New Brunswick

New Crown forest plan criticized by ex-DNR ministers

Two former ministers of natural resources are raising concerns with new forestry plan unveiled by David Alward's Progressive Conservative government this spring.

Jeannot Volpé, Morris Green say private woodlot owners aren't treated fairly in new forest policy

Jeannot Volpé was minister of natural resources from 1999-2003. (CBC)

Two former natural resources ministers are raising concerns with new forestry plan unveiled by David Alward's Progressive Conservative government this spring.

Jeannot Volpé and Morris Green signed on an open letter to the provincial government last week, expressing concern that small woodlot owners are not getting a fair deal.

"Crown land belongs to all New Brunswickers, not to the industry," said Volpé, who served as natural resources minister in Bernard Lord's Progressive Conservative government from 1999-2003.

In the open letter, Volpé, Green and two former presidents of the New Brunswick Federation of Woodlot Owners say the Alward government has missed a chance to fix an imbalance in the province's wood supply chain.

They say that instead of increasing the volume of softwood that industry can harvest from Crown land, the provincial government should have directed industry to purchase more wood from private woodlot owners.

"A significant part of the province's forests, the 30 per cent owned by 40,000 New Brunswick families, has wood available for sale that industry is not buying," states the letter.

"The government has missed a real opportunity to limit the controversy over encroachment on protected areas, and at the same time, to re-establish a balance between Crown Land and woodlot owners in how they share the market for the timber used by the province's forest products industry."

Both Volpé and Green own private woodlots.

"That isn't really my interest in getting involved," said Green, who served as minister of lands and mines in Frank McKenna's Liberal government from 1987-1991.  

"I see this thing as a global problem."

The open letter states that for 30 years, private woodlot owners provided about 25 per cent of the wood used by industry.

But when the economic crisis hit the forest industry in 2005 and mills started to close, the woodlot owners' market share of wood supply dropped to 12 per cent of industry's needs, say the woodlot owners and former ministers.

Meanwhile, they say the supply of Crown wood showed barely any decline and then increased to a market share of more than 50 per cent, for the first time since 1974.

I don't know who is controlling everything right now. It doesn't even seem to be the politicians to tell you the truth.- Jeannot Volpé

"Our point is: woodlot owners took nearly the whole brunt of the downturn and even with a major market upturn in the industry in recent years, they are still stuck at 12 per cent of the market."

Volpé doesn't buy the argument the provincial government needed to make the concessions to the forest industry in order to help the industry be competitive on the world market and create and maintain jobs.

"This doesn't hold any water," said Volpé.

"Because if even one company in New Brunswick would manage all the land from all the Maritimes, they will still not be a big player."

"I don't know who is controlling everything right now," he said.Volpé said he's tried to talk to members of the Alward cabinet about the forestry plan, but hasn't been successful.

"It doesn't even seem to be the politicians to tell you the truth.

"It seems like the lobbying power of the some of the industries is so great now that they don't even go to all the politicians, they go to one or two and this is how decisions are being made. This is scary," said Volpé.

"I haven't seen it when I was there. I've seen some pressure, but at least everyone was involved."


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