DNR will close 11 district offices

Natural Resources Minister Bruce Northrup announced 11 of 28 district offices are going to close in the next two years.

Forest rangers to spend more time in trucks in woods

The Department of Natural Resources is closing 11 of its 28 district offices over the next two years as a part of the Alward government’s deficit-fighting plan.

Natural Resources Minister Bruce Northrup announced the closures in the legislature Wednesday.

"The district office closures are designed so there is a maximum of one hour's travel time from one DNR office to the next closest. These closures will affect the number of administrative support staff in the regions," Northrup said.

"I wish to assure staff that we will work to the best of our ability to minimize the impact of these closures and that everyone will be treated fairly."

The department will close offices in Coles Island, Nackawic, Petitcodiac, Saint-Léonard and Sunny Corner by June 29.

The remainder of the district office closures will be implemented next year.

The Bathurst, Blackville, Boucher, Kedgwick, Miramichi, Hampton and Welsford offices will be closed in 2013. The Hampton and Welsford offices will be merged into a new office in the greater Saint John area.

Northrup said the office closures may actually help enforcement.

Forest rangers will spend more time in their trucks — equipped with laptops, GPS systems and other technology.

"It's going to put more people out in the woods, instead of sitting behind a desk, and we feel very confident that it's going to be more protection for our natural resources in New Brunswick," Northrup said Wednesday.

Liberal critic Denis Landry said closing offices will affect the public's access to services.

"How is it going to work? If I have to go and ask a ranger for a meeting with him, am I going to meet with him in that truck?" Landry questioned.

The provincial government announced in its latest budget that it would reduce the 2012-13 deficit to $183 million from the $471 million in the existing fiscal year.

The Department of Natural Resources will save $1.5 million by reducing office space around the province, according to the finance minister's latest budget.

The provincial government has already started a pilot project to equip conservation staff with new technology in their vehicles.

"The result was an 18 per cent increase in the time they spent in the field protecting our natural resources," Northrup said.