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December 3, 2004
For immediate release

Minister Releases Forest Policy Discussion Paper

Environment, Energy & Forestry

Governmentís role in the conservation and use of public and private forests will soon be open to public debate and input.

Minister of Environment, Energy and Forestry Jamie Ballem released the Forest Policy Discussion Paper to the public today. This Discussion Paper was developed to provide Islanders with background information on issues critical to the Islandís 263,000 hectares of public and private forest land and help to focus upcoming public discussions.

"Since the last Forest Policy was created in the late 1980's, a great deal has changed in the Islandís forest sector," explained Minister Ballem. "Consumer demand for softwood products has increased dramatically, the harvest industry has mechanized, thousands of acres of forest land have been lost through conversion to other uses, and many people are interested in new non-timber forest products.

"With all of these changes, the current Forest Policy no longer reflects what Islanders want and expect from their forest resources. So I look forward to hearing from Islanders what they want our forests to look like and how they think we should get there," the Minister added.

The Discussion Paper focuses on six core issues: Public Lands, Forests on Unploughed Lands, Quality of Life, Education and Training, Plantations and Planting, and Forest Products. These critical areas were identified though the findings of existing resources such as the 1997 Round Table Report on Land Use and Stewardship, the 2000 State of the Forest Report, and the 2002 Survey of Island Woodlot Owners.

Minister Ballem said Government has asked the Public Forest Council to act as the consultative body for the Forest Policy hearings. While the councilís original mandate was public forests, it has worked on a wide range of issues which also pertain to private forests, making it uniquely qualified to lead these discussions. Public Forest Council Chair, Dr. Ian MacQuarrie, expressed his enthusiasm for the process and his hope that Islanders from all walks of life will come forward to offer their vision and ideas for the future of the forest. Although the dates have not been set, the council plans to hold hearings across the Island in the OíLeary, Wellington, Hunter River, Kilmuir and Fortune areas.

"We will also hold hearings for forest stakeholder groups or other Island communities which express interest," said Dr. MacQuarrie. "It is our intention to try and get the broadest range of ideas and suggestions, and then formulate a report to Government on what has been recommended and what should be supported."

For those who cannot attend a meeting, Dr. MacQuarrie noted there are additional ways to get background information or to provide comments and ideas to the council. The Forest Policy Web site, www.gov.pe.ca/go/forestpolicy, offers visitors a wide range of pertinent background information and access to the new Forest Policy Discussion Forum which allows people to exchange and debate their ideas and comments for the Forest Policy on-line. As well, there is a forest policy e-mail box, forestpolicy@gov.pe.ca, where people can send their comments and suggestions directly to the council. Dr. MacQuarrie noted these two tools are excellent ways for absentee landowners to participate and ensure their voices are heard.

Minister Ballem said he hopes the consultation process will be completed by spring and that Government will have the Public Forest Councilís recommendations in hand soon after.

"Until we have more details on the schedule for the public consultations, I encourage Islanders to make use of the Web site and e-mail resources, write letters to their MLAs, or share their comments and ideas through the Letters to the Editors in Island newspapers," said Minister Ballem. "I look forward to a healthy public discussion on the future of forests and forestry in Prince Edward Island."

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Media Contact: Jamie Ballem
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