The Regional Risk Assessment (RRA) Process

Regional Risk Assessments (RRA) are a part of SBP’s approach for identifying and mitigating risks associated with sustainably sourcing feedstock for biomass pellet and wood chip production. The process that must be followed is set out in  SBP’s RRA Procedure Version 1.1. The scope of the NB RRA  includes all uncertified forests on Crown and private lands in the province.

The intent of the information presented here is to encourage information sharing to ensure that all stakeholders have the opportunity to review and provide comments on the RRA for the SBP in the Province of New Brunswick.  

Sustainable Biomass Program

The Sustainable Biomass Program (SBP) is a non-profit international standards organization that has developed a certification system for woody biomass, which is mostly used in the form of wood pellets and woodchips, as fuel for industrial, large-scale energy production. The certification system is intended to provide assurance that woody biomass is made from legal and sustainable sources.  Biomass must be compliant with the SBP Standard to enter certain markets - many European utilities only take SBP biomass. Feedstock certified at the forest level through standards set by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) or by the Program for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC), which are standards set by organizations such as Sustainable Forest Initiative (SFI) and the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) are considered SBP-compliant.

Forest Trees

Consultation Approach

The Working Body (WB) utilizes experience gained from years of stakeholder engagement on various certification projects, advisory groups, certification audits, as well as evaluating the processes and outcomes from provincial-lead consultation. From the start, the WB reaches out to individuals and organizations to identify sources of information, highlight facts and experiences to write well-documented and logical  findings to determine the risk level associated with the standard's  indicators. The WB chose to a -2- phased approach to consultation.

Phase 1 Stakeholder Outreach - Jan - March 2021

Prior to the required 30-day stakeholder consultation, as part of the Sustainable Biomass Program (SBP) RRA process, the WB reaches out to numerous individuals and groups though out the Province, some linked to the Biomass Industry as well as others. These groups included; 

  • Local Government Elected Officials 

  • Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLA’s) 

  • Members of Parliament (MP’s) 

  • First Nation Organizations 

  • ENGOs 

  • Chamber of Commerce 

  • Biomass Producers 

  • Marketing Boards 

 

The goal of this outreach is to gauge the level of impact the biomass industry has on local communities and to supplement the required 30-day required stakeholder consultation.

Phase 2 30-Day Stakeholder Consultation - Fall 2021

We encourage to share your input  

The RRA Working Body is asking you as a reviewer to identify:

  • new or missing information that is relevant;

  • more up-to-date data that may have recently become available;

  • errors or mistakes; and

  • documented evidence that may be important to the assessment that are missing from the write-ups.

 

The RRA Working Body asks you to review any number of indicators that you wish, but please use one feedback form per indicator reviewed.  This will make it easier for us to organize and address the comments received. There is an on-line RRA feedback form (coming soon) that you can complete or a downloadable, fillable Adobe form that you can use.  If you use the Adobe form, please share completed forms by uploading the file a the bottom of the on-line form. If you are having difficulty accessing or completing the feedback forms, please contact the RRA Working Body by clicking here.

Because this RRA covers the entire province of New Brunswick, the RRA is primarily concerned with assessing how well the indicators are met at a provincial scale.  This means that individual local anecdotes are by themselves less relevant than issues which occur at a wider scale, unless the anecdotes are used to illustrate a more general point.

After you submit one or more comments, your contribution will be acknowledged by an e-mail thanking you for your assistance.  Once the public comment period has closed, and revisions are made to the RRA report, the RRA Working Body will e-mail you again to let you know how your comment(s) were addressed in the revision. 

 

Thank-you for taking the time to share your knowledge and insights.

 

As part of the Regional Risk Assessment (RRA) process, a draft report is made available to the public, including all stakeholders, for review and comments. The draft is prepared by a team of consultants (RRA Working Body) based on a review of literature and on-line information, interviews with experts, and the personal knowledge and experience of the consulting team. The evidence gathered forms the basis of the assessment of each indicator. While it goes through a rigourous internal review, there may be errors and omissions or oversights. The RRA team Working Body welcomes your comments to improve draft report. 

Firewood

New Brunswick Forestry Overview

New Brunswick is a well-forested province, with 6.1 million ha of forest. This represents 86% of the province’s 7.1 million ha of area.  

