The forest sector could be a way to pump much-needed money back into rural New Brunswick’s economy but low prices are killing the industry, according to a woodlot manager.

“The biggest barrier we’re facing in restoring the Acadian forest and doing good forestry is are the low prices for wood that are being paid in New Brunswick compared to the rest of North America and in particular the Maritimes,” said Dale Prest, a woodlot manager for Community Forests International (CFI).

Prest says he plans to sell 600 tons of wood to the local mill for about $6,000 but he says the same wood travelling the same distance to a mill in Nova Scotia would sell for more than $15,000.

He said that’s an example of the thousands of dollars coming out of the pockets of businesses in rural communities.

The Department of Natural Resources says prices paid by lumber mills depend on a number of factors and vary from mill to mill.

The province’s new forest management policy increased the amount of timber being harvested on Crown land in an attempt to spur job creation among some of the industries biggest players.

Company forced to diversify

Dale Prest and Elijah Manchester take a break from working on the CFI woodlot in South Branch. Prest says better prices for wood would make rural living more viable. (Tori Weldon/CBC)

No matter what the price, the cheapest way to make a profit from a woodlot is through clear cutting but Prest says the usual model of clear cut and replant isn’t sustainable.

The lot that he manages in South Branch is harvested tree by tree.

“Sustainable forestry looks like exactly this — this is a completely managed forest, it doesn’t look like it but this whole area has been harvested through, thinned over multiple times,” he said.

“We have our typical Acadian forest species.”

Without sufficient profits, Prest said the group has had to diversify.

Community Forests International owns or manages 71 hectares of forest in New Brunswick.

It has found five companies from across Canada that are paying the group to manage that land

It’s a system called carbon offsetting, and it earns the group about $70,000 every year. CFI sells carbon offsets to companies that want to meaningfully bill themselves as “green” or environmentally friendly.

CFI offers sustainable jobs

Prest would like to see small independent wood lot owners able to make a living off their land, creating jobs for people who want to come to or stay in rural New Brunswick, people such as Nick Thompson from Ontario.

Dale Prest said he believes there is too much wood from Crown land flooding New Brunswick’s wood market and it’s driving prices down. (Tori Weldon/CBC)

Thompson is working for CFI cutting logging trails on the South Branch property. He moved to New Brunswick a few years ago and wants to make it home.

“[I’m] working outside, working with my friends and working with people who have the same values as I do and working for clients that have the same values,” said Thompson.

After watching friends struggle with the cost of living in cities, such as Toronto, he said he appreciates that he can afford the necessities of life in New Brunswick.

Though Thompson admits it’s been hard to find a regular full-time job, he’s found plenty of work, even making enough money to finish his university degree without getting a student loan.

Elijah Manchester agrees the cost of living in the region is a big draw. Also working for CFI, he  just returned to his hometown of Sackville after living for years in Vancouver.

“I could never have invested in property. I just kind of felt like I was being priced out of that province and then also I wanted to be closer to my family,” said Manchester.

Both of these young men plan to stay in New Brunswick. They hope more people can follow suit, and make New Brunswick home.

Like the forest they’re tending to, they say they want life in the province to be sustainable.