Why New Brunswick needs to grow 25% more wood in 20 years

Why New Brunswick needs to grow 25% more wood in 20 years.

Currently, the forest industry is facing unprecedented challenges. The high value of the Canadian dollar, global competitiveness, a down turn in the US housing market and high energy costs have all contributed to a very difficult business climate for investment that ultimately challenges industry’s long-term survival.

This is not unlike other industries. We need to adapt, reduce costs, modernize and continue with value-added initiatives to cope with these challenges.

Unlike other industries, forestry survives on a renewable resource. We can grow more than we cut without compromising environmental values. Growing more wood will crate more high paying jobs. This is forestry’s advantage. It’s New Brunswick’s advantage.

The growth of our province and the strengthening of our economic future depend on two key elements: our people and our resources. We can manage both.

The Province of New Brunswick can create the environment for a competitive forest industry. The industry will make the investment necessary to maintain a leading edge position and continue to win on the world market.

There will be positive opportunities in lumber markets two to five years down the road as British Columbia’s harvest level crashes after the current salvage of insect-killed timber. There is also an increasing use of lumber in Asia, as well as improving growth in Western European markets.

The future also promises to bring innovation to bio-fuels and energy production from unutilized forest biomass.

By creating the right environment, industry will continue to research and develop new value-added products, provide high-paying jobs for thousands of New Brunswickers mainly located in our rural areas, and contribute significantly to the Province’s economic success.

Without a secure wood supply, however, additional investment in modernization and building value-added initiatives becomes even more challenging, if not impossible.

Secure Wood Supply

Growing more wood will ensure future investments and allow New Brunswick to be leaders in the new economy as new products and uses for wood emerge.

The dynamic pursuit of investment is a strategy that has worked in the past, builds on our skilled work force and will continue to be an integral part of the self-sufficiency objectives.

Supporting investment attraction and the creation of an investment-friendly climate in our Province goes hand in hand with a forward-looking economic development policy for our renewable forest resources.

In order to promote and facilitate an active forestry sector and wood processing industry the Province o New Brunswick should endeavour to provide a stable and growing wood supply.

To grow the wood supply we first need to commit to a reasonable and achievable goal. That is why industry has proposed to grow 25% more wood in the next 20 years. Committing to this goal will allow industry to invest in growing the wood supply we need. The Self-Sufficiency Task Force has recognized and recommended this goal to Government.

We also support the need for a clear timber objective. To date there are clear and defined non-timber objectives that continue to diminish the available wood supply, requiring more and more of the working forest to be set aside. Without a clear timber objective, the working forest will continue to shrink. The forest under constraints will continue to increase and the amount of Crown timber to supply New Brunswick mills will continue to unnecessarily decline.

New Brunswickers would be interested to know since 1982, despite a $380 million investment in growing trees on Crown lands, the annual allowable cut (AAC) has declined since the Crown Lands and Forest Act was implemented. It’s also interesting to know that this has happened despite the fact there are more trees growing in New Brunswick today than there was 25 years ago.

By not having a sustainable and predicable supply of wood, the forest industry has had to import almost 15% of its fibre (wood) needs from insecure sources, take mill down time and cut jobs.

This decrease in available wood supply has prevented investment in the forestry sector and had a negative impact on our ability to raise capita to modernize our operations.

We support the Self-Sufficiency Task Force recommendation to reduce the constrained forest from 30% to 20%. We believe this can be achieved without compromising good science or environmental responsibility.

We support this initiative because it is based on good science, and both the Department of Natural Resources and independent third-party audits will hold industry accountable for careful planning and high management standards. We are committed to, and will continue to be at the forefront of third-party environmental certifications.

Industry feels there are better ways to manage the constrained forests. We believe we can grow more wood through intensive silviculture. This means planting more trees and doing more thinning to provide higher yield in some areas. By having a higher yield on some of the forest, we can actually increase the land set aside for parks, ecological reserves and wilderness areas.

Currently, 6% of New Brunswick’s forests are in “totally protected areas”. That means no harvesting or no touch management. But more than 30% of the forest is under constrained management which means you can do only very small amounts of harvesting using very costly selective harvesting under tight rules and regulations. This is what we call the “constrained” forest. Any harvesting in the constrained forest is very expensive. We believe it is better to increase the yield in some areas, and increase the protected areas, while relaxing some of the constraints in the middle zone.

There is no better time to evaluate concepts such as reducing constrained forests in favour of more forests under the totally protected designation. Consider the following:

a) We believe it is possible to increase the working forest for jobs, while at the same time increasing the “totally protected” zone.

b) Nature tells us that the same piece of ground can provide multiple habitat values. We know an eagle or deer and old trees can thrive in the same general habitat. By managing these zones we can continue to manage and reach wildlife objectives.

We support the Task Force recommendation to grow and harvest 25% more wood. We know we can increase the forest yield by enhancing silviculture effort on Crown land. We also fully support growing more trees on private woodlots. Planting more trees will provide additional economic and environmental benefits for New Brunswick. The forest industry is also committed to work with the Federation of Woodlot Owners and the Government to find ways to increase silviculture on private lands.

Growing more wood will allow us to increase the working forest ensuring the long-term sustainability of this industry and new industry spin-offs such as bio-fuels and bio-products.

The issue of a sustainable and secure wood supply is pivotal to the future of this industry and the economy of this province. We must work together to ensure the best interests of all New Brunswickers are taken into consideration when looking at future forestry practices so that as we go forward, we meet all our social and environmental responsibilities.

Industry, private woodlot owners and Government need to work together to ensure a secure, sustainable forest and supply of wood for NB mills. Wood feeds this industry; employing over 23,000 New Brunswickers directly and indirectly and providing socio-economic benefits that are far reaching, including supplying funding needed for health care, education and roads.

Mark Arsenault is President and CEO of the New Brunswick Forest Products Association