hi-forestry852-cp9900070

(Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press)

The new Crown forest policy announced last week is drawing opposition from Nature NB.

In an open letter to Premier David Alward and Natural Resources Minister Paul Robichaud, the conservation organization says it "deplores" the policy that allows for a 21 per cent increase in the amount of softwood forest companies will be able to cut on Crown land.

"This is a precedent-setting change to current forest management policy with considerable ramifications," said Nature NB president Sabine Dietz in the open letter.

"Scientists have made it very clear that we are at a threshold where if changes such as have been announced are implemented, there will be a negative impact on species and ecosystem viability."

The nature conservation organization says New Brunswick protects 3.1 per cent of its land, compared to the Canadian average of 10 per cent and international targets of 17 per cent. 

"As a province with so much Crown land, New Brunswick should be leading the way to meet national and international targets of protected lands," states Dietz. "Instead we appear to be relaxing standards allowing narrow economic interests to take precedence over the health of our forests, watercourses and biodiversity."

Under the new policy, the amount of Crown land that will be off-limits to the forest industry is lowered to 23 per cent, from its current level of 28 per cent.

Dietz also notes that in 2012, the Alward government promised that the annual allowable cut on Crown land would be decreased to 21 per cent and that 28 per cent of Crown lands would be designated as conservation forest. The new approach "demonstrates a complete shift in policy," states Dietz.

"We want to reiterate that the 21 per cent increase in wood supply allocated to the forest industry in this strategy is running counter to all previous policies setting goals and objectives for biodiversity conservation in the province," states Dietz. " This strategy is not acceptable."