NB-Land Cover Types.jpg

The province owns approximately 3.1 million ha of forest land (50% of the total forest area), which is known as Crown land or Crown forest. Privately-owned forest land falls under two main ownership classes: Industrial Freehold is land owned by timber companies and Private Woodlots are smaller tracts of land generally owned by individuals or small-scale companies. Industrial freehold accounts for 1.1 million ha (18%) while private woodlots, of which there are more than 40,000, constitute roughly 1.8 million ha (30%). The remaining 2% is federal land (mainly the Gagetown military training area). In 2016 and 2017, the two most recent years for which data were obtained, 1.3% of the total forest area is harvested annually; 75-80% of the harvesting is done by clearcutting. The proportion of provincial land in each major ownership class is shown in the figure below. 

NBForestAreaOwnership.png

A total of 338,450 ha of land (4.7% of provincial landbase) in NB is protected in parks and other types of protected areas; most of these areas are provincial parks and protected natural areas.  

Almost all of the province’s forest is of the Acadian forest type, with a minor amount of boreal forest present in the north. The Acadian forest is a mixture of hardwood and softwood species, characterized by the coniferous red spruce, hemlock, balsam fir and black spruce and deciduous species such as yellow birch, red and sugar maple, and poplar. 

Forest Biomass Harvesting Policy for New Brunswick was released in 2008. The policy applies to Crown lands only; there is currently no policy governing biomass harvesting on private lands. In the policy, biomass removal is limited to harvest blocks of the current, approved FMP. The policy restricts biomass harvested for energy purposes to treetops, branches, foliage, non-merchantable woody stems of trees and shrubs, dead woody material, and residue from tree chipping. The soil litter-layer, stumps, and roots are not eligible for biomass harvest.  

Crown Land

Public forests are managed by the NB Department of Natural Resources and Energy Development (DNRED). DNRED also is responsible for implementing the province’s Species at Risk Act (SAR) and it hosts the province’s SAR registry.  

DNRED, under the Crown Lands and Forests Act, is the authority that allocates forest tenure and issues forestry licences and oversees forest management. The province is divided into ten Crown licence areas, each of which is licensed to a forest company through a Forest Management Agreement (FMA). The exception is licence area 5, which is presently managed by DNRED as there is no forest company that has requested the FMA for the area.  The map below shows the boundaries of the ten licence areas, with the identity of each licensee colour coded.  Note that the area within each boundary is under a variety of ownerships and is not all Crown land. 

NBLicenceBoundaries.jpg

Public forests are managed by the BC Ministry of Forest, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development (FLNRORD) and the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy (MoECCS). FLNRORD also regulates the harvesting, transporting, and scaling of all timber harvested from both Crown and private land through the Crown Lands and Forests Act and its associated regulations. Tracking all harvested timber is essential to ensure that there is no illegal harvesting and that royalties owing to government for harvested Crown timber (stumpage) are completely and accurately invoiced. This data is tracked through the provincial government Harvest Billing System.

FMA-holders are required to prepare forest management plans. These twenty-five-year plans must be revised every five years and must meet the requirements of the provincial forest management planning manual, which specifies a number of areas where relevant objectives are required. NB has adopted a results-based system, under which forest managers must achieve their plan objectives and can decide how best to achieve them. This system relies on provincial government oversight, however there is little publicly available information on how well licensees have performed.

 

DNRED also issues sub-licences, which provide access to a prescribed volume of Crown timber, and timber permits for smaller volumes.  The Forests Management Planning Manual sets out operational planning and practices requirements for Crown land. 

The Timber Regulation under the Crown Lands and Forests Act sets out the framework for operational compliance audits conducted by DNRED as well as the provincial stumpage rates. The Crown Lands and Forests Act stipulates that the stumpage rates are to be revised annually based on private stumpage rates; the last revision was done in 2015. Each Crown licence area is required to be certified to either the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) standard, the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) standard or the forest standard from the Canadian Standards Association (CSA). All licence areas except number 5 are certified. 

DNRED also regulates the harvesting and transporting of all timber harvested from both Crown and private land through the Crown Lands and Forests Act and its associated regulations. Wood measurement (scaling) is regulated under the provincial Scalers Act and timber transport is regulated under the Transportation of Primary Forest Products Act. Tracking all harvested timber is essential to ensure that there is no illegal harvesting and that royalties owing to government for harvested Crown timber (stumpage) are completely and accurately invoiced. This data is tracked through the provincial government system for harvest billing. 

DNRED reported that between 2013-14 and 2015-16 (the most recent years for which data are available), the Crown land timber harvest trended higher, rising from 5.2 million m3 to 5.8 million m3.  

