The New Brunswick government released a new forestry plan in March 2014, following heavy lobbying by the forest industry, led by J.D Irving Ltd. The industry argued that they needed a long-term commitment to access the wood supply from Crown Lands to justify the large capital investment necessary to make New Brunswick mills efficient. The 2014 Strategy for Crown Lands Forest Management increases the amount of softwood (chiefly spruce and fir) that can be harvested from Crown Lands by 20%, and reduces the areas that are off-limits to industrial cutting (including watercourse buffers, deer wintering areas, and old growth forest) from 28% to 23% over a 10-15 year period. The result, according to the government, will be “500 new, well-paid private sector jobs” and “more than $22 million in additional annual wages”. Direct forest sector employment in New Brunswick had fallen 24% and the number of mills had fallen 47% since 2004, according to the government. Since the release, J.D. Irving Ltd. has committed to $513 million in capital investments in its mills, mostly at Irving Pulp & Paper in Saint John.
In response to the March Strategy document, Rino Ouellet, Atlantic area Director for Unifor, issued a press release which echos the government’s economic arguments and endorses the Forestry Plan. In a February press release, he had stated, “…in order for the plan to work, it must include in the process First Nations people, wood lot owners, labour, and crown land rights…and must continue to allow for environmentally-protected areas”.
On another side of this triangular debate, opposition includes: the provincial leader of the Green Party, who calls it “a plan for plunder”; the executive director of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness, who calls it “regressive”; Graham Forbes, a professor from University of New Brunswick, who says it is unsustainable; and Rod Cumberland, a retired government biologist, who says many provincial government scientists are alarmed, but are too afraid to speak out for fear of losing their jobs.
The political storm continues on this issue. On April 24th, the government tabled in the legislature the terms of an agreement with J.D. Irving which increases the company’s annual allocations of softwood, for an initial term of 25 years, beginning on July 1, 2014. The contract calls for the company’s performance to be reviewed every five years, with five-year renewals contingent upon satisfactory performance.
Putting Our Resources To Work: A Strategy For Crown Lands Forest Management on the New Brunswick government website at: http://www2.gnb.ca/content/dam/gnb/Departments/nr-rn/pdf/en/ForestsCrownLands/AStrategyForCrownLandsForestManagement.pdf
Unifor’s March press release: “Atlantic’s Largest Forestry Union applauds Long term plan for Sector” at:
http://www.unifor.org/en/whats-new/press-room/atlantics-largest-forestry-union-applauds-long-term-plan-sector; February press release at: http://www.newswire.ca/en/story/1298929/forestry-plan-much-needed-for-new-brunswick
For Reactions: The Crown Lands Debate, a Feature on the CBC website at: http://www.cbc.ca/nb/features/crownforestrydebate/ including, “Irving clout with Government challenged in wake of Forest Deal” at:http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-brunswick/irving-clout-with-government-challenged-in-wake-of-forest-deal-1.2572410; and “New Crown Forest Plan slammed by retired Provincial Biologist” at: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-brunswick/new-crown-forest-plan-slammed-by-retired-provincial-biologist-1.2580430; “New Crown Forestry Plan greeted with Shock, Dismay” at: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-brunswick/new-crown-forestry-plan-greeted-with-shock-dismay-1.2570803
“J.D. Irving’s Crown Forest Contract Made Public” is at the CBC at: