The New Brunswick Woodlot Federation says a provincial cabinet minister should get his facts straight when he argues against higher U.S. duties on softwood lumber from the province.

Roger Melanson, the minister responsible for trade policy, was wrong to say recently that nothing has changed in the way the province has managed Crown forests over the last four decades, the New Brunswick Federation of Woodlot Owners says.

Melanson made that statement last week after the U.S. Secretary of Commerce said shipments of softwood lumber from Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador should be excluded from anti-dumping and countervailing duties, without any mention of New Brunswick. 

"Nothing has changed," Melanson said in an interview with Information Morning Fredericton. "We still keep doing the same practices of managing our Crown land … that hasn't changed over the last 40 years."

But Rick Doucett, president of the woodlot federation, said this isn't the case.

Rick Doucett

The U.S. is expected to start pushing for higher border duties on softwood lumber on Tuesday. Rick Doucett says this is leading to a lot of worry among sawmill owners and wood producers. (CBC)

"We barely survived the last 10 years," Doucett said in an interview. "And that's a bit of a slap in the face to the private wood sector to say nothing changed."

"Something changed and we felt it and we have been clawing our way back to being where we need to be in order to provide an enormous economic benefit."

Doucett said Melanson's statement about "more wood coming from private land than from Crown land," was incorrect.

When the previous softwood lumber agreement was signed  with the U.S., private woodlots were the source of 23 per cent of the total wood supplied to sawmills in New Brunswick, and Crown land provided an average of 43 per cent.

In the 10 years after that agreement was signed, the amount from from private woodlots dropped to 11.5  per cent of the total, and from Crown land rose to 53 per cent.

Previous mistakes were made

Doucett said Melanson was also incorrect to claim the amount of wood coming from private woodlots has doubled in the past two to three years,

The supply from private woodlots has increased by 20 per cent over the past two to three years, Doucett said, but as a proportion of the total, it's down almost 40 per cent from 2006.

"Mistakes have been made by previous administrations on this file that have caused private woodlot owners much grief over the past 10 years," said Doucett, who has written a letter to Melanson about what's happened in the industry in recent years.

"Those mistakes are now causing our New Brunswick sawmills grief, and pretending they didn't happen will not help either group in the future."

After being asked for comment by CBC News on Thursday, Melanson's department said it was working on a response.

Doucett's letter said the federation supports the province's efforts to get fair treatment for New Brunswick in the latest softwood lumber dispute with the U.S.

But the group would also like to work with the province on solutions to what's happened over the last decade, Doucett said in the interview.

"This time around we're saying we still have a good case for exemptions," he said. "However, we need to fix something here in the province."