New Brunswick’s forest industry is at a crossroad, an observation reinforced with the recent release of two important reports – the Thom Erdle Task Force Management Alternatives for New Brunswick’s Public Forest and the Roberts-Woodbridge Future Opportunities for the Forest Products Industry in New Brunswick report.
The Erdle Task Force team included representation from conservation organizations, industry, government officials and academia. It’s a dynamic report that makes no specific recommendations, but instead offers a series of public-forest management options with clearly articulated outcomes for each choice. It leaves the final decision-making process in the hands of government who are responsible for the task of directing Crown forest management.
The report is a detailed effort that looks at managing forests and wood supply in both the short term, and well into the future. It is not an understatement to say the management choices our government has committed to make by the end of the year will dictate the future of New Brunswick’s forest industry.
The management options presented are diverse. Several scenarios severely reduce all harvesting on Crown land, ultimately reducing New Brunswick’s forest sector to little more than a cottage industry. The outcomes in these scenarios guarantee further job losses and a significant revenue loss that New Brunswick cannot afford on the road to achieving self-sufficiency.
Other options are less disruptive offering New Brunswick’s forest industry a stable wood supply and will strengthen the future of our forest communities. Imagine a scenario that can see the amount of protected areas more than doubled, maintains a high level of forest industry employment, provides a significant increase in wood supply over the next 25 years and a decrease in the amount of clearcut prescriptions as potential outcomes. That’s an option, in broad strokes, found in the report, and it’s an option that balances environmental, social and economic sustainability; and positions the forest sector for a strong economic turnaround.
There is no room for complacency in charting our future in the province. Make no mistake – an environmentally sustainable and growing forest sector that benefits every New Brunswicker can be achieved if we can work together and give ourselves the ambitious goal of growing forest communities, while ensuring that we protect our environment for everyone to enjoy.
As a complement to the Task Force Report, CIBC World Markets analyst Don Roberts and Woodbridge & Associates President Peter Woodbridge co-authored their report on the future opportunities for the forest products industry. The report, commissioned by Business New Brunswick, explores the economics of the forest sector, briefly touching on the past and present, with a focus on the global markets of the future.
It also reinforces the message that we have both the resources and ability in New Brunswick for a vibrant and sustainable forest that can create jobs and wealth for the province. It provides a detailed overview and ranking of the best wood product opportunities in the future. More importantly it clearly articulates new emerging products that we, in New Brunswick, have the capability to produce under the right business environment. We will need to secure investment but that will come once we can definitively determine what our wood supply will be in the future.
Both reports provide solid facts to assist the government in setting the future of forestry in New Brunswick. I believe these two documents put New Brunswick ahead of the competition as everyone strives to find their way out of this current crisis. I urge every New Brunswicker to read the reports with the goal of helping to build an environmentally sustainable forest that supports communities and families who rely on the forest sector. If we do it right we can create opportunities to keep our highest paid rural jobs and bring back those who left.
By Mark Arsenault
President & CEO New Brunswick Forest Products Association