FREDERICTON – For anyone wondering about the state of the forests on Crown land, the New Brunswick government’s long overdue State of the Forest Report will make you none the wiser, according to Green Party leader David Coon.
“The State of the Forest Report for 2023 is a defense of the unsustainable forest management system used on Crown lands, rather than a report on the biological health of forests,” said Coon. “Anyone interested in the true health of our forest ecosystem, and the habitats and species it contains will be disappointed.”
The same can be said for the forest’s ability to manage the flow of water into our rivers and streams. The report mentions river and stream buffers and some cutting within those buffers without examining whether those buffers are protective enough for fish and other species and prevent flooding. And anyone interested in how much of the timber cut is utilized for its highest value, and whether the wealth this generates is fairly distributed, will also be disappointed.
“New Brunswickers looking to understand the state of the forest on Crown lands will have to look elsewhere,” said Coon. “The US Forest Service uses clear indicators, including the extent of tree damage and mortality, the diversity of forest vegetation, soil quality, invasive species, and the fragmentation and loss of habitat. This information is critical for the public to know whether the forest is being managed to be resilient in the face of an unstable climate and the downward spiral of plant and animal populations.”
The latest data published by the Atlantic Canada Conservation Data Centre identifies around 100 distinct forest types in New Brunswick and has found almost two thirds of them at risk, with three critically imperiled, 12 imperiled, and 49 considered vulnerable.
Research published last year by Rothesay native Dr. Matthew Betts, now a professor at the Oregon State University College of Forestry, found two thirds of our most common forest bird species had seen significant habitat loss in the past 35 years, with seven species showing habitat declines of greater than 25%, and that this was strongly linked to declines in bird populations.
“Minister Holland is on the cusp of releasing a plan to further industrialize the forests on Crown lands to benefit the owners and shareholders of the big forestry companies,” said Coon. “The report is intended to mollify the consternation New Brunswickers feel about the degradation of the forests, but it’s not going to work. Rural New Brunswickers, in particular, see the degradation and the waste the forest management strategy has wreaked.”
The New Brunswick Government has wrapped up consultations with First Nations on its forestry plans for the future but has remained silent as to their outcome. The aboriginal title claims to Crown land have increased the legal onus on government to consult in depth, and meaningfully accommodate any infringement on treaty rights and future land-back arrangements.