to the development of the ability to track the budworm outbreaks throughout the province with exceptional “precision and effectiveness” (Baskerville, 1995: 51).

The Green River Project was matched by another, even more influential, field experiment. In the late 1940s a 54 square kilometres tract known as the Kedgewick Check Area was withdrawn from all treatment to allow long-term study of natural budworm-forest dynamics. It was from this area that New Brunswick forest scientists pioneered studies and theories on the population dynamics of the spruce budworm, as well as various simulation models based on these dynamics (Morris, 1963). Though the interpretations of these data differed in their support for the silvicultural hypothesis, the interpretation that dominated and came to guide action suggested that the budworm would not go away and that spraying was the only means available to protect fibre resources. A similar message, based on Kedgewick data, was delivered in a 1975 issue of The Forestry Chronicle. It suggested that the natural dynamics of the fir-spruce forest were inconsistent with the even-flow harvest paradigm of forest management (Baskerville, 1995: 59-60). Here the authors challenged the notion of the “normal forest” with a balanced age structure, from which an annual allowable cut could be extracted on a perpetual basis. Instead they argued that it was “normal” for the spruce-fir forest to grow and crash (as a result of the budworm), and urged forest managers to take account of these dynamics.

Out of such findings, Forestry Canada, the University of British Columbia and a local New Brunswick team set up a simulation model “to mimic stand, forest, budworm, and industry dynamics” (Baskerville, 1995: 64).6 The model forecast “wide-spread collapse of the fir/spruce forest, a loss of industrial capacity, and substantial loss of employment” (Baskerville, 1995: 67). For obvious reasons, this framework was difficult to sell to provincial policy makers and politicians. According to Baskerville, fewer than half a dozen people understood the construct, and its management implications were frightening in implying that the old formulas of annual allowable cut needed to be abandoned. Rather than yielding an annual harvest on a regular basis, the model suggested that the forest developed in a cyclical manner, with forest yields being highly irregular over the long run. If this was to be avoided, more rather than less human intervention was required (including spraying) to maintain a regular and predictable yield of fibre.

By the late 1970s, their message was eventually accepted by the politicians. By that time, the pro-spray coalition could provide “proof” of the correctness of its ways and of their firm basis in science. In 1983, Webb and Irving wrote,

The largely intuitive conviction of the industry and a succession of provincial governments up to 1976 that any other course than spraying would be economically unthinkable and would amount to relegating the forest management role to the budworm has been convincingly backed up by more elegant forms of analyses developed in recent years. (119)

Underlying these research and management prescriptions was the assumption that spruce budworm infestations had not necessarily grown in intensity and extent, at least over the long term, and that humans had little or no influence on the growth, intensity or frequency of spruce budworm infestations. Adherents to these views contended that “periodic devastations may be part of the budworm-susceptible forest ecosystems, just as periodic destruction by fire is characteristic of other ecosystems” (Baskerville in Miller and Rusnock, 1993: 183).7

The scientific conceptions and beliefs on spruce budworm management in Nova Scotia were formed in a different institutional setting. Some of the key individuals in the province received their training and inspiration from the Nova Scotia Agricultural College (NSAC) and MacDonald College at McGill University where the college’s graduates went on for advanced training. For a time, a vibrant forest science community was centred in the Division of Forest Biology of the Nova Scotia Department of Lands and Forests (DLF). Its central individual was an ardent opponent of chemical spraying and a supporter of the silvicultural hypothesis.

In Nova Scotia, the expansion of the professional forester community came relatively late and without the proximate institutions where the pro-spray option found its greatest support. Nova Scotia was far away from Forest Protection Limited’s chemical-industrial-academic nexus. And while chemicals were by no means absent in agricultural practices at the time, there was more diverse and critical thinking surrounding their use in Nova Scotia. These conditions allowed for a science politics in support of the silvicultural option, and a more skeptical view of the use of insecticides.

The key figure advocating the silvicultural position in Nova Scotia was Lloyd Hawboldt, a graduate of both NSAC and McGill, a forest entomologist by training and a force within the Nova Scotia DLF from 1944 to 1976. Hawboldt was inspired by several entomologists who had worked at MacDonald College and later taken up careers in Nova Scotia. One was W.H. Brittain, a New Brunswicker who worked as Provincial Entomologist for Nova Scotia and organized the Nova Scotia (later Acadian) Entomological Society. Brittain later served as Professor, Dean and Vice Principal at MacDonald College (Vickery, 1997). Another Hawboldt mentor was A.D. Pickett, who gained international fame for his work on the biological control of insects in apple orchards. Pickett served as Provincial Entomologist for Nova Scotia from 1929 to 1939 and then as Officer-in-Charge of the Dominion Entomological Laboratory in Kentville, Nova Scotia (LeBlanc, 1991; MacLellan, 1997). Pickett also received extensive citation in Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring (Carson, 1962: 259-61).

