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Time to give communities control over surrounding public forest land

Conservation Council of New Brunswick News Release

FREDERICTON (10 March 2008) - THE four pulp and paper mills and seven saw mills that have recently closed consumed one third of the total amount of softwood cut from Crown lands - 1.1 of 3.1 million cubic metres of public wood allocated to the industry. In the face of local mill closure this means local communities could lose access to more than one million cubic metres of softwood every year from nearby Crown land, unless a policy is enacted to explicitly tie wood allocations from the public forest to regions and communities.

The Miramichi is at risk of losing access to 74 per cent of the public wood that once fuelled its economy.

In Dalhousie/Restigouche 11 per cent has already been reallocated to J.D. Irving while another 22 per cent is up for grabs.

In southeastern New Brunswick 58 per cent of its public wood supply has been transferred to Irving mills, while in Carleton County 52 per cent of its public wood supply is up for grabs.

For many rural communities, the adjacent Crown lands are their biggest economic asset, said Tracy Glynn, the Conservation Council's forest campaigner. It's time the provincial government ties the resource to the communities and give them the responsibility for stewardship and management, said Glynn.

The Legislature's Select Committee on Wood Supply took the view in its 2004 report that wood allocations should be tied to local communities. A survey recently released by the Department of Natural Resources found that a majority of New Brunswickers think local communities, woodlot owners and environmental groups should play a major role in forest management with the province.

Rather than reduce the number of trees being cut, the Department of Natural Resources is taking wood away from local communities when their mills close, foreclosing on their economic futures, and giving it to mills in other regions so they have to buy less wood from private woodlot owners and independent logging contractors, said Megan de Graaf, Forest and Watershed Coordinator for the Conservation Council. On the one hand our own government is taking away a community resource from one area and then using it to undermine the family-run businesses of local wood producers in another area, she said.

Already 20 per cent of the public wood that had been used by now closed mills has been permanently reallocated to J.D. Irving, bringing this single company's share of the public wood supply to more than 40 per cent of the total. Meanwhile, local wood producers have seen their market cut in half.

It's time to fundamentally rethink how we allocate the public wood supply and who we put in charge of forest management, said David Coon, Policy Director of the Conservation Council of New Brunswick. We need our forest economy to serve the people of this province, not the other way around, said Coon.

Historically, mills in New Brunswick obtained 40 per cent of their wood supply from the public forest.

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