03/14/2014 01:59 EDT | Updated 05/14/2014 05:59 EDT

Irving says it will spend $38 million to modernize sawmills in New Brunswick

DOAKTOWN, N.B. - J.D. Irving Ltd. will spend $38 million to modernize its sawmill production in New Brunswick, the company said Friday in its latest announcement to boost its forestry interests in the province.

The company said the money will fund a number of projects including the construction of a new sawmill in Doaktown and a new studwood production line in Chipman.

Jim Irving, the company's co-CEO, said the government's new forestry plan that lifts a cap on the amount of softwood it will make available to the forestry industry from Crown land influenced its funding decision.

"The province's results-based forestry initiative provides the sustainable wood supply to invest and grow jobs," Irving said in a statement. "We appreciate this vote of confidence in the skill and passion of our mill employees and the hundreds of forestry professionals, harvesters and truckers who work in the woods of rural New Brunswick."

In all, the money will help generate about 400 full-time and seasonal jobs, Irving said.

The announcement came a day after Irving Pulp and Paper said it plans to spend about $450 million to modernize a mill in Saint John that the company says will help create the full-time equivalent of 600 jobs.

Earlier this week, the New Brunswick government released a 10-year forestry plan that allows companies to harvest an additional 660,000 cubic metres of softwood a year — a hike of 20 per cent from existing levels.

As part of the strategy, the government says it will keep a promise to increase the number of protected natural areas in the province, bringing the total area to 270,000 hectares.

But the Liberal Opposition has questioned whether the amount of money spent on planting and silviculture programs will adequately keep pace with higher harvest levels.