Academics from New Brunswick's four public universities and the Maritime College of Forest Technology are calling on the Alward government to immediately stop implementation of its new Crown forest policy.

A new letter, signed by 184 professors and other academics in a wide variety of faculties ranging from arts to mathematics, calls for Natural Resources Minister Paul Robichaud to stop the process and revisit the strategy.

Graham Forbes

Wildlife ecologist Graham Forbes of the University of New Brunswick is one of 184 academics who are calling for the Alward government to halt implementation of its Crown forest policy (CBC)

"We now appear to have a strategy which was formulated behind closed doors, has serious conservation shortcomings, has questionable socio-economic benefits for the public, limits the government's ability to shape future forest policy, and potentially compromises government's management oversight of the public forest," states the open letter to Robichaud.

Van Lantz, the acting dean of forestry and environmental management at the University of New Brunswick, said the academics are not saying the forestry plan is wrong, but they want citizens to have a greater say in how the plan affects New Brunswick's forests.

"The common issue is the lack of information and the lack of public involvement," Lantz said.

"We're not at a point yet, from my perspective, to say whether this is a good policy or a bad one. We don't know because we need more information. We need that feedback from the public, from the stakeholders."

In March, the Alward government announced a 20 per cent increase in the amount of softwood industrial forest operations would be permitted to cut on Crown land. To help achieve that increase, the amount of Crown land that is off-limits to forest operations is being reduced to 23 per cent from its current level of 28 per cent.

The group also wants full disclosure of the government's 25-year contract with J.D. Irving Ltd. or "convincing explanations of why certain clauses have been deemed confidential."

The academics say they don't see how the forest strategy addresses issues identified in various forestry task force reports and government-sponsored studies in recent years.

"We therefore call on the government to immediately halt its current course of action, assemble the collective wisdom that has been accumulated over the past number of years through reports/studies and academic research, and revisit the strategy."

The letter is signed by 88 professors and others from the University of New Brunswick, 54 from St. Thomas University, 27 from the University of Moncton, nine from Mount Allison University and six from the Maritime College of Forest Technology.

Open letter to Natural Resources Minister Paul Robichaud