Where We Last Left Off
With government now formed, MLA’s and minister’s sworn in, the forest sector is looking to pick up where things were left off prior to the writ being dropped in August. Notably wood supply, in particular private sources, conservation initiatives and forest management objectives were all on the radar of DNR Minister Mike Holland before the election.
Where we last left off the Minister announced a freeze, in December 2019, on annual allowable cuts for a five-year period in order to put a pause on any contemplation of crown wood supply increases. Our understanding is that this was to buy time to address private wood share of the wood supply which currently stands at approximately 17% of total supply to NB mills; this does not consider total fuelwood and export volumes which Forest NB estimates boosts the private wood contribution in the context of domestic and export markets at about 25%.
The minister has been guarded in releasing details on how to bring a greater share of private wood into the fold while assuring affordability and predictability for wood purchasers but one thing is for certain; it will require a shift in management practices on private in order to move the bar on AAC in order to achieve greater market share sustainably. Hopefully there is a reasonable expectation of success on this as sector growth will require both crown and private wood availability to stimulate private sector investment.
The other pre-election issue bookmarked was the ambitious doubling of protected natural areas and commitment to help achieve the federal conservation objectives which originally were pegged at 17% of terrestrial and marine areas to match international objectives and have now shifted to 30% by 2030. The ever-moving target is concerning given that wood supply would be impacted unless forest management strategies incorporate vegetation management tools like approved herbicide and appropriate harvesting methods such as clear cuts where the forest stand composition dictates.
Conservation goals must be carefully considered and provide optimal benefit in terms of protecting biodiversity and addressing species at risk. This cannot be done in the absence of forestry impacts but must consider them. To succeed, conservation set asides must be purposeful and we do want them to succeed.
There is plenty of unfinished business for the Minister to consider when the legislature resumes in November but there is also plenty of opportunity to make a path for long term growth in the forest sector. Global demand for forest products is forecasted to grow as markets transition to green economies and New Brunswick could well seize the opportunity if the political will exists to make a path to prosperity.
Mike Legere, Executive Director of Forest NB