03/20/2014 09:29 EDT | Updated 05/20/2014 05:59 EDT

Nova Scotia sawmills need timber, temporary access granted to Crown land

HALIFAX - More than a dozen sawmills are being given temporary access to Crown lands in western Nova Scotia to help them meet demand.

The provincial government is granting a six-month licence to 15 mills to harvest about 185,810 tonnes of fibre.

Natural Resources Minister Zach Churchill says the access will help them get earlier and easier access to the land.

He says the licences correspond with an updated Crown land plan, which deals with future plans for the St. Margarets Bay area.

The plan also calls for the province to develop a Mi'kmaq forestry initiative with the Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi'kmaq chiefs.

Churchill says the sawmills haven't had access to the land they will be allowed to harvest for 18 months.

"Given some critical seasonal pressures as well as those facing the industry in general, the timing of this is crucial," he says in a statement. "With the spring thaw not far off, the dirt roads into our forests will soon become muddy and impassible. This gives the mills quicker access so they can begin harvesting timber."