It was from this tradition and these men that Hawboldt drew his perspectives on the spruce budworm question in Nova Scotia. Two influential articles by J.D. Tothill, in the proceedings of the Nova Scotia Entomological Society, drew an explicit link with the budworm and outlined the silvicultural hypothesis (Tothill, 1918, 1921). It was from A.D. Pickett, with whom Hawboldt worked as a student one summer, that he learned to be cautious with insecticides.8

The essence of Pickett’s entomological approach to insect pests was ecological and centred on the life cycle, predators and environment of the insect. Pickett and Hawboldt considered that,

the proper approach to the orchard insect problem, or any control problem, whether plant or animal, is through a complete ecological study of the problems involved. If insecticides are necessary to keep injurious species below the economic level, we must take the trouble to determine the over-all long-range effect of the chemicals on all the factors in the environment. We are of the opinion that the use of chemicals should be considered supplementary to environmental resistance. If we ignore the methods for the maintenance of population levels which nature has devised through the eons of the past, we are treading on dangerous ground. Where man has proceeded on this basis, his actions have often been highly destructive. (Pickett, 1949: 40-41)

In contrast to the New Brunswick forest spray advocates, who pioneered the use of DDT in 1950, Pickett drew upon thirty years of experience with insecticides in fruit orchards. He had thus seen firsthand the negative effects of such applications. It was from these ideas that Hawboldt became a firm believer in the silvicultural approach to spruce budworm management.

In 1944 Lloyd Hawboldt was hired as a forest entomologist by the Nova Scotia DLF. His was the first such appointment in any provincial forest administration in Canada. He quickly became the leading figure in his department on questions related to forest science and forest management. In 1947, he headed up a Division of Forest Biology, which conducted local research based on ecological principles. Subsequent work on birch die back attracted international attention. In 1951 the research division was disbanded as part of a federal-provincial understanding on the specialization of forest science in the federal Forestry Service in Fredericton. Hawboldt nevertheless continued to pursue ecological investigations but only within the more practical focus of field management. His general perspective on “natural harvesting,” or the role of insects and disease in forest ecosystem change, was expressed as follows:

Nature provides the insects and fungi to break down the old and over-mature trees. They help in the process of rotting the wood and returning it to the soil, thus replenishing the land for a new crop. Many of the insect and disease epidemics are related to the age, vigour and sanitary conditions of the forest. Hence protection against this group of “enemies” of the woodland is dependent more on preventive measures than on purely mechanical control methods. It has been said that “wise use of the axe” would result in fewer epidemics. Insect and disease pests are considered as problems of forest management in relation to natural control and prevention. (Hawboldt, 1955a: 74)

In a longer document, circulated internally in the Department of Lands and Forests in 1955, Hawboldt commented on spruce budworm outbreaks on the Cape Breton Highlands and in parts of mainland Nova Scotia. The epidemic affected primarily white spruce in old farm fields and balsam fir on the highlands. One of the outstanding features of the epidemic, Hawboldt noted, was its “patchy pattern” in which older and dying trees were especially affected, while “patches of [younger] fir [were] not so badly injured” (1955b).

With respect to spraying, Hawboldt stated that there were more profound shortcomings than those associated with the logistics of aerial spray (the major difficulties acknowledged in the “spruce budworm war” in New Brunswick). The major problem, he wrote, was that “in order to be effective, the rate of kill by a spray application must be very high . . . otherwise multiplication of those not killed can rebuild the population to epidemic proportions within a very short time” (Hawboldt 6). These views Hawboldt shared with others, and they were, as the New Brunswick case illustrates, prophetic. Hawboldt’s recommendations at the time were to either leave or to salvage the budworm-infested trees. In the end, 60,000 of 1 million acres were salvaged as pulpwood. For the future, Hawboldt recommended that:

