New Brunswick

Province investigates 'misuse' of documents in cross-border log shipments

The New Brunswick Forest Products Commission says it is working with the Department of Justice and Public Safety to investigate the "misuse" of shipping documents used for transporting logs into the U.S.

Transportation certificates are used for tracking wood movement and controlling theft

Trucks leaving New Brunswick with logs are required to carry transportation certificates that act as a 'chain of custody' to prevent wood theft. (CBC)

The New Brunswick Forest Products Commission says it is working with the Department of Justice and Public Safety to investigate the "misuse" of shipping documents used for transporting logs into the U.S.

The case involves the use of transportation certificates mandated by the provincial government to track the movement of logs and to protect landowners from wood theft.

"We have some active investigations on the go where we're looking into misuse, or improper use, of transportation certificates," said Tim Fox, the commission's executive director.

"What we've found is that there's a higher prevalence … associated with boards that are closer to the Maine border."

While not confirming the border area investigation, a Justice Department spokesperson issued a statement saying officers from both Justice and Resource Development conducted a "compliance blitz" across the province Thursday aimed at the use of transportation certificates.

Issued by marketing boards

The certificates are issued to wood brokers or trucking companies by local marketing boards.

They are used to track the "chain of custody" for the logs, from the woodlot where the trees are cut until delivery to the mill.

The law requires the certificates to be carried at all times in the truck transporting the wood.

The document is completed at the destination mill and returned to the marketing board to ensure the woodlot owner is paid for the trees and the board can collect its levy.

Shawn McGrath is general manager of the forest products marketing board serving York, Sunbury and Charlotte counties. (YSC Forest Products Marketing Board)

Boards closest to the border have discovered numerous instances where the documents were returned with sections missing or property identification numbers, or PIDs, that were incorrect.

Shawn McGrath, general manager of the York-Sunbury-Charlotte board, said the investigation was launched about two months ago.

"Any wood that's transported without a [properly completed] TC is considered illegally transported wood," he said. 

"We noticed that in some accounts the information was either partially filled in or some entries such as PID were fully missing. So we started to look into it a bit further at which point we realized there was some trending issues."

Controls over-harvesting

McGrath said the transportation certificates also allow the board to track the number of trees cut, so it can be sure there isn't over-harvesting.

It's not yet known how much wood is involved in the alleged misuse of the documents, he said, but the theft of trees from woodlots is "a big issue."

"I think we can expect to understand that a little bit more in coming months as some of the findings of the investigation are turned up. I can't really say too much more about that right now."

A 2002 statement issued by the Department of Natural Resources and Energy said "millions of dollars worth of wood" is stolen from private and public lands in the province every year.

About the Author

Connell Smith is a reporter with CBC in Saint John. He can be reached at 632-7726 Connell.smith@cbc.ca

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