No timeline set for government review of forestry plan (Telegraph Journal March 13, 2015)

727616574_08dded0d34_b (1)FREDERICTON • Natural Resources Minister Denis Landry says he is between a “rock and a hard place” in his review of the Crown forest strategy and, with one deadline already passed, he’s not saying when it will be completed.

Landry was asked about the Liberal government’s consideration of the forestry plan following the release of a map on Thursday that shows the location of conservation zones and protected natural areas.

However, the big question is whether the Liberal government will attempt to alter the Crown forest strategy put in place by the previous Tory administration last year, or whether it will be allowed to stand.

Landry said he cannot even say whether he is close to completing his review, adding that stakeholders still are knocking on his door almost every day asking to have their opinions heard.

After having given himself a six-week deadline in December that is now long past, Landry said Thursday that there is no timeline.

“The thing is some people are against, some are sitting on the fence and some are totally for it,” the minister told reporters at the legislature.

“Right now, I would say it is 50-50. People are open to discussion. It is a signed contract by the previous government so I am kind of caught between a rock and a hard place on this. We are trying to do the best we can as a government.”

In the legislature, Opposition Tory MLA Glen Savoie welcomed the release of the conservation map, but cautioned that the forestry industry is anxiously waiting for the Liberal government to finish its review .

“The reality is private sector investment, private companies create jobs – government shouldn’t be creating jobs,” Savoie said in the house.

“Government should be in the business of allowing the private sector to do that work. There are hundreds of millions of investments at stake here. We encourage the government to be quicker on the draw in terms of getting this strategy put to bed.”

The map shows protected natural areas, buffer zones around wetlands and watercourses and deer wintering yards that are to be protected from forestry, mining and gas development.

It can be viewed on the Government of New Brunswick website.

Green party leader David Coon, a strong critic of the forestry strategy, said the map doesn’t show what will actually happen once forestry companies take their increased allotment of Crown wood.

“What it doesn’t show is what is really happening, which is what we are losing,” Coon said.

“The Acadian forest stands, which were select cut only, now are clear-cut zones. Those stands will be gone.

“The enhanced buffer zones that were quite extensive around s o m e o u r r i ve r s a n d l a ke s are now going to be clear cut down to the legal minimum of 30 metres. These are very serious changes.”

Landry said release of the conservation map was an election platform promise by the Liberals.

The previous Tory government announced its forestry strategy in March 2014, boosting the amount of wood that can be taken from the public forests by about 20 per cent, or an extra 660,000 cubic metres per year.

More cutting will be allowed in the conservation areas on Crown lands.

The timber guarantee under the strategy has triggered about $600 million in private investments, and is expected to create at least 500 new forestry jobs and about 1,200 construction jobs.

The Tories said at the time that the forestry strategy would double the amount of protected lands to 273,000 hectares, roughly half the size of Prince Edward Island.