FREDERICTON -- A New Brunswick judge has rejected a bid by aboriginal leaders to block an increase in the amount of softwood lumber that can be harvested from Crown lands.

The Assembly of First Nations' Chiefs of New Brunswick asked the Court of Queen's Bench to impose an injunction that would have prevented the provincial government from signing final agreements with forestry companies.

The agreements are part of the province's 10-year forestry plan, which allows companies to cut 660,000 more cubic metres of softwood annually, an increase of about 20 per cent.

The chiefs argued that the province failed to adequately consult First Nations communities about the plan.

The group also says the increase in the amount of wood that can be cut will cause irreversible harm to the environment and plant and animal species that the First Nations rely on.

The forestry plan is a major part of the bid by the Progressive Conservatives to be re-elected in the Sept. 22 election.

The party says the strategy will create jobs and rejuvenate the forestry sector.