A 15-year member of J.D. Irving Ltd's forest research advisory committee says six PhDs who comprise the committee were never asked about the possible impacts of reducing the conservation forest in New Brunswick.
As part of the new forest policy unveiled by the Alward government last week, the area that is off limits to industrial forest practices is reduced to 23 per cent of Crown land, down from the 2012 threshold of 28 per cent.
Some scientists maintain that a 30 per cent threshold for conservation forest is needed to maintain biodiversity and forest sustainability.
Marc-André Villard, a biologist specializing in ecology and conservation of forest diversity, has been a member of Irving's forest research advisory committee and says the group has never been asked about the new plan.
"We have never been told about the details of this upcoming plan," Villard told CBC's Harry Forestell in the newsmaker interview on Wednesday's supper hour news program.
"We had heard about it, but only rumours," he said. "And we were not consulted whatsoever on the contents of the plan."
'We had heard about it, but only rumours. And we were not consulted whatsoever on the contents of the plan.' - Marc-André Villard, member of J.D. Irving Ltd. forest research advisory committee
Had he been consulted, Villard said he would have raised the same concerns he has voiced on the committee for 15 years.
"I think I've been the one who has voiced most concerns about the intensity of forestry and its potential effects on my focal group, which is forest songbirds and woodpeckers," he said. "Definitely, I would have voiced the same concerns."
The 2012 reduction of conservation forest to 28 per cent of Crown land was enough to raise concern, he said.
"Myself and other researchers expressed concern [in 2012], so you can imagine how we feel about this new strategy that was proposed without any consultation from scientists."
Villard said J.D. Irving Ltd. is clear with the researchers about what it seeks from them.
"They want advice. They don't commit to apply everything that we proposed, of course.
"And they're willing to apply anything that doesn't change the bottom line, basically. That is pretty clear at the outset."
In a CBC radio interview last week, J.D. Irving Ltd. co-chief executive Jim Irving referred to the company's panel of six PhDs and said if he was shown "good science" that the company's actions were harmful to the forest, he would change direction.
"There is a conversation going on as we speak to try to figure out whether Mr. Irving was actually referring to us or another group that I don't know of," said Villard.