Forest Industry Managing for Maple Syrup Ambitions at Own Risk

The organization representing New Brunswick maple syrup producers have recently voiced their dissatisfaction with the pace at which additional public land leases have been made available to syrup producers. It is disappointing to see the New Brunswick Maple Syrup Association support a campaign that disparages existing forest product companies when they should be seeking opportunities to collaborate with industry to achieve mutually positive outcomes. 

One of the more unfortunate narratives being propagated is that forest sector companies are harvesting the proposed forest areas identified as having potential maple sugar potential ahead of them being allotted to syrup producers. Ironically, this misinformation about the forest sector’s management of hardwood, and forests in general, is only serving to drive wedges where we should be working to find solutions.  

The reality regarding the request for an additional 12,000 hectares is that Crown land licensees, which include the province’s major forest companies, are already obligated to manage identified areas of high maple content according to the High Content Maple Special Management Zone Policy, which maintains the maple dominance for potential sugary operation.  If put into syrup production this area will result in a loss of already strained hardwood supply for several major employers. It is not as if the hardwood industry has a long-term over-abundance of fiber as the prospect of further constraints on timber supply from the province’s doubling of conservation areas, something that despite the impact, the forest products sector has publicly supported. 

We understand the desire of maple syrup producers to grow their sector, but their messaging campaign needs to be put into context. According to a government of New Brunswick news release in 2017 the maple syrup industry employed 2300 seasonal and part time workers with sales in the vicinity of $13 million.  In that same year the province allotted an additional 4400 hectares of land for maple syrup production, an impressive 41% increase from existing leases, bringing the current total to 14500 hectares.  Not an insignificant increase since 2017. 

By contrast the timber consuming segment of the forest sector currently employs 24,000, both directly and indirectly, the majority in year-round well-paying jobs that generate significant commercial and income tax revenues to support government investments in public services. Companies are equally heavily invested in their communities and the sector contributes significantly to over 40 municipal tax bases and to the provincial economy in general to the tune of $1.7 billion per year. 

The Maple Syrup Association’s misrepresentation of the forest industry’s management practices on identified maple areas as a means to expedite government action is misleading to the public.  The forest industry is meeting obligations with partial harvesting in areas near current maple leases. We assume the department is considering options for additional future leases and we will watch how they balance the expansion ambitions of one party with maintaining raw wood supply for the other. Ultimately, pitting industries against one another is counterproductive – there is room for co-existence and cooperation. 

Kim Allen

Executive Director of Forest NB