Truce in the woods - landmark pact will protect Canada`s boreal forest



The biggest, most ambitious forest conservation deal ever has been announced, bringing to an end more than seven years of campaigning by environmental groups to protect Canada's Boreal Forest. Under the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement Greenpeace and eight other non-governmental organizations have agreed to a truce with the logging industry.

In return, 21 of the biggest logging industry players from the Forest Products Association of Canada (FPAC) have agreed to an immediate moratorium on logging in nearly 29 million hectares of forest that covers virtually all the critical habitat for the threatened woodland caribou.

The long-term agreement includes a commitment from the parties to work over the next three years to undertake conservation planning for the entire area covered by the agreement. This unusual alliance of logging companies and environmental groups will work together to ensure long-term protection within 72 million hectares of forest - an area twice the size of Germany - that stretches right across Canada.

This agreement, the result of almost a decade of campaigning and market pressure by environmentalists, could be the key to permanently protect vast areas of wilderness and threatened wildlife habitats. It would also secure billions of tonnes of stored carbon which otherwise might contribute to climate change.

This agreement would not have happened without public support and pressure, said Greenpeace. Last year, Greenpeace won a key victory when Kimberly-Clark - maker of Kleenex and the largest tissue manufacturer in the world - agreed to a progressive forest policy in response to the Kleercut campaign. 'The role of consumer activism in transforming Kimberly-Clark set a precedent for the rest of the industry - it showed other companies that involvement in forest destruction will ultimately hurt their bottom line.' said Greenpeace in a press release.

'The importance of this Agreement cannot be overstated,' said Avrim Lazar, President and CEO of FPAC. 'FPAC member companies and their ENGO counterparts have turned the old paradigm on its head. Together we have identified a more intelligent, productive way to manage economic and environmental challenges in the Boreal that will reassure global buyers of our products' sustainability.'

This is just a start, said Greenpeace. There is still more work to do to ensure that the agreement leads to permanent protection for large areas of intact wilderness in Canada's Boreal Forest, one of the most important forested areas in the world.

Greenpeace, together with the other groups and companies involved, will continue to play a leading role to make sure it is put into practice in a way that really protects forests, biodiversity and the global climate from the impacts of destructive logging.

'This is our best chance to save woodland caribou, permanently protect vast areas of the Boreal Forest and put in place sustainable forestry practices,' said Richard Brooks, spokesperson for participating environmental organizations and Forest Campaign Coordinator of Greenpeace Canada.  Concerns from the public and the marketplace about wilderness conservation and species loss have been critical drivers in arriving at this agreement, he added.

'For years we have helped bring opposing parties together to conserve this global treasure, Canada's boreal forest,' said Steve Kallick, director of the Pew Environment Group's International Boreal Conservation Campaign. 'We're thrilled that this effort has led to the largest commercial forest conservation plan in history, which could not have happened without both sides looking beyond their differences. As important as today's announcement is, our ultimate success will be measured by how we tackle the work ahead to put this plan into practice.'

The Agreement identifies explicit commitments for both sides and sets out a plan, which includes:

  • The development and implementation of world-leading forest management and harvesting practices;
  • The completion of joint proposals for networks of protected areas and the recovery of species at risk including woodland caribou;
  • A full life cycle approach to forest carbon management; and
  • Support for the economic future of forest communities and for the recognition of conservation achievements in the global marketplace.

Signatory environmental organizations, FPAC, and the Association's companies have begun meetings with provincial governments, First Nations and local communities across the country to seek their leadership and full participation in advancing the goals of the Agreement.  Participants recognize that governments, including First Nation governments, are decision makers within their jurisdictions. The Agreement recognizes that aboriginal peoples have constitutionally protected aboriginal and treaty rights that must be respected and engaged in order for the Agreement to fulfill its objectives.

Parties to the Agreement

Environmental organizations participating in the agreement include: Greenpeace, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, Canopy (formerly Markets Initiative), the David Suzuki Foundation, ForestEthics, the Ivey Foundation, The Nature Conservancy, and the Pew Environment Group's International Boreal Conservation Campaign. The Hewlett Foundation's support for boreal forest conservation has been critical to the collective efforts of these groups.

FPAC companies participating in the agreement include: AbitibiBowater, Alberta Pacific Forest Industries, AV Group, Canfor, Cariboo Pulp & Paper Company, Cascades Inc., DMI, F.F. Soucy, Inc., Howe Sound Pulp and Paper, Kruger Inc., LP Canada, Mercer International, Mill & Timber Products Ltd, NewPage Port Hawkesbury Ltd, Paper Masson Ltee, SFK Pulp, Tembec Inc., Tolko Industries, West Fraser Timber Co. Ltd, Weyerhauser Compnay Limited - all represented by the Forest Products Association of Canada.

*Go to Boreal Resources for a complete set of documents on the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement.

See also Globe and Mail article 'For gutted forestry sector, green is the colour of hope' by Martin Mittelstaedt, discussing why after a severe slump in the industry, becoming eco-friendly is seen as a crucial part of a recovery.

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