We Need to Learn From Maine, NS, QC.
While we wait for an announcement from the Higgs government on its promised changes to the way forestry is practiced in our province, changes that are coming to forestry in Nova Scotia could provide a blueprint of something we should consider as part of the remedy to our forestry situation here.
There are multiple problems with the current state of forestry in New Brunswick. Among them the fact that our forestry policy serves primarily the forestry companies
at the expense of a healthy bio-diverse forest,
at the expense of New Brunswick taxpayers because the province isn’t realizing the financial return from our Crown forests that it should, and
at the expense of private woodlot owners who struggle to find markets at fair prices.
The good news is that in the election campaign Blaine Higgs promised to fix it, and both the People’s Alliance and the Green parties also signalled changes to forestry as priorities in their campaigns. So it appears, for the first time since the Crown Lands and Forests Act was enacted way back in the early 80s, that the time is right for fundamental change that will serve the interests of the province as a whole.
It’s always been about winners and losers
The historic problem for governments when it comes to Crown land is that the desires of the forestry companies have often, if not always, been at odds with what the private woodlot owners want and what the public wants. And the way it has gone in New Brunswick, the strong lobbying of the forestry companies always won out, resulting in forestry policy that favoured them. It was always about winners and losers. Preservation of forests vs. utilization of them, a choice that results in arguments that always fosters conflict, but never resolution. It never really struck anybody’s consciousness that it didn’t necessarily have to be this way.
Enter Nova Scotia, where the government just last month agreed to implement the recommendations of the Lahey Report, a detailed study of forestry practices in that province, that endorsed what is known as a Triad model.
The issues in Nova Scotia are not exactly the same as the issues here in New Brunswick, but there are enough similarities that the Triad model is something that should be looked at here.
All of our neighbours use the Triad model
To be clear, Triad isn’t a new model. In fact 200-thousand hectares of forest in Maine have been managed using the triad model for the past 40 years. It’s also a system widely used in Quebec. Now with Nova Scotia adopting it, we will have neighbours on all of our borders that do forestry better than we do.
The triad model acknowledges that all uses of forests have worth, so it strives to balance environmental, social, and economic objectives. At the risk of oversimplifying, it achieves this by dividing Crown forests into three sections all of which would be treated differently.
Forests protected from all forestry – parks, nature reserves or wilderness and conservation areas. These would provide a sanctuary for wildlife and a base for ecosystems and biodiversity.
Forests dedicated to high production forestry. This would include clear-cutting, where it is ecologically responsible, and high production alternatives to clear-cutting. This concentration of industry activity will minimize or avoid the impact of forestry on the wider landscape.
Management of the rest of the Crown forests for a combination of ecological and production objectives. This would be forestry with a lighter touch and limited clear-cutting.
What is the objective? Define It.
At the foundation of the Triad model is the identification of the government’s objectives for its Crown land. What are its priorities for these forests?
In Nova Scotia, the Lahey Report identifies biodiversity as the key objective of its Crown forests.
In New Brunswick, the government has relinquished this decision to the forestry companies. So the prime purpose of our Crown land is producing timber for the forestry company mills, which in our case translates to extensive harvesting of low value, small diameter trees. Biodiverse forests are not a priority here.
The triad model isn’t the be all or end all to fix forestry in New Brunswick, but its success elsewhere strongly suggests a co-existence that avoids the battles that have been consistent with forestry here over the past decades. So it very well could be part of the formula to an improved Crown Lands and Forests Act that could serve us well as we go into the future.
But it is only part of the solution.
Conflict-of-Interest Manages Our Forests
One fundamental fault with our current system is that the people charged with managing our forests are the very same people – the forest industry – who are making money off cutting it. This obvious conflict-of-interest definitely needs to be changed. Changing this is fundamental to designing a forestry policy that works for all.
Other needed changes include measures to bring fairness back for private woodlot owners and a royalty system that better serves taxpayers.
We all know there is much wrong with the way forestry is currently done in New Brunswick. But change is promised and we are optimistic our new government, supported by the People’s Alliance and the Greens, will act in the best interests of the citizens they have been elected to represent. Let’s hope they get on it soon.
Thank you for listening,
President, New Brunswick Federation of Woodlot Owners