The mandate of the Self-Sufficiency Task Force is to generate conversation and stimulate the free-flow of ideas on our future prosperity and independence in New Brunswick. Whether you agree or disagree with the recommendations, there remains one indisputable fact – the status quo for New Brunswick’s forest industry is no longer acceptable if we expect to achieve self-sufficiency in a global economy.
As recognized in the second report New Brunswick has carved out its position on the world stage because it is an export driven economy. Forestry is, and will continue to be, a main driver of the export economy, but if New Brunswick wants to truly become self-sufficient, the business of forestry needs to improve. While that may be a challenge for industries that depend on non-renewable resources, the forestry sector has to maximize uses for our existing forest and grow more trees, always using the best available science.
Forestry is sustainable and renewable, a win-win combination. Does forestry have a future? Absolutely! Especially when you consider that less than two per cent of New Brunswick’s productive forests are currently harvested each year. The fact is there is room to do more. There is room to grow more trees for jobs, communities and the environment using the best available science.
Over 30,000 New Brunswickers and their families depend on the forest. The industry is comprised of rural and urban New Brunswickers – plain and simple. They are part of the overall business community that contributes to the economic health of the province through a payroll in excess of one billion dollars. In 2005 forestry accounted for 16 per cent of total provincial exports and contributed eleven per cent to the gross domestic product (GDP).
The business of forestry covers a wide spectrum of people, from the man or woman down the road who runs a thinning saw in your community, the mill-worker next door or the expert who develops a modeling program for sustainable forestry. Chances are you already have a familiarity with the forest industry because the wealth generated from trees, in the form of $260 million in taxes collected annually, helps to maintain many of the values we hold dear like healthcare and education.
There is no disputing the fact that sustainable forestry is a good news story – and it has been since the first settlers came to New Brunswick and began harvesting trees. So why is it when the Task Force suggested we increase our yield from the forests by 25 per cent by the year 2026 there are those who automatically dismiss the recommendation as unachievable. The New Brunswick Forest Products Association is fully supportive of this goal. We will work with the provincial government, industry and stakeholders to ensure that the best science is used to guarantee that our forest sector thrives for years to come.
The Report explains how to achieve this goal in part by saying, “…the provincial government should consider reducing the amount of Crown land set aside for conservation to 20 per cent from the current 30 per cent. This would increase overall wood supply by up to 25 per cent in 20 years.” The report also prescribes an aggressive investment in silviculture to round out the wood supply initiative. The forest industry is prepared to show how to achieve these goals without compromising a single environmental value.
We have the knowledge and the ability to grow more trees. This is New Brunswick’s advantage. We can grow the wood we need. We are confident that we can maintain the sustainable harvest. Our track record is the proof.
The recommendations offers an important opportunity to increase the competitiveness of the forest industry in the global market. If implemented the recommendations will help to maintain jobs now and increase opportunities in the future. More importantly a stable and reasoned approach to forest management, will guarantee wood supply now and into the future. This will result in investment, growth and economic stability for the business of forestry.
The forest industry is strictly regulated by a series of rigid government covenants and further supported through a third party, independent audit system that ensures public accountability. It’s important to remember that forestry is a science and a large part of the industry, including both levels of government and businesses, are made up of scientists who work to ensure sustainability and best practices.
How confident are we that our forests can increase yield without compromising the integrity and bio-diversity of the forest? A glimpse of the past and what’s happening on the ground today are excellent indicators. The forest industry in New Brunswick has a positive and proven track record, the checks and balances are in place, the trees are there, and forest management science is in place to support increasing the harvest and to grow more trees. We are recognized worldwide for our sustainable forestry management practices. Forestry has a future, and New Brunswick is a leader in sustainable forestry management. We know Forestry has a bright future because trees are renewable and the industry is made-up of bright, hard-working people.
Mark Arsenault is President and C.E.O. of the New Brunswick Forest Products Association.