Fredericton – The Conservation Council of New Brunswick is raising concerns with Bill 44, An Act to Amend the Crown Lands and Forest Act. The bill, which got Royal Assent, today, June 10, amends the Act so that the government “shall compensate the licensee for other expenses of forest management in accordance with the regulations (Paragraph 38.2.b). The Act currently states that it “may reimburse the licensee for other expenses of forest management as may be provided for by regulation or by agreement.”
“We are concerned that changing the law to require the Minister to compensate forest companies opens the door wide open to pay pulp and paper companies for reductions in their wood allocations. Would this mean that we would be forced to pay companies for loss of revenue for environmental protection measures? Would this mean that the forest management requirement for wildlife habitat zones in which only selection cutting is permitted would make the licensee eligible to be
compensated for the difference in cost between clearcutting and selection cutting? Would it mean that forestry companies could be compensated for the value of wood fibre unavailable to it?” stated David Coon, CCNB’s Executive Director.
The Department of Natural Resources will be reducing the annual allowable cut for softwoods and hardwoods on Crown lands in 2012 as the amount of softwood plantations were supposed to yield by now has not materialized, while hardwoods have been overcut.
It is rare that legislation actually removes the discretion of a Minister in New Brunswick, but that is what replacing the word ‘may’ with ‘shall’ accomplishes. Of concern is not knowing what regulations are being contemplated.
“Compensation is the holy grail that the Irving’s have been seeking since they and other licensee’s wrote the Minister demanding compensation back in 2001, which we obtained and leaked to the media. The resulting public outcry was deafening,” added Coon. “Now we see compensation being written into the Crown Lands And Forest Act itself.”
Half of New Brunswick’s forest is Crown land. The right to manage New Brunswick’s 3.4 million hectares of publicly-held forests has been transferred to mostly multinational companies including J.D. Irving Ltd., Fornebu Lumber Company, Twin Rivers (formerly Fraser Papers) and AV Group (AV Nackawic/AV Cell).