New Brunswick's new 25-year Crown land forestry contract with J. D. Irving and other big forestry companies brought more than 300 protesters to the legislature building lawn in Fredericton Tuesday.
Environmentalists, woodlot owners, scientists, aboriginal people and supporters came from across the province to join the protest, called Jobs Don't Grow on Stumps.
"So every time you hear conservation forest, we're talking about deer yards, we're talking about buffer strips, we're talking about old-growth forest," said protester Rod Cumberland, a former provincial deer biologist.
"That's what they want, so let's be clear. It's not just the forest that's out there. This is stuff that's been set aside for 25 years for right now, because we knew this time was coming."
Judie Acquin-Mikovsky spoke for the chief of St. Mary's First Nation.
"The grassroots people of the Woolostook Nation do not feel that the government of New Brunswick has properly consulted with our nation on many issues, including the forestry strategy plan. Which is why we're here today," she said.
More protests planned
Forestry sociologist Tom Beckley says consultation wasn't part of the deal.
"I have bad news. Your government doesn't give a damn about public opinion on how Crown forests should be managed. You've told them, but they don't give a damn," he said.
Rick Doucett, president of the New Brunswick Federation of Woodlot Owners, says private wood is also not part of the plan.
"It is extremely irresponsible for a government to release 660,000 cubic metres into a marketplace that is already saturated. And this government knows that there is no marketing mechanism in place to ensure that public wood does not drive private wood out of the marketplace."
The turnout for this rally shows widespread concern about the forestry contracts, says Conservation Council of New Brunswick executive director Lois Corbett.
"When I see folks car pool, bus from all over the province, speaking both official languages, have strong representation from young people, old people, First Nations and the entire conservation movement, we've got something going here. We've got some depth and some spirit and I think the people of New Brunswick are quite determined," said Corbett.
"To be fair, it's a totally non-partisan statement. We want all folks of all stripes to stand up over the next few months about how they're going to change it."
The council and other groups involved in this protest plan more protests in the months leading up to the provincial election in September.
The new agreement will see J.D. Irving's annual allocation of spruce, fir, jack pine and white pine increase to 2,027,000 cubic metres, with a minimum of 1,898,000 cubic metres of spruce, up from the current level of 1,500,000.