[S.I.S.I.S. note: The following mainstream news article may contain biased or distorted information and may be missing pertinent facts and/or context. It is provided for reference only.]
BIG COVE, N.B. (CP) - A loaded logging truck was seized near the Big Cove reserve Tuesday as New Brunswick renewed efforts to halt illegal cutting on Crown land.
The seizure was the first in several weeks and Natural Resources Minister Doug Tyler said it was only done because of a dramatic increase in illegal logging along the Salmon River Road. He said what began as a few rogue crews cutting about 50 cords a week got out of control recently when non-native woodsworkers started moving in skidders and other harvesting equipment.
"There's a lot of pressure, I believe, by some non-natives but a lot is precipitated by native people who want to basically become large contractors," Tyler said. "Unfortunately, when that happens, the benefit to the First Nation community diminishes dramatically."
Tyler said he doesn't know whether the driver, who was charged, was native or non-native. And he dismissed reporters questions over the usefulness of charging drivers and seizing trucks. Judges presiding over similar cases this summer have been ordering the province to give the trucks back.
The minister said the courts may not be so quick to throw out the charges when drivers appear before them a second time.
Tyler said he thinks Tuesdays seizure is connected to Big Cove band members. The province's largest reserve has yet to sign an interim logging deal with government, although Chief Robert Levi has said he hopes to do so soon.
The province has signed deals with a number of reserves that allow native cutters to harvest a percentage of Crown timber. The Metepenagiag First Nation at Red Bank became the sixth band to sign on Tuesday.
Chief Michael Augustine said he came to Fredericton to ask for more than the allotted five per cent of the annual allowable cut. But he reluctantly accepted the same deal offered to other bands. "We're not happy with the allocation," he said. "But I guess its an opportunity and you have to look at it that way. For years now, we never had any access to Crown land."
The 500-member reserve will be allowed to cut about 2,000 hectares from two Repap Crown licences. The band also gets $20,000 in start-up costs and any forestry training they may need. The 2,000 hectares translate into $485,300 in timber sales and $116,000 in royalties to the reserve.