Peace in the woods?
“Peace in the woods gets industry and enviros more of what each wants.”
The Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement was born today, brought to life by a large group of environmental groups and forestry companies of the Forest Products Association of Canada. Forest campaign groups such as Greenpeace Canada will suspend their campaigns aimed at customers and investors of many forest companies in exchange for deeper commitments to conservation measures, among them more protected areas, stronger caribou conservation, and ecosystem-based management. Some companies, including Abitibi-Bowater, had been targets of markets campaign groups.
The word “suspend” suggests that the Agreement is more of a cease-fire and truce than permanent peace treaty yet, but hopes are very high that working together will bring greater rewards for all and a new era of co-operation.
- The endangered Woodland Caribou stand to benefit from historic deal.
© GaryAndJoanieMcGuffin.com / WWF-Canada
Today’s announcement affects some 72 million hectares of public forests (an area bigger than Alberta), managed by 21 member companies of FPAC from B.C. to Newfoundland. New logging will be suspended on 40% of this, or 29 million hectares. Once fully implemented, the deal will help conserve boreal forests and their species, such as woodland caribou, and provide a competitive market edge for participating companies.
Forest companies acknowledged that their primary customers in the U.S. and Europe are demanding greener wood and paper. For the much-embattled forest sector, access to key overseas markets is a vital step to securing the future of forest companies and forest jobs in Canada. Suspension by enviros of their “Do Not Buy” campaigns, while the Agreement is being implemented, along with support for greener products in the marketplace, should translate to the bottom line.
It may come as a surprise to many, but the environmental groups involved in the Agreement have a strong history of promoting Forest Stewardship Council certification for better managed forests. And several companies have considerable FSC-certified woodlands already. Voices of change were being heard, now greatly amplified across boreal Canada. Consumers can support the lower-impact harvesting by buying wood and paper with the FSC logo.
The Forest Stewardship Council serves as the reference standard for management practices envisioned, though other competing systems will be examined for contributions to what “ecosystem-based management” should mean in the boreal forests of Canada. Keeping FSC working, effective and strengthened through this Agreement will be key to watch for, since so much investment has been made in FSC by leading companies and environmental groups, especially by WWF ever since FSC’s founding in Canada in 1993.
The Agreement is a boreal descendant of sorts to the 2009 Great Bear Rainforest solution for coastal B.C. Elder ancestors include the visionary 2003 Boreal Forest Conservation Framework and the 2001 WWF-Tembec Joint Agreement on Forest Management. The WWF-Tembec precedent saw the first industrial-scale commitment in Canada to Forest Stewardship Council standards for better woodlands management, leading to FSC certification for all 16 million hectares Tembec manages, an area some three times the size of Nova Scotia. WWF helped Alberta-Pacific and Domtar take comparable FSC steps, charting a path that winds to today’s historic announcement.