EDMONTON - Environmentalists and the forestry industry in Canada have
come to a historic agreement that will lead to more sustainable
harvesting practices and protection of habitat in 72 million hectares of
There will be a suspension of new logging on nearly 29 million hectares of boreal forest while the
agreement signatories develop conservation plans for endangered caribou.
At the same time, the increasingly common "do not buy" campaigns by
ForestEthics, Greenpeace and Canopy will be suspended.
agreement involves 21 member companies of the Forest Products
Association of Canada (FPAC) and nine major environmental organizations.
Brooks, the forest campaign co-ordinator with Greenpeace Canada, called
the agreement the largest of its kind anywhere on the planet. He
highlighted the importance of protecting the forest, home to 600 First
Nations across the country, the largest storehouse of carbon on the
planet banking more than 200 billion tonnes in its soil and trees, and
the source of fresh water for half of the country.
"This is the
way everyone hoped the world could work," said a buoyant sounding Avrim
Lazar, president and CEO of FPAC, during a teleconference this morning.
"Instead of fighting and having polarized discussions and trying to
solve problems with win-lose, meaningless debates, we have agreed that
tomorrow depends upon our ability to find solutions. Our ability to stop
trying to win and start trying to solve."
Lazar said everyone
knows the forest industry has had a difficult time over the last few
years. "We know in the forest industry that if we want to have jobs
tomorrow we have to skate hard and fast to where the puck is going to
be." Not only does that mean improving productivity, diversifying
products and penetrating the Asian market - it also means ensuring the
Canadian forest industry has the best environmental reputation in the
world, he said.
"We plan to turn this into a competitive
advantage. We hope the customers will say to the illegal loggers, to the
people whose products aren't certified, to the people who can't trace
their products, to the suppliers of wood and paper that haven't
addressed climate change; we hope they're going to say to those
competitors of ours, ‘You're at the back of the line.' And those
products that are world class in terms of the environment are at the
front of the line."
Brooks said environmentalists have tried all
kinds of tactics over a long period of time, from marketplace
engagement, to public education, to creative confrontation and science
research. "We've been fighting this fight, the environmental community,
for many years now and we have had some victories along the way. But we
haven't been able to achieve the results that we've all been hoping for.
And this agreement really is going to achieve those results and that's
why we're behind it.
"This is our best and last chance to save
woodland caribou in the boreal forests over a vast area that is twice
the size of Germany," Brooks said. "It is our last chance to permanently
protect large areas of forest that will be durable in the face of
It is estimated there are 36,000 woodland caribou
left in Canada's boreal forests, with about 3,600 to 6,700 in Alberta.
Walsh, who has long campaigned for the protection of woodland caribou
in Alberta, is cautiously optimistic about the deal.
"I guess this
is just a start," said Walsh, boreal campaign director with the
northern Alberta chapter of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society.
"It's good the forestry industry is committed to working in a positive
direction here. One can only hope the government will follow. But
unfortunately for the caribou range there are a lot of companies that
aren't FPAC companies that log in critical parts of the caribou range.
And so I'm hoping this kind of agreement and movement forward with some
of the bigger companies will draw them in, but one never knows. But for
large portions of the caribou range, it should make a big difference."