The Department of Tourism, Culture and Heritage which administers the Parks Act, which covers provincial parks. The Protected Natural Areas Act, which is administered by DNRED, enables the creation of two classes of protected area. Class II protected areas are more widespread, covering abut 4.5% of the province’s landbase, and are lands that are protected from development and are open to the public for recreational use. Class I areas are very sensitive and closed to the public – there are only four small Class I areas in the province. The Department of the Environment and Local Government has a minor role as it is responsible for water quality and the province’s climate change strategy. 

Private Woodlots and Marketing Boards

New Brunswick has more than 40,000 private woodlots and these provide a significant amount of the timber supply in the province. As many as 84% of the woodlots are 100 ha or smaller and many have been family-owned for generations. Traditionally, the woodlot owner lived rurally on or near their woodlot and depended on the woodlot for firewood and other wood products, as well as for revenue from sales of timber.  

The seven Forest Products Marketing Boards provide a range of services to private woodlot owners (see the map of woodlots colour-coded by marketing board area in the Private Land Overview section). Most importantly, each Marketing Board has the legal power to negotiate the terms of sale of forest products from woodlots within its jurisdiction. Woodlot owners may sell their timber through the Marketing Board or they may negotiate their own price. A levy is charged on each cubic metre sold from a private woodlot and this goes to the Marketing Board. The Marketing Boards are operated independently and offer different programs and services to woodlot owners. Five of the seven offer the service of administering a woodlot owner’s contract with a timber harvester. Most of the Marketing Boards offer programs that support partial harvesting and silvicultural treatments that promote forest diversity and higher product values. For example, the web-site of the Southern New Brunswick Marketing Board indicates financial support for 14 different activities, ranging from pre-merchantable thinning and selection harvest to underplanting, road construction, and having a woodlot management plan prepared. 

The New Brunswick Federation of Woodlot Owners is a provincial organization that serves as an umbrella group for woodlot owners and the Marketing Boards. However, it is the Forest Products Commission (FPC) that regulates the Marketing Boards, including conducting audits of each Board. The FPC is established under the Forest Products Act, and its mandate is to oversee the Marketing Boards and act as a liaison between woodlot owners, the Marketing Boards, the forest industry and the provincial government. The seven-member Board has two representatives of each of private woodlot owners, the forest industry and the provincial government, and an independent chair. The FPC also compiles timber sale transaction data and calculates average stumpage prices each year; these average prices may be used by the provincial government to set stumpage prices for Crown timber. 

The harvest level on private woodlots has been variable – it tends to be very responsive to timber prices. For example, in 2004, the harvest from private woodlots was 3.7 million m3, about 15% higher than the private woodlot AAC of 3.2 million m3 at the time. In 2009, the private woodlot AAC was raised to 3.6 million m3 however woodlots yielded only 850,000 m3. The 2018-19 harvest was 1.8 million m3, which is in line with the average harvest volume from the preceding five years.  Note that the private woodlot AAC is a guideline as private harvests are not regulated.  Recent harvest levels on industrial freehold land have been roughly 2 million m3/year. 

NBPrivate Woodlots.jpg

Crown Lands and Forests Act

The Crown Lands and Forests Act (CLFA) was enacted in 1980 and it has provided the basis for the organization and management of Crown forests since then. The Act divided the Crown land in the province into ten licence areas, and it provides the Minister of Natural Resources and Energy Development with the authority to enter into Forest Management Agreements – one FMA for each licence area – as well as the ability to issue sub-licences and timber permits. (See the Crown Land Overview section for a map of the ten licence areas.)  The sub-licensees and timber permit holders are mills that have been granted an annual harvest from the larger licence area. The obligations of FMA-holders, licensees and permit holders are set out, as are the Minister’s responsibilities for protection from fire and insects. 

The CLFA is primarily oriented towards resource use and protection. Sustainability is only mentioned in the context of sustain timber yield, and biodiversity is expressed through fish and wildlife management and habitat protection. 

The CLFA generally has little to say regarding private lands, however a key clause of the Act is section 3(2), which states “The Minister shall encourage the management of private forest lands as the primary source of timber for wood processing facilities in the Province consistent with subsection 29(7.1) and, with approval of the Lieutenant-Governor in Council, may initiate programs for such purposes.”  Section 29(7.1) states that “The Minister, during the process of approving an operating plan … shall ensure that private woodlots are a source of wood supply consistent with the principles of (a) proportional supply, and (b) sustained yield.” Additionally, the CLFA enables the Minister to request summary details of the management strategy being employed on industrial freehold lands. 