In the areas where, as a result of selecting other more valuable softwoods, fir was encouraged to increase, all practicable efforts should be made to reduce the amount of fir. In more northerly areas, where the fir tends to be a more predominant species, cuttings should be regulated to give a broken distribution of age classes in a given forest unit. If operations are scattered as much as economically possible, then in the future fairly small scattered and isolated groups will reach maturity at the time. An essential part of the program would be the rigid utilization of fir within its rotation age. (1955b)

Several years later, when Stora Kopparberg took up its 1.2 million acre lease in eastern Nova Scotia, Hawboldt urged the company to follow through on these points. Indeed, Hawboldt struck a chord of agreement with Stora’s earliest foresters, but as the business developed and staff turned over, his advice went largely unheeded. This corresponded with a wider paradigm shift among Nova Scotia professional foresters, in the direction of intensive industrial management (Sandberg and Clancy, 2000).

From the early to mid-1970s, as already noted, Nova Scotia was struck by a massive spruce budworm infestation. The pressure for an industrial response along New Brunswick lines was intense. However, Hawboldt stood his ground, this time attracting support from the environmental and wildlife lobbies and part of the small woodlot movement. The level of personal pressure took its toll, though, as Hawboldt suffered a heart attack in 1976. That same year, he penned a final document entitled “Toward ‘Budworm-Proofing’ the Forests of Nova Scotia,” in which he reiterated the points he had made 30 years earlier.

It is noteworthy that these views were shared by some prominent foresters in Nova Scotia. Hawboldt had the support of some colleagues within the provincial forester community. The long-serving forester for the Mersey Paper Company was also highly critical of the spray option as a primary solution to the spruce budworm problem. Ralph Johnson’s views may have been shaded by the competitive threat posed by the new Stora mill and the fact that “his” western part of the province was less affected by budworm damage. But it is more likely that Johnson’s thoughts corresponded with the old ecological interpretation of budworm dynamics. He viewed clear cutting as responsible for the spread of the spruce-budworm-susceptible balsam fir and white spruce (Johnson, 1983).

A Converging Discourse, 1979 to Present

From the late 1970s, the differences between the two provincial approaches began to narrow, and for this there were several causes. First, the changing political economy, coupled with the ecological legacy of past practice and a changing science discourse, contributed to a convergence of views on how to deal with the spruce budworm. The change in forest ecology needs some elaboration here. In combination with selective (high-grade) harvesting, the absence of silvicultural measures to cope with the budworm had the effect of making the forest even more prone to budworm infestations in both provinces. In addition, the Nova Scotians were subject to budworm moth flights from New Brunswick where the insect population was kept artificially high because of the spray effort (Greenbank et al, 1980). Any efforts in Nova Scotia to combat the budworm with silviculture may thus have been complicated by budworm flights from New Brunswick. The Nova Scotians themselves felt that the outbreaks in the province were exacerbated by the moth flights from their neighbour to the west.

A changing forest ecology, the imperatives of industrial forestry in the face of increasing timber demand, and shortening provincial supplies led to the vigorous introduction of intensive management methods. These methods included the immediate suppression of insect outbreaks to protect the precious fibre in existing woods, rather than their transformation into budworm resistant forests through silvicultural methods over the long term. Even in Nova Scotia, home of the silvicultural hypothesis, industrial forest methods had become well established. They included an increasing use of harvesting machines for large-scale mechanical clear cutting, with little priority for the harvesting of old or budworm-sensitive stands. To counter the province’s ban on fenitrothion spray, Stora launched a massive plantation program to convert to black spruce. This was a species less sensitive to the budworm, but one whose growth required the application of chemical herbicides to suppress hardwood competition.9 It is in this context that not only New Brunswick, but also Nova Scotia, became aware of what the biological control revolution had to offer. At the moment, both are poised to use Bt as one of the main weapons in future battles.

A second factor stems from the framing of scientific research in only certain directions. Throughout this time, spruce budworm research remained narrow in scope. This was perhaps best reflected in the fate of CANUSA, the jointly funded U.S. and Canadian effort to understand and control the spruce budworm problem. The CANUSA project was impressive and varied, including such wide-ranging fields as biology, ecology and population dynamics; the economic and social effects of budworm infestations; tactics and strategies (including silvicultural ones) for prevention and suppression of damage by the budworm; and integrated pest management (Sanders et al, 1983). But the crucial focus was still on the spruce budworm. This was illustrated most dramatically by the fact that CANUSA was launched at the height of the budworm outbreak in 1977 and then phased out as the infestation came to a close in 1984. The focus was on the budworm, rather than I on the forest of which it was a part. Thus, in 1996, Nealis and Ortiz wrote that:

