New Brunswick

Northrup delays Crown forest plan

The Department of Natural Resources is delaying a contentious decision on the next five-year plan for logging on Crown land for another six months, Natural Resources Minister Bruce Northrup said Monday.
The N.B. forest industry is lobbying the provincial government to halt plans to reduce the annual allowable cut on Crown lands. (CBC)

The Department of Natural Resources is delaying a contentious decision on the next five-year plan for logging on Crown land for another six months, Natural Resources Minister Bruce Northrup said Monday.

The delay comes a week after the Conservation Council of New Brunswick claimed the province's forestry industry is lobbying the Progressive Conservative government to halt a plan to reduce the annual allowable cut.

The province's biggest logging companies have helped organize a petition and letter drive with roughly 3,000 names advocating their desire to stop any plans to reduce logging on Crown land.

Northrup already halted the release of the 2012-17 wood allocation plan after he took over the department and he said he still needs more time.

He said he's now going to wait until a series of task force reports are finalized and he has a chance to sit down with various industry, environment and First Nations organizations to discuss the upcoming forest management plan. The plan will likely be unveiled in late January or early February 2012.

The natural resources minister said he wants the plan to strike a delicate balance between protecting the forests and not hurting the industry.

"It's going to be tough to make that balance and keep all the groups happy," Northrup said on Monday.

"But I want to get all the information first and sit down with my staff and make that decision. It's a five-year plan so we will take a little bit longer to initiate that five-year plan."

The annual allowable cut decision is based on computer modelling and other projections of whether industrial cutting will leave enough wood for the province's forests to keep regenerating themselves.

The provincial government's latest forecast would have reduced the amount of wood forestry companies could cut on public land over a five-year cycle starting next year. The forest industry's lobbying campaign said that decision would harm the industry and communities that rely on the sector for jobs.

However, environmentalists say the quota has to be scaled back because forest regeneration has been slower than expected.

Woodlot owners raise concerns

A northern New Brunswick woodlot owner said more Crown land would not be needed if forest companies purchased from private woodlots.

Hazon McCrae, a Bathurst-area woodlot owner, said forest companies can simply purchase more wood from private supplies if the provincial government reduces the amount that can be harvested from Crown land.

"The woodlot owners are saying, `No, no. We've got a lot of wood for sale. We'll sell you wood,'" McCrae said.

"But you're going to have to pay us the same price, the going rate, not your preferred rate."

The forest industry is disputing the claims of the private woodlot owners.

Mary Keith, a spokeswoman for J.D. Irving Ltd., said the company already tries to purchase private wood.

But those owners may be trying to hold onto their product until the price of lumber improves.

"Last week, we were looking to buy close to $1 million of private wood and unfortunately we were only able to secure roughly $300,000 of that amount," Keith said.

Keith also said that Irving gives first priority to buy from private sources. But that the company needs to look to Crown land if that supply isn't there.

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