New Brunswick

Crown forest agreements need review, conservationist says

A conservationist says the more she examines the Crown forestry agreements signed by the former Alward government, the more she worries about the future of public forests.

Natural Resources Minister Denis Landry released Crown forest agreements last week

A conservationist says the more she examines the Crown forestry agreements signed by the former Alward government, the more she worries about the future of public forests.

Roberta Clowater, the executive director of the New Brunswick chapter of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, said the agreements with the province's largest forestry companies leave the public with no say over what activities take place or their impact on wildlife.

"If we keep tinkering with our forest beyond its limit, reducing the habitat we conserve for wildlife and to protect rivers, we shouldn't be surprised if forests start failing to produce wood or water or trees to clean the air," said Clowater.

"Just one example is the importance of birds in keeping insect numbers down, so we don't get big infestations that kill too many trees."

Natural Resources Minister Denis Landry released eight documents last week, including the forestry agreements signed by the former Alward government with J.D. Irving, Twin Rivers Ltd., Chaleur Sawmills Ltd., and 15 First Nations communities.

Premier Brian Gallant committed to releasing the documents during the election campaign.

Landry said on Wednesday that it was too early to say whether the provincial government would alter the controversial Crown forest policy.

Landry said he would need another six weeks to determine if any changes will be made. The natural resources minister said he wants to avoid a legal fight with the forestry companies.

However, Clowater is asking Gallant’s new government to review the agreements closely and where possible attempt to have them changed through legal means. 

"It appears that the forestry company will have veto power over any changes that government might want to make to the rules that companies have to follow," her group said in a statement.

"This removes the power of government to manage the public resources in a responsible way."

The New Brunswick Federation of Woodlot Owners also has concerns about the forestry agreements.

Ken Hardie, the manager of the New Brunswick Federation of Woodlot owners, says his organization’s biggest concern is the additional volume of wood being made available to the large forestry companies.

He says the additional volume outlined in the agreements makes it "less likely" the large forestry companies such as J.D. Irving Ltd. will need to purchase wood from private woodlot owners.

And Hardie says his federation’s members are not happy that the agreements were made and "locked in behind closed doors."

"As a taxpayer I worry about the compensation that would be locked in as well for any attempt to get out of those agreements."

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