Milestone mostly missed


Industry and environmentalists cooperate

to take a long view on forest management

By Alex Binkley
True North Perspective

Natural resource-based industries such as agriculture, fisheries and mining often have a rocky relationship with environmental critics. After collecting its share of bruises and bashings, the forestry sector is trying to change its status with a forest protection accord that recently celebrated its first anniversary.

The occasion got overlooked by most of the news media because it came as the new Harper cabinet was coming together. The Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement could have a major long term impact. It’s aimed at protecting the forest and the people who rely on it for their economic prosperity and traditional way of life. The goal is to conserve between 50 and 70% of the Boreal Forest under the tenure of 21 forest products companies.

Avrim Lazar, the President and CEO of the Forest Products Association of Canada and one of the architects of the agreement, says industry is working with environmentalists “to take a pragmatic and productive problem-solving approach towards integrating the economic and environmental challenges in the Boreal Forest. This unprecedented agreement is serving as a shining example to other industries and countries that there can be a win-win rather than win-lose approach to resolve difficult issues. It is clear that we can continue succeeding with continuing good will and sufficient resources.”

It started with commitments by industry to suspend logging in 29 million hectares of Boreal forest, representing virtually all the habitat of woodland caribou. In return, environmentalists agreed to cease do-not-buy and boycott campaigns. Based on these actions, the two sides are moving into joint conservation planning.

A secretariat has been created to track the process and national and regional working groups are studying future conservation steps. An independent science advisory team has been created and Aboriginal groups, provincial and municipal governments, and interested stakeholders have been invited to join the process. Companies that purchase forest products have joined a Boreal Business Forum to look at how they could contribute. The auditing firm KPMG is examining how well the agreement is working.

Janet Sumner, Executive Director of CPAWS-Wildlands League, says nothing like the Boreal agreement has been attempted before. “We know the challenges are monumental. We are behind on securing on the ground conservation, but we have a solid foundation and approach that will realize the vision of the greener jobs in a healthy forest industry and the habitat endangered species need to survive”.

Richard Brooks, a forest campaigner with Greenpeace, says the agreement “created an important truce between two groups that had been in longstanding conflict including boycott campaigns and blockades. We continue to work hard with the other environmental groups and the forest industry on creating joint proposals for large protected areas … Simultaneously, Greenpeace is committed to achieving renewed economic stability and prosperity for the forest industry and the communities that depend on it and to promoting sustainable forest products in the marketplace.

“There have been challenges,” Brooks admits. These include reconciling traditionally competing visions of the forest sector, meeting ambitious time lines and finding sufficient funding for all the work. “We believe that together, environmental groups and the forest industry can create the solutions necessary for preserving Canada’s precious Boreal Forest – the successful implementation of the CBFA can be proof of this.

“We welcome the opportunity to work more closely with local Aboriginal communities that have a fundamental role in shaping the outcomes and determining the success of the Agreement. Greenpeace believes that for the agreement to work, the rights of First Nations in regards to their traditional territories must be respected. We support the free, prior and informed consent for all aboriginal governments.

The Boreal Business Forum consists of more than a dozen buyers and investors in the forest-products marketplace, which are vital to the success of the agreement. “The marketplace is watching CBFA implementation closely and wants to see tangible on-the-ground improvement as soon as possible. Hard work can make this happen,” Brooks says.

While the two sides have a lot of differences left to reconcile, the existence of the agreement does point the way for other industries to learn to co-exist with critics. Both sides can learn from each other and benefit through cooperation.


Thanks for bringing this important subject to TNP readers' attention.

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