A coalition of biologists, hunting and recreation groups is calling for a ban on herbicide spraying of public forests.

The groups, along with the Conservation Council of New Brunswick, have written a joint letter to Minister of Natural Resources Paul Robichaud.

It attacks the government for underestimating the impact of spraying on deer herds.

Rod Cumberland

Former Natural Resources deer biologist Rod Cumberland believes people in the department are fearful of speaking out about the forest policy because they fear for their job. (CBC)

Rod Cumberland was the province's deer biologist for 15 years. Now retired from the Natural Resources department, Cumberland is speaking out against herbicide spraying in the province's forests.

"As a deer biologist, it's disconcerting for me to hear things over and over again about how minimal herbicide is used and what minimal effect it has on the forest," said Cumberland.

The government maintains that herbicide doesn't harm wildlife because only one per cent of the forest is sprayed each year. Cumberland says that works out to 13,000 hectares a year.

'You're responsible for removing half a billion tonnes of deer and moose food from the public forest over the past 20 years.'- Rod Cumberland, deer biologist

"In reality, by using this form of hardwood removal, you're responsible for removing half a billion tonnes of deer and moose food from the public forest over the past 20 years," said Cumberland. "It's definitely not insignificant."

Cumberland said that change in the food supply has changed where deer live in the province.

"If we're going to increase the amount of plantation and herbicide use, we've seen what's happened in the last 20 years. It's changed where deer live dramatically," he said. "The amount of deer on Crown land is reduced dramatically.

"If that trend is going to get worse, then I think the writing is on the wall as far as where deer stand on Crown land."

The groups hope to make herbicide spraying an issue in this year's provincial election — questioning if it's forcing deer out of public forests and into being nuisances in suburbs and farms.