Research on the population dynamics of the spruce budworm has an extensive history in the Canadian Forest Service. Although this work has contributed significantly to modern concepts and methods in animal population dynamics, the ecological relationships between the dynamics of the insect and that of the forest it inhabits remain poorly understood. (77)

A third factor supporting the spray option came from the new paradigm in ecosystems thinking. It suggested that ecosystems were unstable or constantly in flux, affected by catastrophic events from time to time, regardless of human preventive intervention. This stood in contrast with an older paradigm, which held that ecosystems were inherently prone to balance (Pickett and Ostfeld, 1995). Certainly the metaphor of flux had much to offer in this situation. However, as Donald Worster has pointed out, it may also support a permissive ecology in which human intervention, whatever its nature and intensity, is regarded as legitimate.10 This can be seen in the argument, commonly advanced by corporate and state forest interests, that industrial clear cutting “mimics” the impact of wildfire in driving forest renewal.

Taken collectively, these forces have created a highly technocratic forest management practice, developed and operated by experts who claim exclusive knowledge over it. From this perspective, forest spraying (or “forest protection,” as it is traditionally termed within the profession) is an integral and necessary part of management. The roots of such technocratic management clearly lie in economics, where the problem is defined as one of fibre asset growth. Forest experts see themselves as specialists, equipped to understand and manipulate nature and respond to the economic demands of their clients. In this sense, New Brunswick foresters can draw upon the widest set of professional tools, encouraged by a government that has supported the insecticide or “protection” option unconditionally. At the height of the spray regime, New Brunswick forest management was seen by many in the profession as the most progressive and advanced in the country. Baskerville referred to the spray program as critical to the province’s ability to expand its forest-based industry “to the level of sustainable production of the forest,” and the “freedom of decision to introduce this to this nation’s most comprehensive forest management program on Crown lands” (1983: 80). The program thus “extends forest management to every hectare of Crown land in the province, the only province in Canada where this is true” (1983: 80).

From the same expert perspective, the Nova Scotia case was seen in a more equivocal and even negative light. In comparing the two provinces, Baskerville wrote in 1983 that “one government chose not to protect the forest and thereby rendered forest management problematical, if not impossible” (1983: 81). To Baskerville, the rejection of spraying, in this instance, clearly meant the abandonment of forest management.

But the New Brunswick forest management program did not work without tensions. By the late 1980s, relationships between the various participants in the forest community were strained. Baskerville lamented that “the most elegant attempt in any province to bring an entire Crown forest under technically solid management began to falter” (1995: 86). Tellingly, the forest experts did not see their models and prescriptives as implicated in this failure. Instead, they attributed it to the failure of social and political stakeholders to understand the logic of “forest management.” Baskerville argued, for example, that “the technology of resource management [is] completely up-to-date … [but] society, and its problem-solving institutions, have not kept pace with the technical potential of forest management” (1995: 87). Cuff and Walker (1985) were somewhat more self-critical, conceding that the eastern Canada CANUSA project fell short largely because the simulation models developed by the research scientists were not relevant to the needs of forest managers in the various provinces. Each of these assessors, then, felt that his or her techniques were far more advanced than the social and policy tools available to implement them.

The most recent version of the spray program in New Brunswick, the Spruce Budworm Decision Support System, builds on the models developed in the 1970s and 1980s. It is, however, more dependent on technological advances and insights than its predecessors. The idea is to avoid some of the “social and political” problems the old models attempted but failed to incorporate. The future has yet to tell how the SPDSS model will work in practice.

Within the wider paradigm of industrial forest management (of which insecticide spraying forms part), the search for solutions continues. Some major studies still explore detailed problems of budworm biology and ecology or seek a new magic bullet for containment. In Sault Ste. Marie, federal and provincial forest researchers joined forces in efforts to grow and manipulate harmful viruses capable of transference to the budworm (Toronto Star, 1994). In other research, John Findlay of the University of New Brunswick and David Miller of Agrifood Canada have studied so-called “escapers,” individual trees or stands of trees that stay healthy in forests affected by budworm attacks. Findlay and Miller have found that some endophyte strains produced toxins that can cripple the insects. This raises the prospect that plant seedlings could be inoculated with these endophytes and become more resistant to spruce budworm attacks sometime in the not too distant future.

