The Province of New Brunswick is moving to conserve more Crown land after a review of forest management recommended the increase.
Current harvest levels won’t change.
Energy and Resource Development Minister Rick Doucet says developing a long-term sustainable forest management plan is top priority and essential to maintain a vibrant industry.
The review of the province’s forest management strategy has resulted in the addition of 150,000 hectares to Crown land conservation areas over the next five years.
In 2014, the Tory government of David Alward brokered a deal with industry which increased access to Crown land, while reducing protected areas from 30 per cent to 24 per cent.
This move will result in 28 per cent of Crown land set aside for conservation.
Irving invested heavily in its operations based on the 2014 plan, and Doucet says those deals will be honoured.
“There was half-a-billion dollars of investment that’s taken place. We’re looking at more investment, $450 million more — we have the realization that the contracts were signed and we’re going to honour the commitments that were made,” states Doucet.
Under the new plan, the cut allocation will remain as is, despite the increased protected areas.
The Conservation Council of New Brunswick says the government needs to be strategic in defining what areas to conserve.
“What this should mean over the next 18 months is that the department identifies how to significantly increase buffer zones along our rivers and streams, how to protect wetlands in Crown forests in order to get to that target,” says executive director Lois Corbett.
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Private woodlot owners continue to argue that access to Crown land for just a few large players creates an uneven playing field.
“Cheap wood from Crown land is a big competition and I’d say unfair competition to wood from private woodlot owners,” William Richards, SNB Forest Products chairman says. “The prices are depressed in New Brunswick compared to other provinces.”
Meanwhile, Doucet says all stakeholders will be consulted when deciding which areas will be conserved, including First Nations.