Future of the Forest
Recently, the provincial government announced that its response to the
Select Committee Report on the future of the forests in New Brunswick
would be to establish another committee to study the whole issue further.
Predictably, stakeholders from all sides of the issue expressed their
disappointment. I, too, thought that we would see something clearer than
what did emerge from all of the work and consideration that the Select
Committee and, before that, the Forest Products Association of New
Brunswick had done (in commissioning the Jaakko-Poyry report). Still, I
think that the present government position reflects its realization that
determining the future of our provincial forest is a much more complex
issue than it might seem to be - and that a great many people with widely
divergent interests care deeply.
Spokespersons for the forestry industry have been foremost in
denouncing this decision not to take a decision. On several occasions over
the past couple of weeks I have read dire predictions of the immanent
collapse of the whole industry unless government move immediately to
implement of the major recommendations of the Jaakko-Poyry report
(principally to double the wood supply and to convert 40% of the forest
In writing this column over the years, I have tried to refrain from
repeating myself, but in this instance, the same old arguments on the part
of the industry (principally expressed by the spokesperson for the NB
Forest Products Association) demand the same old responses, particularly
since they have not been considered hitherto.
I would like to ask a question in response to these demands: Does
anyone out there seriously think that the day will ever come when
spokespersons for the industry will stand up somewhere and say, in effect,
"We want to thank the government and the people of New Brunswick for
giving us enough wood to supply our needs?" More only demands more, it
seems, and we are left with the logical absurdity of imagining that
doubling the wood supply now will only (inevitably) lead to demands down
the road for further increases until we reach the point where the entire
province is one massive plantation.
Spokesperson often raise the corollary that presently the industry has
to import 13% of its fibre in order to continue to operate now. My
reaction to that is also a simple one, but one that no one else seems to
be articulating. If I am spending 13% more money than I have, I am living
beyond my means; why does that principal not apply to the industry?
Further, does anyone really take seriously the opinion that unless the
forest industry gets its way, it will abandon the whole operation in the
province? Some might actually welcome that highly unlikely prospect, but I
find it ludicrous to imagine that even a reduced wood supply will not be
of value to someone. As far as the argument that jobs will be lost is
concerned, a brief survey of the job history of the industry will
demonstrate the absurdity of that position.
I would have liked to have seen a clear sense of direction from the
government. I am not certain what another study or round of hearings will
accomplish, but I am encouraged by the government's obvious realization
that they have to get this issue right, that they will only have one
opportunity to do so, and that their mandate in working toward that end is
to come up with something that addresses the needs and the desires of all citizens of the province.