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2009 Woodlot Owner of the Year

The North Shore Woodlot Owners of the Year for 2009 are Rhéal and Maria Breau. The Breau live on the Caissie road, just outside Néguac in Northumberland County, New-Brunswick.

They are welcoming hosts, eager to share their woodlot with any visitor who comes along.  The woodlot is situated on gently rolling land with little elevation change.  Anyone fortunate enough to visit should also take the opportunity to stroll the gardens and enjoy the 150 varieties of hostas.

They began doing silviculture work on their land in 1983.  Early on, efforts focused on harvesting dead and dying trees, and selling pulpwood and firewood.  Later, focus shifted to thinning the entire woodlot, taking advantage of precommercial thinning assistance and silviculture assistance for semi-commercial offered by North Shore Marketing Board's forest management program.

Today, the woodlot is a surreal sight, with pleasantly spaces, mostly young, immature trees, with virtually no evidence of slash.

" I have always used ATV to do my woodlot harvesting, so my trails are very narrow and since the land is quite level, there are trails everywhere and sometimes even I have to look very carefully to identify a trail here I had traveled, " said Breau.

" When I am cutting trees, I go down to a very small diameter, so the limbs are very small diameter, so the limbs are very small and they rot away very quickly, and so the forest floor looks very clean and there are no obstruction when you want to walk through.  Many people who visit say " oh, your woodlot look like a garden. ""

Even the main hauling trails tend to be smooth, moss covered paths that are compelling to walk along.

Due to spruce budworm and past harvesting practices, balsam fir was the predominant tree specy.  Through his thinning efforts, he has increased species diversity by ensuring other species were retained as crop trees.  As a result, birch, maple, spruce and hemlock, as well as scattered white pine, are evident throughout the woodlot.

" When pulpwood and studwood markets were strong we sold a lot of the wood I cut as four-foot pulpwood, which was an efficient way for me to handle and haul with an ATV, but I also produced some eight-foot studwood.  I have also hauled some log lengths with my ATV."

Breau currently uses a tandem trailer for forwarding wood, although early on he had designed and built a set of bob sleds for winter hauling.  The trailer works so well he has subsequently built sled runners for it.

" An ATV is a very useful machine, but it has its limits as snow depths increase.  I realise that I had to prepare my trails if I was going to do winter forwarding and I looked at snowmobile trail grromers and built a groomer.  I made an ajustable tensioning device so it can match the snow conditions.  I try to sets the trails after a rain, or after a warm period, so that when the freeze comes, the trail freezes up in good shape. "

" Since the pulpmills have shut down, we have sold some softwood for fuelwood.  There is always some market for softwood fuelwood, but I would rather have mills operating and buying pulpwood and studwood."

In addition to harvesting wood, Breau has a blueberry field adjacent to the woodlot, and also harvests balsam fir greenery tips in the autumn.

" As I work in my woodlot I take note of trees that have limbs that will provide fir tips, and then in the fall, I harvest those trees and collect every limb that makes a marketable tip.  My neighbor across the street buys tips, so I only have to load my trailer up and the tips are marketed.  He also buys my blueberries.  My entire woodlot management revolves around my ATV, " he chuckles.

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