The New Brunswick government’s forest management strategy resulted in immediate investment announcements by the Irving forest products companies, but drew criticism from certain quarters for not being sustainable.
According to the provincial government, the strategy will encourage investment, maintain thousands of jobs, create hundreds of new jobs and manage Crown forests in a sustainable way.
“This strategy will put boots in the woods by providing clarity and a framework for businesses and workers to plan their future and the future of the forestry sector," said Premier David Alward. “A strong forestry sector is critical to our economic success. It is time to start growing our forestry sector again. I am proud that we are putting one of the most valuable resources we have, our Crown fibre, to work."
Putting our Resources to Work, a Strategy for Crown Lands Forest Management is expected to lead to the harvesting of an additional 660,000 cubic metres of softwood on Crown land. The new allocation under the strategy will bring the timber objective of the province to about 3.9 million cubic metres of spruce and fir from Crown lands. The hardwood objective will remain at 1.8 million cubic metres.
According to CBC News, the amount of Crown land that is off-limits to the forest industry — such as old growth forest and deer wintering habitat — has been reduced to 23%, from the traditional level of 30%.
The government says the increased Crown fibre supply will be generated by harvesting more on existing harvest sites and in typically difficult areas to access; by increasing commercial thinning in older silviculture stands; and by rearranging habitat areas to increase the efficiency of harvesting.
Green Party Leader David Coon said the decision of the Alward government to permit 21% more clearcutting on Crown land this year will be ruinous for both rural communities and wildlife. “This corporate forest plan sells rural New Brunswick and our environment down the river. It runs roughshod over the values and aspirations that New Brunswickers hold dear," said Coon.
"The long-term timber objectives of the Alward forest plan will dramatically increase herbicide spraying and convert much of the remaining natural forest on Crown lands to plantations," according to the Green Party leader.
“I'm shocked," Graham Forbes, a forestry professor at the University of New Brunswick, told CBC News. “The reduction of the amount of protected land to 23 per cent is not what we could call sustainable forest management."
“It's an abject fail. It's not sustainable. It's a joke."
Also in the CBC News story of Mar. 13, Roberta Clowater, the executive director of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society in New Brunswick, called the new policy "regressive."
“It's really important that the people of New Brunswick understand that the government is taking away more than a quarter of the amount of our public land that used to be specially managed to conserve wildlife and rivers and fish," said Clowater. “And they're basically giving it over to increased logging and much more clear-cutting."
Explaining the new strategy, Natural Resources Minister Paul Robichaud said the provincial government will adopt a “results-based framework" with Crown licensees. This approach will ensure licensees continue to follow best practices in their operations while being held more accountable for achieving specified outcomes from their harvest and management activities.
The provincial government will define clear forest-wide goals that are in line with the environmental, social and economic principles of its strategy. “Licence holders must be accountable for the management of our forests," said Robichaud. "We will implement a system that ensures management activities are appropriate, sustainable and transparent to keep our forests healthy and our industries viable."
The approach has the potential to save the provincial government several millions of dollars annually.