Research into silvicultural methods for spruce budworm controls have also become more focused in the technocratic mode. One such effort was the Green Plan Silvicultural Insect Management Network, sponsored by the federal government and conducted by four Canadian universities, the British Columbia Ministry of Forestry and Canadian Forest Service scientists. The project emerged out of the attempts of the Integrated Forest Management initiative to lessen the reliance on insecticides (MacLean, 1996). Some of its findings seem to support the efficacy of silvicultural methods in combating the budworm. One study has found, for example, that with an increase of the hardwood component in spruce and fir stands (a component that has been actively purged in the past), the damage by budworm is reduced significantly (Su et al., 1996). Notably, these projects seek not to eliminate but to reduce the use of insecticides. In fact, they illustrate that today’s baseline or point of departure for spruce budworm management has shifted completely from the early 1950s. At that time, biological and silvicultural controls constituted the point of departure for management, with insecticides still regarded as a temporary stopgap measure. Today, the use of insecticides forms the baseline, and more benign biological and silvicultural controls the add-ons.

The scientific legacy of the spruce budworm debate does not turn on whether or not to spray. Clearly the case in favour has been overdetermined by the wider production and consumption pressures that surround the forest. Within the foreseeable future, solutions seem destined to come not from exploring social and ecological relationships within the forest but rather from the end of a hose or from the magic of a laboratory test tube.

An alternative driver seems more likely to come from outside the industrial management complex, where a new paradigm threatens to alter the terms of debate. From the birth of resource politics in North America more than a century ago, two distinct impulses have vied for primacy. The “conservationist” approach to wise use focussing on promoting sustained fibre yields (from which the Maritime spray strategy has evolved), came to predominate in most sectors. However the “preservationist” approach to the maintenance of natural areas won a place as well, as the history of national parks and nature reserves attests.11 In recent decades, political reactions against biodiversity and wildlife habitat destruction, endangered species and even the perceived “end of nature” have given renewed prominence to protected places as a management tool. Bolstered by new scientific disciplines such as conservation biology and restoration ecology, these initiatives have won intellectual and institutional legitimacy of the first order (IUCN, 1980).

Perhaps it was inevitable that they should register on Maritime forest management, where broad-scale insecticide and herbicide treatments were seen as increasingly intrusive. The logic of protected areas became consistent with the “no-spray” political argument. Many spray critics argued the benefits of the spruce budworm for other flora and fauna (Restino, 1993: 34; Gorrie, 1993; Lauf, 1996). More typically, however, the protected-area strategy ran parallel rather than in frontal conflict with that of the “working forest.” Protection was confined to preserved wilderness areas and parks in a logic of balanced use. Significantly, however, this was initially expressed very differently in the two provinces.

In Nova Scotia, a program of protected natural sites began in the 1980s, when the provincial museum undertook baseline studies of natural histories (Ogilvie, 1992). In 1990 the process gathered speed when the minister of lands and forests endorsed an endangered spaces initiative. Public consultations and a systems plan followed (Government of Nova Scotia, 1997). Overall, this program drew favourable reviews from both public opinion and most environmental groups, and in 1996 Nova Scotia received an A grade from the World Wildlife Fund’s Endangered Spaces Campaign (WWF, 1996). On these lands, no budworm spray is prescribed. Though this might seem to represent a trend toward a more benign way of reconciling the budworm and the forest ecosystem, the approach has obvious limits. Even the 10% “set aside” target can result in islands of nature preserves in a sea of industrial use. To the WWF, the province has not been able to deliver on this program, resulting in C- and C+ ratings in subsequent years (WWF, 1998, 1999).

The political logic of protected spaces, however, embeds a continuing debate about the appropriate shares of forest to be committed for the respective uses. Whether the 10% target is a first or final step is open to question. In Nova Scotia, for example, an environmentalist coalition opposing clear cut harvesting has targeted a significant tract of “productive” crown lease in the eastern half of Halifax County. It argues for some 17,000 hectares to be reserved from logging (MacLeod, 2001; Shunpiking, 2000). This can be expected to continue as part of a new political polarity in the age of protected spaces.