DNRED undertakes assessment of the compliance of each FMA-holder with the terms of its licence and also conducts compliance audits of forest operations.  The CLFA authorizes the Minister to assess the performance of each licensee after each five-year plan period is completed and the results of this assessment are reviewed by the Minister when s/he decides whether to extend the licence for an additional five-year period. The Timber Regulation under the CLFA sets out the framework for the operational compliance audits conducted by DNRED. If there are non-compliances identified, the Minister can request a plan to bring the licensee into compliance and /or issue penalties. The Timber Regulation also sets out the provincial stumpage rates. 

Forest Biodiversity

New Brunswick has a considerable diversity of forests and forest-based species, ranging from coastal areas to rugged areas in the interior of the province. The Acadian Forest, which covers the majority of the province, is itself a very diverse forest. Historically, harvesting has focussed on the species of highest value, including red spruce, yellow birch and sugar maple.  While the industry continues to use a wide variety of species, spruce and balsam fir are now the primary commercial species. 

The forest management plans prepared by FMA-holders are required to include objectives regarding fish and wildlife and for watershed protection. An assessment of performance in meeting 2007 FMP objectives found compliance with the objectives related to biodiversity was at or above 95%. Other than the FMP objective requirements, there are few requirements imposed on Crown land for biodiversity conservation. Small wildlife patches must be left, and riparian buffers are required on all ownerships under the Clean Water Act.  

The proportion of protected area in New Brunswick is 4.7% – in 2019 the provincial government pledged to increase protected areas to 10% of the province by 2021 but there has been little movement towards this goal since it was announced. 

In 2013, New Brunswick replaced its Endangered Species Act with a Species at Risk Act. DNRED is responsible for implementing the province’s Species at Risk Act (SAR) and it hosts the province’s SAR registry. This Act established an independent committee to assess whether species should be provincially listed – listed species and their habitats receive protection; the Minister has discretion as to whether the prohibitions apply to a listed species.  

Monitoring Forest Practices

Monitoring is the act of making assessments of activities and/or their outcomes, usually to assess either compliance, effectiveness, or how the actual outcomes compare with the anticipated outcomes. There are three levels of forest monitoring for Crown Lands in New Brunswick.  On a regular basis, licensees inspect their operations to ensure they are compliant with requirements and to assess the effectiveness of renewal and tending operations.   

The provincial government can also undertake forest compliance audits and assesses of the performance of licensees in meeting the terms of their licence.  The authority to audit FMA-holders, First Nations with First Nation Harvesting Agreements, sub-licensees and timber permit holders is provided in the Crown Lands and Forests Act and its Timber Regulation. The Act requires the Minister to review the performance of a licensee within six months of the expiry of the five-year licence. The results of this review are considered when the Minister is deciding whether to extend the term of a licence by an additional five years. Forest compliance audits may be undertaken at any time however DNRED must give advance notice first. Where non-compliances are identified, the licensee may be required to prepare a compliance plan to remedy/prevent occurrences and may be required to pay a penalty. 

The third level of monitoring is conducted by New Brunswick’s Auditor General, who has shown a continued interest in forestry and undertaken a number of reviews of forestry programs in the past five years. In 2015, the province’s silviculture program was reviewed as well as the private land wood supply, and in 2020, the Auditor General reviewed the response to recommendations from the AG dating back to 2008 related to the Crown land stumpage system. 

Monitoring of forest practices on private woodlots is limited. Mostly forest tending activities when undertaken under the Silviculture Program are subject to field audits by DNR. Sampling intensity of monitoring is defined in the program per type of activities. Harvest permits are emitted by DNR.

Indigenous Involvement in Forestry

Statistics Canada reported that in 2016, there were 29,385 Indigenous people in New Brunswick, making up 4% of the population. Of the Aboriginal population in New Brunswick, 64% (28,160) were First Nations people, 35.0% (10,200) were Métis, and 1% (385) were Inuit. In NB, traditional rights as they apply to Indigenous Peoples are complex, particularly on Provincial Crown land.  

