Alward, Irving, Robichaud

Premier David Alward, Jim Irving and Natural Resources Minister Paul Robichaud speak before a news conference earlier this year in Chipman. Forest management agreements between the provincial government and forestry companies will not be signed by the July 1 deadline. (CBC)

The Department of Natural Resources is still negotiating new licence agreements with forestry companies as a part of its Crown forestry strategy.

“I can confirm with you that it's not finalized yet, which is not unusual with agreements since they can take longer than anticipated to be finalized sometimes,” Sheila Lagacé, a communications officer with the department, stated in an email to CBC News on Monday.

“For now, the work continues on it and the detailed block plans won't be done until at least the end of July," she said.

The New Brunswick government announced in March its new forestry strategy is increasing the amount of softwood the forestry sector can take from Crown land by 20 per cent. To help achieve that increase, the amount of Crown land that is off-limits to forest operations is being reduced to 23 per cent from its current level of 28 per cent.

The new deal is expected to result in the harvesting of an additional 660,000 cubic metres.

Irving has option to terminate

A memorandum of agreement signed on Feb. 7 between J.D. Irving Ltd. and the Department of Natural Resources established July 1 as the deadline for signing a new forest management agreement.

The agreement also had a clause that said the forestry company could pull out if a deal was not finished by that date.

“In the event that the terms and conditions of the [forest management agreements] have not been agreed to by the parties by July 1, 2014, Irving may at its option terminate this agreement on 30 days prior written notice, without limiting the remedies available to Irving under law or in equity,” the Irving contract said.

J.D. Irving Ltd. is one of the forestry companies that will benefit from the new forestry plan.

The forestry deal has proved to be controversial.

A group of 184 professors and other academics in a wide variety of faculties, ranging from arts to mathematics, signed a letter that called for Natural Resources Minister Paul Robichaud to stop the process and revisit the strategy.

A survey, commissioned by researchers at the University of New Brunswick, of 525 New Brunswickers found 61 per cent either strongly opposed or opposed the new Crown forest strategy, compared to 20 per cent who strongly supported or supported the initiative.