New Brunswick, however, initially offered a contrasting situation. Here the provincial government did not set aside any permanent preserved areas. Instead, it incorporated ecologically significant areas (such as old-growth forests) as components of an evolving and closely monitored landscape strategy. This allowed the harvesting of old-growth forests (or “overmature” as they are commonly called) before they were taken either by fire or budworm. Simultaneously, other maturing areas were designated as new “old growth.” Foresters in New Brunswick endorsed this approach as the most sophisticated management scheme in Canada. The rolling classification of forest landscapes did open the way for more discriminating silvicultural treatments than the “set-aside” approach. Politically, however, it ran counter to the new imperatives of natural protection. Not surprisingly, New Brunswick received failing grades from the World Wildlife Fund in both 1996 and 1997. This situation illustrates the ability of New Brunswick foresters to advance their own concept of forest management at the costs of the environmentalist critique. By the end of the WWF’s endangered-spaces campaign, however, New Brunswick had compromised somewhat, and in 2001 the WWF praised the province for permanently setting aside ten protected areas.12

In spite of past differences, the two provincial programs share something crucial in common. Both provincial governments declined to challenge the forest practices of the pulp and paper industry. The trend is towards industrial forestry and industrial forestry methods. Both provinces are prepared to use insecticides in future budworm outbreaks and to spray herbicides to help establish forest plantations to rebuild fibre supplies. The provinces have also pursued aggressive policies to keep the price of private land pulpwood low, a state that greatly benefits the pulp and paper companies (Clancy, 1992; Parenteau, 1992). The provinces’ preserved areas policies, where budworm spraying is banned, do not constitute a serious challenge to industrial forestry, but are a combination of appeasing and profiting from environmentalist sentiments. Indeed, given the well-documented long-distance flights of budworm moths, there is a risk that preserved areas, located in a sea of industrial forests, will be devastated by such flights.


In their insightful article on the silvicultural hypothesis, Miller and Rusnock argue that differences in scientific opinion on spruce budworm management may stem more from what we here call science politics than the politics of science. They write that

While political factors (e.g. involvement with or opposition to spray programs) may account for some differences, it is very doubtful that they can account for more than a few. Instead, our research suggests that general beliefs concerning the nature of budworm-forest ecology may have a decisive influence, one side accepting the silvicultural hypothesis and the other rejecting it on the basis of incomplete data. (182)

There is of course considerable evidence in support of this position. Scientists in support and opposition to the silvicultural hypothesis vied for dominance in both Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. In Nova Scotia, a group of scientists associated with MacDonald College at McGill and the Nova Scotia Agricultural College felt past harvesting measures had contributed to a more spruce-budworm-prone forest. They therefore recommended long-term silvicultural measures to rectify the situation and resisted the spray option accordingly. In New Brunswick, a different group of scientists in time developed conflicting theories and assumptions refuting the silvicultural hypothesis; they argued that aerial spraying was the major means to combat the spruce budworm. These arguments suggest a science politics at work, where scientists develop rival theories and assumptions that enframe and shape both their research agendas and policy and management prescriptions.

At the same time, the Miller and Rusnock view does not take sufficient account of differences over space and time. Political and economic considerations did indeed play a major role in launching the New Brunswick spray program in 1951, at a time when the scientific rationalization for spray treatments was still weak. Similarly in Nova Scotia, where the industrial coalition committed to intensive harvesting was incomplete, the New Brunswick model found little initial resonance. Both the politics of science and science politics are integral to an understanding of the divergent trajectories of budworm “management” policy in the Maritimes.

After a point, the theories and practices of budworm programs began to converge. This occurred in part as the succession towards more “benign” chemical and biological agents seemed to narrow the political distance between spray supporters and opponents. It was driven also by the similar structure and composition of the new softwood forest in the two jurisdictions and by the renewed political priority of forest industry interests even in an age of heightened environmental sensitivities. Decisively, the shift from broad-scale aerial treatment towards more selective and targeted programs served to soften the perceived breadth of threat from chemicals in the sky.

This policy convergence was not, and may still not be, complete. In New Brunswick, forest managers aspired to “ultimate technocratic control,” where experts and computers preside over roving ecosystems, containing baskets of human benefits, which move through time and space. This approach, however, was not only difficult to implement (because of the prerogatives of individual property rights and interest-group politics generally); it was questionable on the basis of its proclaimed “manipulative powers” over the environment.” It was also objectionable to local, national and international environmental groups, who criticized the New Brunswick government for the lack of a protected-areas policy.

