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History of the Lumber Industry of America
Chapter XIX. New Brunswick—Forest Legislation

As in the other provinces of Canada, so it was in New Brunswick— the home Government early sought to regulate the timber wealth. England always thought much of her naval greatness and sought to assure in her North American colonies a sufficient supply of white pine for masting for her ships. Thomas Baillie was appointed surveyor general in 1824, receiving the following explicit instructions:

Whereas we have been graciously pleased to give instructions unto our right trusty and right entirely well-beloved cousin and counsellor, George, Earl of Dal-housie, Captain General and Governor-in-Chief in and for our Province of New Brunswick in America, for the regulation of his conduct in granting lands to our loyal refugees, who have taken refuge in that Province, and others who may become settlers therein, and amongst other things to signify our will and pleasure that no grant whatever be made of lands within our said Province until our Surveyor-General of the Woods, or his Deputy lawfully appointed shall have viewed and marked out such districts within our said Province as reservations to Us, our Heirs and Successors, as shall be found to contain any considerable growth of masting, or other timber fitting for the use of our Royal Navy; and that our Surveyor-General of Lands in our said Province shall not certify any plots of lands ordered and surveyed for any person or persons whatsoever, in order that grants may be made out for the same until it shall appear unto him by a certificate under the hand of our Surveyor-General of the Woods, or his Deputy, that the land so to be granted is not part of or included within any district marked out as a reservation for Us, our Heirs and Successors, as aforesaid for the purpose before mentioned.

It is therefore our will and pleasure that and you are hereby authorised and empowered to give license in writing to any of our subjects in our Province of New Brunswick, to cut down such white pine and other trees growing upon the waste land which you shall judge to be not proper for the use of our Royal Navy.


In 1827 the sale of limits by auction instead of by fixed fees was instituted, any purchase to be limited to a maximum of 1,200 acres to one person. Subsequent regulations in 1829 ordered a survey before sale and sought to prevent unnecessary waste in the cutting of timber. The receipts from timber limits in 1831 were £10,820. Joseph Cunard had been granted in 1831 a reservation for ten years on the Nepisiguit River above the falls on condition that he would improve the waterfall and secure a license to cut one thousand tons of timber per annum.

This arrangement created criticism and, together with other complaints, brought about an investigation of timber administration, and a committee of the legislative assembly was appointed in 1833 to make an investigation. At this investigation it appeared that it was the custom to receive from April of one year to May 1 of the following year applications for timber berths from all persons indiscriminately, so long as they were accompanied by a fee of forty-five shillings. On the latter date the applicants were notified whether their applications had been accepted or rejected. If there were two or more applicants for one piece of land all were rejected but one and the lucky man was given three months in which to pay the dues, amounting to Is per ton for white pine and Is 3d for red pine. In addition there was a tax of 3d per ton for expenses of survey. Mill reserves might be obtained by the same method, but in 1833 a new regulation made it necessary to secure these mill sites by public auction.

In 1837 the home Government assigned to the Provincial government the regulation of Crown lands and the enjoyment of revenues therefrom. New regulations were adopted providing for five-year licenses and dues of 2s on white pine and 2s 6d on red pine.

The average cut of New Brunswick for the years 1835,1836 and 1837 was 116,600 tons of timber (16,820,000 feet of lumber) and the dues were £16,416. The average annual export of pine and birch timber during the same period was 249,926 tons, of masts and spars 619 and of deals 73,250,423 feet.

The following table showing the growth of the industry is given in Dr. Abraham Gesner’s work on New Brunswick, published in London in 1847:

The shipments from St. John in 1822 were: Pine timber, 79,122 tons; birch timber,7,520 tons; masts and spars, 2,147; poles, 383; lath-wood, 10,047 cords; boards, planks and deals, 8,277,000 feet; staves, 2.392.000 pieces; shingles, 2,842,000 pieces; shooks, 268 bunches. In 1832 the exports from St. John of deals, boards and scantling had increased to 22,000,000 feet; in 1842, to 43,000,000 feet, and in 1852, to 186.314.000 feet. Then came reverses followed by a period of depression which lasted several years, but in 1872 the shipments under this head stood at 236,639,000 feet.

During the early ’40’s the trade in sawn lumber, which had been rapidly increasing while that in square timber had been falling off, began to take the lead in volume and importance. In 1835 the square timber trade was far in advance, the values of the exports of forest products for that year being: Square timber, £291,817; boards, £13,437 ; deals, £104,150; staves, £12,969. For 1839 the returns of exports from the port of St. John giving quantities as well as values (in returns from other ports quantities are not specified) were as follows: Square timber, 255,647 tons, value £277,998; boards, 6,622,000 feet, £16,641; deals, 75,969,000 feet, £189,252; staves, 1,858,000, £8,318. Six years later the sawn lumber exports considerably exceeded the shipments of square timber, the following being the returns for 1845 from St. John: Square timber, 244,846 tons, £275,451; boards, 10,537,000 feet, £26,342; deals, 127,860,000 feet, £319,650; staves, 1,008,000, £4,536; total, £625,979. The values above given, it may be noted, are in sterling money, the pound sterling being a trifle under $5. The “pound” of the old Canadian or Halifax currency is equivalent to $4 and in these old records it is not always clear which is meant.

