New Brunswick syrup producers want a moratorium on sugar maple logging

New Brunswick’s booming maple industry is calling on the province to impose a moratorium on logging in areas with high sugar maple concentrations.

The request comes as the New Brunswick Maple Syrup Association awaits a response from the province on an expansion plan.

He is asking for an additional 12,000 hectares of Crown land for syrup production, nearly doubling the current allocation.

Louise Poitras, the organization’s executive director, said growers are concerned about recent logging activity in sugar maple regions, primarily in northern New Brunswick.

“The phone hasn’t stopped ringing,” she said. “We can’t take it anymore. The only thing we want to do is protect these trees. So a moratorium is what we’re asking for.”

The province has put in place restrictions that limit any widespread logging in maple-dominated areas, requiring selective logging.

Louise Poitras is Executive Director of the New Brunswick Maple Syrup Association, which represents approximately 150 producers across the province. (Shane Fowler/CBC)

Under a special policy, large forestry companies are required to limit their operations in areas with potential for sugar mills.

But maple syrup producers say these measures don’t go far enough and aren’t always followed.

Maple trees take 75 years to grow to a size suitable for syrup production.

Forest concerns

Forest NB, which represents forest products producers, argued that the maple expansion proposal could mean a loss of limited hardwood supply for several large employers.

Executive Director Kim Allen said the organization has not yet received information about the moratorium request.

New Brunswick has approximately three million forested hectares of Crown land, approximately 30% of which is hardwood.

By contrast, syrup producers currently have access to approximately 14,000 hectares. This represents less than 1% of the total Crown land in the province.

“We risk not having an expansion”

The maple syrup producers submitted a growth plan to the province in 2019 and are still waiting to receive a response. The association says there has been no communication for several months.

While waiting for more land, the maple syrup industry is booming, which producers say makes the need for more acres even more pressing.

New Brunswick has become the third largest maple producer in the world, after Quebec and Vermont, generating more than $30 million annually.

Why NB maple syrup producers are asking for more land

The New Brunswick Maple Syrup Association wants an additional 12,000 hectares of Crown land for maple syrup.

Province responds

The Department of Natural Resources and Energy has not said whether it will consider the proposed moratorium.

Spokesman Nick Brown said the government understands the importance of maple trees on Crown land for sugar milling and forestry. He said special management areas for future sugar use were identified five years ago and put restrictions in place for any tree harvesting.

“As the government continues its long-term planning regarding these uses, it is very important that we review and uphold our duty to consult obligations to First Nations before decisions are made on these matters,” Brown wrote in a press release sent by e-mail.

“Crown forest management requires a balance between allocating maple stands to timber, conservation and sugar users.”

Poitras said that as trees are cut in the proposed areas, the low concentration of maples could make expansion there more viable.

“If we don’t protect these trees, we risk not having any expansion,” she said.

“There’s no reason why after three years we don’t have a plan with the government.”

Rachel J. Bradford