New Brunswick along with Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island have been signatories of the Peace and Friendship Treaties since the first agreement of 1725, known as the Dummer’s Treaty. From 1725 to 1779, several other treaties were signed which, like Dummer’s Treaty, were intended to reconcile First Nations and colonial military conflict by re-establishing peace while reaffirming that First Nations’ right to freely hunt, fish and farm would not be obstructed. The Mi'kmaq, Wolastoqiyik (Maliseet) and Peskotomuhkati First Nations are the descendants of the signatories of this series of Peace and Friendship Treaties and are represented by their respective communities’ Chief and Council. Unlike later treaties signed in other parts of Canada, the First Nations did not surrender their rights to the lands and the resources they had traditionally used and occupied under the Peace and Friendship Treaties.  

Twelve of the Mi'kmaq and Wolastoqiyik reserve communities are members of the Union of New Brunswick Indians (UNBI) and the 3 remaining are part of the Mawiw Council. The New Brunswick Aboriginal Peoples Council (NBAPC) represents Off-Reserve Aboriginal People in New Brunswick.  

Treaty rights set out in modern day Final Agreements are given constitutional recognition and affirmation to section 35(1) of the Constitution Act. At the provincial level, the Mi'kmaq, Wolastoqiyik, Province of New Brunswick Relationship Building Bilateral Agreement was established in 2007 to develop a framework for addressing outstanding issues including those which involve land and natural resources. The framework outlines the process by which issues are addressed and negotiated and details the methods by which representatives from both parties (i.e., First Nations and provincial government) are selected. The organization of the bilateral agreement participants are described below: 

‘This legitimacy of this arrangement [DNR delegating management responsibilities to private sector] was challenged in 1997 when a provincial court ruled that Reginald Paul, a Maliseet, held a treaty right entitling him (and other Mi'kmaq and Maliseet) to harvest Crown timber resources without government authorization. Although this case was later overturned on appeal, the provincial government decided that the DNR should award limited harvesting rights to First Nations. The First Nation Harvesting Agreements (FNHAs), as they became known, allocate a volume of timber from the public forests to each First Nation community, which may be logged and sold to the large private companies that manage the forests (Blakeney 2003).’ 

For many years since 1998, DNRED has allocated 5% of the Annual Allowable Cut on provincial Crown lands to First Nations communities. Commercial Harvesting Agreements between DNRED and all fifteen First Nations communities in New Brunswick specify the volumes of softwood and hardwood allocated to each; the royalties from these volumes of Crown timber are directed to each community. Each First Nations community, through its Chief and Council, manages its access to Crown timber in a manner that most effectively generates employment and economic development opportunities for communities and contributes to their economic development goals. 

New Brunswick put in place a duty to consult policy that provides the provincial government with direction for engagement and consultation with New Brunswick First Nations. The duty to consult is applied to resource management and licensing as well as the creation, amendment or implementation of regulations, policies and procedures that may potentially impact the traditional use of Crown land by Indigenous Peoples. According to a 2016 policy analysis (Bains and Ishkanian, 2016), New Brunswick’s duty to consult policy is relatively comprehensive in terms of provisions. 

In addition to the overarching provincial policies, the Interim Proponent Guide  (2019) was developed to assist proponents with consultation if they are considering activities that may have an adverse impact on the Aboriginal and Treaty rights of Aboriginal Peoples in New Brunswick.  The document is “intended to provide practical advice in support of engagement by industry with Aboriginal Peoples in New Brunswick as part of the Government of New Brunswick’s engagement, consultation and accommodation process.” 

Where is the biomass sourced from?

Biomass Producers (BPs) can source fibre to be feedstock supply for pellet production from primary, secondary and tertiary sources.  

  • Primary feedstock is fibre sourced directly from the forest, which includes chipping whole trees and grinding of piles of logging slash left alongside forest roads and at landings.  

  • Secondary feedstock is wood fibre generated as a by-product from mills manufacturing logs, most notably it consists of sawdust, bark and excess wood that cannot be converted into lumber. 

  • Tertiary feedstock is derived from pre- and post-consumer fibre, such as trimming of cardboard and paper from a remanufacturing facility. 

 

New Brunswick pellet manufacturers currently use only primary and secondary feedstock. 

The Wood Pellet Association of Canada (WPAC) reports that the “vast majority” of fibre used to make pellets comes from mill residuals; in the most recent SBP-reporting year (2019-2020), mill residuals constituted 73% of the source fibre for the three largest pellet manufacturers in New Brunswick. With the closure of some of the province’s pulp and paper mills in the 2008-09 recession, pellet production has captured some of the sawmill by-products, such as chips and sawdust, that formerly supplied the pulp mills. The remainder of the pellet mill furnish is primary fibre mostly obtained from low-grade wood that is either brought to the pellet mill and ground or it is chipped in the bush.  

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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