In Nova Scotia and other parts of Canada, by contrast, the notion of “ultimate technocratic control” has been chided, especially in the establishment of protected spaces and wilderness areas and parks. These areas now serve as emblems of environmental and biodiversity conservation and as a counterweight and a means to appease public opposition to budworm spraying and industrial forestry. They are also artfully coupled to the promise of ecotourism development.

This situation reflects a polarization of landscape use, a policy route also prescribed by New Brunswick. However, there are attendant problems and conflicts that go along with it. Future battles over the proportionate zoning of forest landscapes seem inevitable, and the preserved areas are likely to get compromised in this process. Furthermore, the preserved-areas approach does not address the prospects of spruce budworm infestations developing and spreading from the wilderness preserves and parks to outlying regions; nor does it examine the process of the budworm moving from sprayed areas into the parks.

In the age of preservation, then, the spruce budworm is destined to play a prominent and continuing part. Just as it has catalyzed the past half-century of Maritime forest management, it can be expected to permeate the next.


The authors would like to thank John Sandlos and the journal’s referees for their valuable comments, and acknowledge financial support for this project from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, grant No. 410-97-0695.

1. Pheromones are chemical signals that are released externally by organisms and that effect communication between members of the same species (Van Emden and Peakall, 1996: 123).

2. This paragraph is based on interviews with officials for the New Brunswick and Nova Scotia natural resource ministries.

3. Forest Protection Limited December 2001, .

4. Such scientific “claims” have a populist political analogue, as well. This stresses the social costs of fibre loss – such as unemployment, community decline, alcoholism and family abuse – which are deemed to far exceed the environmental costs of spraying. One such champion dismisses the no-spray option as the project of a wealthy group of “back-to-the-landers” who have forgotten “that for the vast billions of the human race there can be no Waiden Ponds, no gentle return to Nature and the simple life. For most of the human race life is increasingly a bitter struggle to survive, in which the last hope for victory lies in technology – in chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides and whatever other weapons the scientists can put in our hands” (Brown Sr., 1978).

5. In other parts of North America (such as Ontario and Quebec), budworm spraying was also resisted or applied sporadically. However there the sense of urgency seemed less, given the larger available fibre supplies and the financial and practical difficulties of spraying very extensive areas.

6. Its precedent was the so-called Holling model developed by ecologist C.S. Holling with scientists at the Canadian Forest Service, the New Brunswick Department of Natural Resources, the Institute of Animal Resource Ecology at the University of British Columbia, the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Austria and the Engineering and Applied Sciences Group at Harvard University (Holling, 1978).

7. Baskerville receives support from other forest scientists here. Carrow states that most Canadian forests are affected by the concept of flux: “Canada’s commercial forest is predominantly conifer species. Historically, this forest was created through catastrophe wildfire, insect attack, windstorms – and as a result, it tends to be composed of large areas that are even-aged, and consist of few tree species” (Carrow, 1993).

8. Pickett’s influence is evident in two articles written by Hawboldt. In one, Hawboldt wrote: “… orchard entomologists conclude that sprays of the present-day type have presented more problems than they have solved as a result of killing beneficial insects, as well as other more indirect effects” (1955b: 7). Neither Pickett nor his supporters were, however, entirely opposed to insecticides. Though there was considerable opposition to the “application of ‘poisons’ on food product” when Pickett started his studies in the early 1920s, it was soon accepted as indispensable for the “economical” production of some fruits over large areas (Pickett, 1949: 37-38).

9. This time, Stora won a legal challenge to use chemical herbicides from the environmental movement.

10. Many environmentalists have embraced the concept of ecological flux. Restino, for example, argues that the “cataclysmic collapse of boreal softwood forests is a natural and regular successional occurrence, particularly in balsam fir dominated areas like those in the Cape Breton Highlands” (1993: 33). This realization has not, however, led to the sanction of spraying insecticides. Restino also claims that social and economic losses of the absence of a spray program have been greatly exaggerated (1993).

11. In the pre-environmental era the management of conserved versus preserved areas could take strange twists. In Nova Scotia, the Nova Scotia Department of Lands and Forests was adamantly against spraying private and provincial forest lands, while the federal Parks Canada used DDT and other insecticides to “protect” the forests in the national parks for recreational and tourist use (MacEachern, 2001).

12. World Wildlife Fund, December 2001, .

13. The continuity between the past and the present is striking here. Barney Flieger’s air spray program has much in common with Baskerville’s computer programs, insofar as both are technocratic solutions to an ecological “problem.”

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