Conservationists are lauding the province for withdrawing the central Newfoundland forest management plan from the environmental assessment process.
“We see it as a good news story, or a lukewarm one anyway,” said Ian Goudie of Canada Parks and Wilderness Society-Newfoundland and Labrador Chapter (CPAWS).
The withdrawal of the five-year operating plan for forest management districts 10, 11, 12 and 13 includes Abitibi lands.
Goudie said the environmental assessment process wouldn’t have been comprehensive and he hopes more public consultations and less concentration on cutting fibre alone will be part of future considerations.
He contends the Department of Environment has been rubber-stamping the five-year forest plans.
“This is the first time one has been sent back,” said Goudie, co-ordinator for the Coalition for Sustainable Forest.
“We don’t know what is next.”
But he said CPAWS has been asking for an assessment template for the plans that would be more thorough and focus on ecosystem-based planning, including the protection of old growth forests and endangered species, such as the woodland caribou.
Goudie said the public favours using the forests for recreation and outfitting purposes over simply allocating the resources for fibre supply, which includes clearcutting.
“We are pleased that the (Environment and Natural Resources) ministers (Ross) Wiseman and (Shawn) Skinner have opted to re-evaluate this registration in light of identified concerns. We recognize that this registration falls in the wake of the auditor general’s review of forest management in Newfoundland,” said Suzanne Dooley, co-ordinator of CPAWS, in a news release.
A spokeswoman for Natural Resources said the government’s intent now is to analyze comments received by the environmental assessment division during the 45-day public review.
The plan will be revised depending on that analysis.
Natural Resources has requested an extension to the interim plan from May 30 to Dec. 31. A copy of the revised plan is expected to be submitted by June 30.