hi-nb-forestry

Industry can cut about 21 per cent more softwood from Crown land annually under the new forestry plan.

A biologist and expert on the Acadian forest says the Alward government is falling short in its obligation to balance industrial interests against others, such as diversity.

"It's almost like they've given up and thrown up their hands and said, 'OK, Mr. Irving, you win. Here's the public land to do with what you will,'" said Jamie Simpson, referring to J.D. Irving Ltd.

The new Crown forest strategy, unveiled last month, increases the amount of softwood that industrial forest operations can cut on Crown land by 21 per cent annually.

Leaked documents obtained by the Green Party earlier this week suggest the provincial government is going to allow clearcutting in what has been protected Acadian Forest.

The documents also suggest the size of clearcuts will be increased by about a third, and that the Department of Natural Resources will have less control over harvesting plans.

Simpson, who is also a woodlot owner, forester and author, contends allowing clearcuts in the Acadian forest would result in less ecological and economic value in the long run.

He says there's already been a degradation of the value of Crown land as old trees are cut down and replaced with agricultural-type plantations.

"What we've seen is a steady decline in New Brunswick — well, all across the Maritimes, but especially in New Brunswick — this real precipitous decline in the area of mature forest," he said.

"And what we're left with on the landscape, especially on the Crown land, is very marginal, somewhat, I would say, degraded forest, and it's certainly a younger forest with a lot less ecological and economic value."

Other biologists, including Rod Cumberland, a former Natural Resources biologist, have also raised concerns about the plan.

Liberals demand to see scientific data

Liberal Leader Brian Gallant said in the Legislature on Friday he'll take their word over the government's until he sees the scientific data behind the new strategy.

"If they want us to support the plan," the government should provide the science behind it, he said.

Gallant asked what changed in the past two years that prompted the government to allow a 21 per cent increase, previously ruled out in 2012.

Premier David Alward said it's about encouraging competitiveness and job creation.

Gallant also challenged Alward on the lack of public consultation on the plan, quoting Tom Beckley, a sociologist and professor in the Forestry and Environment faculty at the University of New Brunswick.

Gallant questioned how the government could take more than two years to develop the plan, and yet, not have consultations.

Alward responded by saying the Liberals first accused his government of not moving fast enough on forestry and now they're suggesting they should have taken more time.