FREDERICTON—Aboriginal leaders in New Brunswick are taking the provincial government to court in an effort to block an increase on the caps for harvesting softwood lumber in a new 10-year forestry strategy.
The Assembly of First Nations Chiefs in New Brunswick filed for an injunction in the Court of Queen’s Bench Aug. 13, arguing the new strategy will cause irreversible environmental harm.
“This is not just a First Nations issue, this is an issue that will impact everyone in this province,” said the assembly’s Maliseet co-chair, Chief Brenda Perley, in a statement.
“Increasing the annual allotment for harvesting softwood lumber will further endanger culturally significant species like deer and salmon, among other plant and animal life that aboriginal and non-aboriginal conservationists, recreational and commercial fishers and hunters and anyone who takes pride in the natural beauty of New Brunswick enjoy and depend upon.”
A spokesperson for the province’s Department of Natural Resources wasn’t available for comment.
The province announced in March it was raising its softwood lumber caps, allowing the forestry industry to harvest 660,000 more cubic metres of wood per year.
The change amounted to an increase of more than 20 per cent from existing levels.
Natural Resources Minister Paul Robichaud said at the time the move would make the industry more competitive and create hundreds of new jobs in the province.
The increase in the province’s new forestry strategy brought the total allowable amounts to about 3.9 million cubic metres of spruce and fir, Robichaud said in March.
One day after the announcement, J.D. Irving, Ltd. said it planned to spend about $450 million to modernize a pulp mill in Saint John, N.B.
The company also announced plans to invest another $16.8 million in its forest and mill operations in northern New Brunswick.
Twin Rivers Paper Company Inc. said in March it was investing $2.5 million and adding a third shift to its mill in the province’s northwest.
Native leaders oppose the change, accusing the government of failing to adequately address aboriginal concerns or properly consulting with them.
The Assembly of First Nations’ Chiefs in New Brunswick says it is bringing forward the legal action on behalf of itself and 10 First Nation communities, with more aboriginal groups expected to join.
They are asking that the court put the forestry strategy on hold until their concerns are addressed.
Conservationists have also voiced opposition to the plan, claiming it disregards the environment and threatens to decimate Crown forests.