For six months, the mill can harvest 62,500 green metric tonnes — a considerable amount but a far cry from the access to 500,000 green metric tons Northern Pulp had asked for in January.
[ABERCROMBIE POINT, NS] - Northern Pulp will be getting access to some of the province’s Crown land after all.
The pulp mill, along with 14 other wood processing facilities in the province, has been given short-term access to harvest trees from the Western Crown lands.
For six months, the mill can harvest 62,500 green metric tonnes.
It’s still a far cry from the access to 500,000 green metric tons Northern Pulp had asked for in January. The Liberal government had previously denied the mill’s request for greater access to Crown lands.
“Access to wood will continue to be an issue for us,” said David MacKenzie, government affairs and communication with Northern Pulp. “We’re working very hard to increase efficiency and productivity, but wood remains a huge issue for us.”
In total, the province is allowing 185,810 gross metric tonnes of fibre to be harvested.
In an apparent reversal of the government’s stance toward Northern Pulp, Natural Resources Minister Zach Churchill said the decision would give the mills a chance to meet business demands.
"Given some critical seasonal pressures as well as those facing the industry in general, the timing of this is crucial," said Churchill. "Sawmills have not had access to this land for a year and a half. With the spring thaw not far off, the dirt roads into our forests will soon become muddy and impassible. This gives the mills quicker access so they can begin harvesting timber."
Mackenzie however said temporary access to the land is not a long-term solution.
“Wood is the issue here, everyone is doing all that they can in the industry,” he said. “We’re going to work with all our partner sawmills to get things moving toward profitability.”
The 62,500 green metric tonnes that Northern Pulp has been given access to only makes up about five per cent of the wood processed in an average year.
Churchill said the licences correspond with the updated Western Crown Land Plan, which will guide the economic, environmental and social benefits from more than 80 per cent (1.5 million acres) of the province's western lands.
MacKenzie said that despite the need for more access to wood fibre, Northern Pulp would work to make the best of the decision.
“We won’t be working in isolation,” he said. “We want to add value to the wood products, from the fibre to our pulp, and flow the wood to its highest value.
Progressive Conservative Natural Resources critic Alfie MacLeod said the announcement was a short-term fix for an important industry that deserves more.
“Our forestry industry needs a long-term plan that actually encourages growth and sustainability,” says MacLeod. “Proper forest management is done over decades not months.”
MacLeod says these six-month leases are better than nothing, but Nova Scotia’s economy must have more than a better-than-nothing recovery plan.
“What is the timeline for a real plan?” asks MacLeod. “Let’s see the framework for a plan that supports an industry that adds over $579 million to our economy.”
According to the province, the Western Crown Land Plan is based on input from hundreds of Nova Scotians and deals directly with future plans for the St. Margaret's Bay area and a three-year Crown Forest Agreement with the Medway Community Forest Co-operative.
"This updated plan is a living document, not a final set-in-stone solution. It will be under constant review and we will continue to search for future improvements of managing Western Crown Lands," said Churchill.
The plan also calls for the province to explore opportunities for a Mi'kmaq forestry initiative with the Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi'kmaq Chiefs.
Under the Crown Lands Act, the minister has authority to issue interim licences for timber harvesting. For more information on the updated Western Crown Land Plan, visit http://novascotia.ca/natr/land/western-land.