The contributions of the lumber industry to the public revenue were comparatively insignificant until the middle of the century. The receipts of the Provincial government on account of timber in 1849 were £1,821, omitting fractional currency; in 1850, £2,304; in 1851, £1,851 and in 1852, £5,256 (probably Halifax currency). In 1853 an attempt was made to put the industry on a more conservative basis and to give limit holders a guarantee of permanency of occupation. Previous to that time it appears to have been the practice to submit all the holdings to public competition every year, with the obvious result of encouraging production, each licensee being anxious only to realize as much as possible from a limit that might pass into other hands in a few months. Accordingly the upset price of mileage was advanced from 10 shillings ($2) to 20 shillings ($4) per square mile with a proviso for renewal for three years in case as much as $10 per mile were paid. The report for that year of Surveyor General R. D. Wilmot refers as follows to the change:

Great complaints having been made by those engaged in the lumber trade that the practice of annually putting up all the timber berths to public competition bore injuriously as well on the trade as on the revenue, the expense incurred in building camps, erecting dams, cutting roads and other matters incident to the business being so great that they would prefer paying an increased rate of mileage if they could thereby secure the right of renewal for a longer period than one year. The

Government, in order to meet in some degree the views of the lumbering interest, determined to offer the timber berths at auction at the upset price of 20 shillings per square mile, giving the purchaser who bid it off at 50 shillings or more per mile the right of renewal for three years at the rate it was bid off. Ninety-seven persons, holding 962)4 square miles, are accordingly entitled to the privilege of renewal under this regulation.

The receipts from timber that year increased to £8,668.

In 1844 an export duty was laid on logs. In 1867, when New Brunswick entered the Canadian confederation, the export duty was abolished, a special allowance of $150,000 annually being made by the Dominion government to the Province to compensate it for the loss of revenue. In 1867 the receipts from timber were $80,882.68, the sum of $56,415.58 being contributed by export duty. Another important change was made in 1874 when the duties were based on the cut of lumber and licenses were made renewable for two years.


In 1883 the Government concluded that it was time to call a halt in the policy of alienating large tracts of public lands unfitted for cultivation, sales in fee simple and extensive railway grants having considerably lessened the area capable of producing a revenue from its timber product. It adopted the principle of retaining possession of all the purely timber land remaining, and since then only small and isolated lots of such land, which, by reason of local conditions, could not be advantageously administered by the department, have been sold outright. In the same year it was decided to increase the length of the term for which timber limits could be leased to ten years, with the result that the public revenue again showed a large increase.

The leases issued for ten years expiring in 1893, the Government in 1892 appointed a royal commission to make a full inquiry into the condition of the lumber trade and into the best policy to be adopted in administering the timber lands. The commission was so strongly impressed with the desirability of giving the lumberman a permanent tenure of his holding that it recommended the leasing of the lands in perpetuity. This, however, was going farther than public opinion was prepared to sanction, but the Government proposed by way of compromise—a way most governments have—to grant leases for twenty-five years reserving the right to increase the mileage rate and fix rates of stumpage. The result was that a decision was reached to grant licenses renewable from year to year for twenty-five years, making it possible for a license issued in 1893 to be renewed until August 1,1918. Under

the present plan the licenses are sold at public auction at $20 per square mile, with an additional charge of $8 for renewal. The dues on pine and spruce were fixed at $1 a thousand feet and in 1904 increased to $1.25. Ten thousand feet of lumber must be cut each year on each limit.

In 1883 the amount realized from sales was $38,462 for 3,117 square miles. Ten years later under the new long-lease system the lands were sold at public auction for twenty-five years, the amount received for premiums and leases in 1893 being $89,830. There were then issued , 1,387 leases at an average price of $17.25 a mile, and since then the number has steadily increased until practically all the available Crown lands of the Province have been brought under lease. In 1899 1,170 square miles were leased at an average of $21 a square mile. The policy of long leases has resulted in material benefit to the lumbermen and contributed not a little to the prosperity of the trade. The receipts of the Provincial government for 1903 from sales and renewals of timber licenses were $46,898 and from stumpage dues $122,630, making a total of $169,528.

The first act for the preservation of forests from fire was passed in 1885. By its provisions fires must not be started between May 1 and December 1 except for clearing land, for cooking and for other necessary purposes. The penalty for failing to take the necessary precautions in the selection of the places for these fires and in their extinguishment after they have served their purposes includes a fine varying for $20 to $200. Railway locomotives must be equipped with spark arrestors and section men must be given instructions to watch for and extinguish fires caused by railway trains. In 1897 further legislation to protect the forests from fires was secured when statutory authority was obtained for the appointment of forest rangers. The year 1903 was a notable one for unusually severe forest fires. It was estimated that during that year two hundred million feet of timber was destroyed by fire. The conflagration wiped out an entire village besides destroying many other buildings.

Some important changes in the mileage and stumpage rates and conditions under which licenses are issued took effect in 1904, all being in the direction of greater stringency. Under the regulations now in force the upset mileage on limits is $20 a square mile, and the mileage payable yearly on renewals is $8 a square mile. Licenses are to be for not more than ten nor less than two square miles and the licensee may

be required to cut ten thousand superficial feet a square mile. The holder of timber limits is not permitted to manufacture a log measuring less than eighteen feet in length and ten inches in diameter at the small end. The stumpage dues are as follows:

The following statement, taken from the surveyor general’s reports, shows the quantities and kinds of timber cut from Crown lands during the fiscal years ended October 31, 1902 and 1903 respectively:

This statement, it should be borne in mind, covers only the cut upon public lands under license and takes no account of the very large quantity taken from forest lands belonging to private owners.

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