Canada's largest private sector union has thrown its support behind New Brunswick's new Crown forest management plan.

Unifor says the strategy to increase the amount of Crown softwood for industrial forest operations by 20 per cent is in the best interest of its members and the province and deserves "strong support."

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The Unifor union says the Alward government's new Crown forest policy deserves "strong support." (Jeff Bassett/The Canadian Press)

"We've carefully reviewed the new Strategy for Crown Lands Forest Management: it is a good plan," stated the union, which boasts 300,000 members across Canada in a wide variety of occupations.

"We believe it is not only in the best interest of our members, but of New Brunswick."

The endorsement is signed by Jerry Dias, its national president, other national and Atlantic representatives and 21 presidents of Unifor locals in New Brunswick. Unifor was formerly known as the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers union and represents workers in New Brunswick mills.

The forest plan has been greeted with criticism in some corners, with academics and environmentalists expressing concern about the size of the province's conservation forest — the area that is off limits to industry — being reduced to 23 per cent of Crown land, which is a reduction of five percentage points.

The Alward government and the forest industry counter the change in policy is needed to create and secure jobs in the forest industry.

"Important questions of public policy will always generate wide discussion among stakeholders, as they should," states Unifor.

"The test for good public policy is to find a balance.

"When it comes to our natural resources we must always consider how to harness them to serve the interests of the public, generate good jobs, support communities, lead to innovation, and meet the highest standards for environmental stewardship."

Unifor notes that in the last 10 years, New Brunswick has lost about 25 per cent of its jobs in the forest sector and seen 54 mills close.

"Maintaining good jobs in forestry, securing a strong future for the next generation and improving environmental stewardship are all possible — and in all of our interests," Unifor says in its statement.

"We believe the Strategy for Crown Land Forest Management deserves strong support."