New Brunswick syrup producers want moratorium on logging sugar maples
Industry association continues request for additional 12,000 hectares of Crown land
New Brunswick's growing maple syrup industry is calling on the province to impose a moratorium on logging in areas with a high concentration of sugar maple trees.
The request comes as the New Brunswick Maple Syrup Association waits for a response from the province on an expansion plan.
It is asking for an additional 12,000 hectares of Crown lands for syrup production, nearly doubling the current allocation.
Louise Poitras, the organization's executive director, said producers are raising concerns about recent logging activity in areas with sugar maples, primarily in northern New Brunswick.
"The phone has not stopped ringing," she said. "We can't take it anymore. The only thing we want to do is protect those trees. So a moratorium is what we're asking for."
The province has restrictions in place that limit any widespread logging in areas of maple dominance, requiring selective cutting.
Under a special policy, major forest companies are required to limit operations in sectors with potential for sugaries.
But maple syrup producers say those measures don't go far enough and are not always followed.
Maple trees take 75 years to grow to a size suitable for producing syrup.
Forest N.B., which represents forest products producers, has argued the maple expansion proposal could mean a loss of limited hardwood supply for several major employers.
Executive director Kim Allen said the organization had yet to receive any information about the request for a moratorium.
New Brunswick has about three million forested hectares of Crown land, with about 30 per cent hardwood.
In contrast, syrup producers currently have access to about 14,000 hectares. That's less than one per cent of total Crown lands in the province.
'We risk not having expansion'
Maple producers submitted a growth plan to the province in 2019 and are still waiting to receive a response. The association says there has been no communication in several months.
While waiting for more land, the maple industry has boomed, which producers say makes the need for more hectares even more pressing.
New Brunswick has grown to be the third-largest maple producer in the world, after Quebec and Vermont, generating more than $30 million annually.
The Department of Natural Resouces and Energy did not say if it will consider the proposed moratorium.
Spokesperson Nick Brown said government understands the importance of maples on Crown land for both sugaries and forestry. He said special management zones for future sugary use were identified five years ago, and have restrictions in place for any harvesting of trees.
"As the Government continues its long-term planning regarding these uses, it is very important that we consider and address our duty to consult obligations to First Nations before decisions are made on these matters," Brown wrote in an emailed statement.
"Managing the Crown forest requires balancing the allocation of maple stands to timber, conservation, and sugary users."
Poitras said that as trees are cut from proposed areas, the lower concentration of maples could make it no longer viable to expand there.
"If we don't protect those trees, we risk not having expansion," she said.
"There is no reason why after three years we don't have a plan with the government."