Proposed regulation raises concerns among owners of private woodlots in Miramichi
Private woodlot owners are raising concerns about a new by-law proposed by the City of Miramichi that would require city approval before owners can clear their land.
“It’s very alarming to say the least,” said Kevin Forgrave, chief executive of the Northumberland Woodlot Owners Association. “And that’s a big blow to all the family forest owners in the area. Miramichi is rural and that’s going to impact a lot of people.”
Currently, there are approximately 400 private woodlot owners within the city limits of Miramichi who own approximately 12,000 hectares of property. After municipal reform and amalgamation, Forgrave says the new entity will include about 700 woodlot owners and 16,000 hectares affected by the settlement. Crown land would not be affected.
The proposed bylaw would require woodlot owners to apply to the city for permission to clearcut any portion of their land. Forgrave said it will be the only bylaw of its kind in Atlantic Canada.
Miramichi Mayor Adam Lordon said the bylaw has not been passed and is still undergoing a public consultation process.
“Our staff had to travel across Canada to get examples of where [bylaws like this] exist and basically put together something on paper as a starting point for a conversation,” Lordon said.
Lordon says town staff aren’t forestry experts, so they seek the advice of others.
“We had engagement throughout this process from the local woodlot owners, the local forestry association.”
Lordon said a group of concerned residents raised the issue after a forest in Douglastown was clearcut about a year and a half ago.
“It worried people in that area,” he said. “That’s where that request came from. And there were council members at the time who thought it was worth looking into.”
But Forgrave said the economic impact of the settlement would be “serious”.
“It is an extreme overstepping of the rights of private landowners,” he said. “And it lacks the scientific method behind it.”
Forgrave said that in some cases, clearcutting is necessary for good woodlot management.
“This type of offense is a step beyond what any level of government should take,” he said. “We have rules that we have to follow from the provincial governments. And it’s all science-based and it has merit, say, for example, working in wetlands or in a waterway and things like that.”
Kim Allen, general manager of Forestry NB, which represents forest products producers, said the regulation itself is lacking.
“Clearcutting is just a prescription for forest management, and it’s used in situations that mimic what nature does. So, for example, if you have a forest that has been hit by, say, an insect infestation and you want to harvest that before you lose the product.”
Forgrave says his organization plans to meet with city council before the bylaw is passed.