The McNeil government is allocating half of the Crown forest in western Nova Scotia to 16 saw mills and other wood companies for 10 years.

The province has not decided where the allotments are going.

JD Irving is getting 39,000 tonnes for its sawmill near Truro. 

"We appreciate the Crown allocation, which represents about two weeks of employment at the sawmill, but also know that the current wood supply constraints in Nova Scotia and Crown forest policy are seriously impacting the competitiveness of the sector, including the Valley sawmill," says Irving spokeswoman Mary Keith.

'Certainty' for the forestry sector

Natural Resources Minister Zach Churchill says the guarantee of a long-term supply is what is most important about the announcement.

"We are providing certainty to the forestry sector at a time where it needs it. The forestry sector has undergone a significant transition over the course of the last 10 years. There has been a major contraction, we have lost half our mills," Churchill told reporters Thursday.

The allotment  includes a portion of the 220,000 hectares of former Bowater lands purchased by the province after Resolute Forest Products closed the Bowater-Mersey paper mill near Liverpool

The allocations will be based on a percentage of harvestable wood rather than a fixed volume.

Officials from the Department of Natural Resources say 698,000 green tonnes will be available for harvest. The spruce and fir component — the most attractive to industry — of this is 366,000 GMT.

The companies will pay the province a stumpage rate. 

Stumpage is what pulp and lumber companies pay for standing, unprocessed trees on Crown land.

Shortage of softwood fibre

Churchill says the availability of the Bowater lands will allow mills from central Nova Scotia access to more Crown land. Even so, demand outstrips supply.

"We do not have enough softwood fibre in the province to supply the requests that we are getting from industry," Churchil said.

The largest allotments were to Harry Freeman and Sons Ltd. (70,400 GMT), Scotia Atlantic Biomass (50,000 GMT), Ledwidge Lumber (43,000 GMT), Louisiana Pacific (39,000 GMT) and JD Irving (39,000 GMT). 

Northern Pulp in Pictou County did not receive any of this allotment. 

The previous NDP government had already given the company permission to harvest 125,000 GMT from western Crown lands.