New Brunswick has opportunity for leadership as host of Canadian Council of Forest Ministers annual Forest Forum
N.B. conservation groups call on provincial government to commit to transparent and integrated forest management strategy rooted in biodiversity, conservation, Indigenous co-stewardship, and ecological forestry practices
Traditional territory of the Wabanaki Peoples/Fredericton — As New Brunswick hosts forest ministers from across the country in St. Andrews this week, conservation groups are calling on the provincial government to step into its leadership role and fulfill previous commitments to climate action for forests, conservation targets, biodiversity and sustainable logging. This needs to be done through one integrated, ecologically-based management strategy for the forests of New Brunswick, with transparent consultation and engagement of Indigenous people and the public.
The organizations—the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society-New Brunswick Chapter, Nature Trust of New Brunswick, Conservation Council of New Brunswick, and Nature NB—are united in the belief that New Brunswick needs a new way to manage the forests that surround us and support us all. The development of an ecological forestry strategy for Crown forest management should be achieved through a cohesive public process driven by strategies and initiatives already promised or underway by the provincial government, including:
- A state of the forest report promised since 2016, and most recently committed for release by April 2023, as a starting point for forest conditions and how well it is meeting the needs of nature and people;
- The updated climate action plan committed to renewing the nearly 14-year-old Biodiversity Strategy by 2025, publishing an assessment of the carbon stock value of N.B.’s forests and wetlands by 2025, and setting a new protected areas target by 2024;
- A new Private Woodlot Sustainability Act with commitments to new funding to support woodlot owners in managing private forests; and,
- A Crown forest advisory board that will involve experts representing the diversity of public values to guide the direction of forest management.
If New Brunswick updates the province’s forestry strategy separate from these other critical and related commitments, we risk a strategy that is patchy, ineffective and nothing more than a tree-cutting plan.
Conservation groups call for significant reduction in clear-cuts, elimination of glyphosate-based herbicides in forests, legislated targets for increasing selective cutting, new protected areas to safeguard wildlife habitat, and provision of more fairness and opportunity for private woodlots owners and Indigenous communities. These steps would go a long way toward addressing the failures of New Brunswick’s current, old-fashioned and big industry-favored approach to Crown forest management.
“The loss of plants and animals around the world and in our own woods is staggering, and we can no longer ignore the need for change. New Brunswick has an opportunity to be a leader in sustainable forest management by developing a new strategy framed by biodiversity and conservation goals,” says Stephanie Merrill, Chief Executive Officer of the Nature Trust of New Brunswick. “It is critical that government works together with Indigenous Nations and private woodlot owners to set ourselves on a path toward healthy, climate-resilient forests. These rich habitats are the foundation of our communities and provide refuge for the species we cherish in our province. It’s time to manage them in a way that ensures they remain forests for everyone.”
“The critical goals for a forest management strategy are to ensure New Brunswick does its part to halt and reverse nature loss, to protect more diverse forest and wetlands, and to be fair with Indigenous communities, private woodlot owners and recreational forest users, in addition to promoting a sustainable timber industry,” says Roberta Clowater, Executive Director of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society-NB Chapter. “If the province develops a new forest management strategy separate from nature and climate strategies, it will be doomed to fail the forest, its critters, and New Brunswickers.”
“Peer-reviewed research led by University of New Brunswick scientists and published last month in Nature found that a diverse, mixedwood forest is significantly better than monoculture softwood plantations at storing carbon, a crucial element and commitment of the government’s climate change mitigation work,” says Louise Comeau, Co-Executive Director of the Conservation Council of New Brunswick. “A healthy Acadian forest is an asset when it comes to climate action in New Brunswick—it should be protected as such.”
“This government has shown a strong commitment to protecting nature by meeting its promise to double protected areas to 10 per cent late last year, but there’s still so much more we need to do to meet the historic nature protection goals established last December when Montreal hosted the U.N.’s global biodiversity conference,” says Vanessa Roy-McDougall, Executive Director of Nature NB. “Let’s build on the momentum of New Brunswick’s Nature Legacy program and chart a course for meeting the international target of protecting 30 per cent of lands and waters by 2030.”
Clowater and Merrill are in St. Andrews today and Tuesday to participate in Forest Forum sessions and are available for interviews.
- Public opinion polling conducted by Oracle for Research in 2022 showed that 75 per cent of New Brunswickers support reviewing the Crown Lands and Forests Act to establish a new, ecologically-based forestry system in New Brunswick. Seventy-eight per cent want N.B. to match the federal government commitment to protect 25 per cent for nature by 2025.
- Even with newly-created Crown conserved areas established in 2022 that doubled protected areas to 10 per cent, New Brunswick still ranks close to last in the country in terms of the proportion of legally-binding conservation land within its borders.
- The Standing Committee on Climate Change and Environmental Stewardship’s November 2021 report to the legislature recommended implementing a combination of ecological forestry and new, interconnected protected areas to ensure New Brunswick’s remaining hardwood and mixedwood forests are not converted to softwood plantations.
- The N.B. Auditor General reported in 2015 and again in 2021 that around 80 per cent of the Crown forest is harvested by clearcut while selective and partial cuts decline significantly, even though the latter methods are recognized as best management practices because they protect wetlands and waterways, wildlife habitat, and preserve a healthy range of plant and animal life in the woods.
- In 2022, glyphosate-based herbicide spraying on New Brunswick’s Crown forest was up 30 per cent compared to 2005 levels, according to data from the National Forestry Database and GeoNB.
- In 2016, New Brunswick’s Chief Medical Officer of Health’s Action Plan on Glyphosate found that New Brunswick uses more glyphosate per hectare of harvested forest than any province in Canada.
- New Brunswick’s updated climate action plan, released September 2022, committed to updating the Biodiversity Strategy by 2025, publishing an assessment of the carbon stock value of N.B.’s forests and wetlands by 2025 (including regular tracking and reporting on the forest’s carbon value), and setting a new protected areas target by 2024.
- New peer-reviewed research led by UNB scientists shows that a functionally-diverse and evenly-mixed forest, such as the natural, mixedwood Acadian forest, can enhance mineral soil carbon sequestration by up to 32 per cent and nitrogen sequestration by up to 50 per cent, highlighting the importance of conserving and promoting forest biodiversity for mitigating climate change.
Roberta Clowater, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society – NB Chapter | firstname.lastname@example.org | (506) 446-5109
Corey Robichaud, Conservation Council of New Brunswick | email@example.com | (506) 458-8747
Vanessa Roy-McDougall, Nature NB | firstname.lastname@example.org | (506) 459-4209
Stephanie Merrill, Nature Trust of New Brunswick | email@example.com | (639) 916-2477