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Loggers, Environmentalists Co-Manage Canadian Boreal Forest

The Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement was signed a few months ago by 21 forest companies and 9 leading environmental organizations. Components of the three-year agreement include the suspension of logging on parts of Boreal Forest equal to the size of Nevada and representing almost all Boreal caribou habitat within company tenures, to allow for intensive caribou protection planning while maintaining uninterrupted mill operations, and the suspension, by participating environmental organizations, of divestment and “do not buy” campaigns targeting the Boreal operations and products of companies participating in the Boreal Agreement.

Nat Geo News Watch invited Avrim Lazar, President and CEO, Forest Product Association of Canada, and Richard Brooks, Forest Campaign Coordinator, Greenpeace Canada, to write the accompanying op-ed article about the groundbreaking collaboration.

By Avrim Lazar and Richard Brooks

On May 18, 2010, the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement was announced. It is one of the world’s largest conservation agreements, setting forward a roadmap for achieving greater community, industry and forest sustainability and conservation in one of the world’s last remaining and most important wilderness forests.

Our organizations plus eight other leading environmental organizations and 21 forest products companies signed the Agreement because it is ambitious and solutions-orientated and because we believe it will deliver results.

“It is what some have called one of the world’s most astonishing partnerships.”

It is what some have called one of the world’s most astonishing partnerships.

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Paradigm Shift

The Agreement is a paradigm shift and is a testament to leadership, courage and creativity. It creates the space to do conservation planning in an area twice the size of Germany at 72 million hectares [278,000 square miles]. If we are successful, and after a lot of hard work, it will lead to the creation of vast new protected areas, the application of new world-leading forest practices, a revitalization of the companies who are participants and support for the renewal of the communities which depend on the forest industry for jobs.

This revolutionary understanding between environmentalists and the forest industry did not come about over night. The negotiation process for the Agreement itself took close to two years in an environment fraught with tension and mistrust, targeted campaigns and marketplace uncertainty.

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Click on the image to enlarge the map.

Map courtesy of Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement

It started as a conversation in which each party was speaking nearly a different language. With the aid of a translator, our facilitator, many long meetings, and a lot of good will and desire for change, we achieved the Agreement.

“This is the game-changer and the start of doing it differently.”

In Canada, we had been butting heads and battling it out with a few notable but much smaller partnerships for nearly twenty years. This is the game-changer and the start of doing it differently.

The Canadian Boreal Forest is one of the world’s most important forests. It is one of the largest storehouses of carbon on the planet–banking more than 200 billion tonnes in its soils and trees.

It is home to more than 600 First Nations and Aboriginal communities. It is the source of billions of dollars in forest products sold globally.

It is home to one billion migratory birds and is the source of fresh water for half of Canada. It is one of the few remaining, truly vast wilderness spaces left in the world.

Caribou a central driver

One of the central drivers of the creation of the Agreement was the state of woodland caribou, an iconic and umbrella species in the Boreal Forest.

The woodland caribou are threatened or endangered through much of their range and in recent years have become the poster child of environmental campaigns in regards to the Boreal Forest in Canada and internationally.

The plight of this animal has been dire and one of the Agreement’s main goals is to have the trend towards extinction reversed though the achievement of conservation plans and new protected areas.

From the outset, the Agreement restricts logging and forestry on more than 26 million hectares of prime caribou habitat in order to create the space for our work to be done.

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NGS stock photo of caribou bull by George F. Mobley

The Agreement also encompasses other main goals including the establishment of the world leading sustainable forest management practices, collaboration on life-cycle forest carbon projects, and support for communities.

Another important goal of the Agreement is the marketplace recognition for signatory companies in relation to progress on the goals of the Agreement.

Rewarding companies for leadership

Organizations such as Greenpeace, Canopy and ForestEthics, who have traditionally run “do not buy” and flashy boycott campaigns against the companies, will work with the companies to garner support in the marketplace for the achievements under the Agreement. In essence, rewarding the companies financially for their leadership work.

We have put important mechanisms in place to help us achieve our goals–a series of milestones to direct and track our progress in all aspects of our work, for example, designing conservation plans for caribou in a set period of time.

The milestones will be reported on regularly by an independent auditor who will not hold back in noting missed milestones and laggards. Leading customers and investors are also being convened to review and support progress.

Permanent change has not yet been achieved, but through our work over the coming months and years and much-needed trust-building, we hope to see radical change become long-lasting.

VIDEO: The Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement–a conversation hosted by the Pew Environment Group, between the Forest Products Association of Canada and Greenpeace on what the Agreement means to Canada and the world.

Through the Agreement, we will be able to come to the table with government as partners offering win-win solutions, rather than zero-sum choices between competing visions for how to manage our precious forestry resources. We tried the old way for a long time; now we are trying it a new way on the grandest scale possible.

“Companies of the Forest Product Association of Canada (FPAC) understand that the marketplace is changing, and that their customers care about where their products come from.”

The member companies of the Forest Product Association of Canada (FPAC) understand that the marketplace is changing, and that their customers care about where their products come from. The environmental credentials of the products customers are buying is of key concern, and a prime condition in purchasing decisions.

When implemented, the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement will provide FPAC members with a competitive market edge as it shows the marketplace the dedicated leadership the industry has to the environment, conservation efforts, and the importance of building lasting partnerships that commits them to secure the world’s best sustainable forest management practices now and into the future.

In short, the Agreement recognizes that winning in today’s global market for forestry products requires a focus on going green and working smart. FPAC’s members get it, and the Agreement reflects this.

The Agreement and its signatories will not impose obligations on anyone other than the signatories. It recognizes the authority of governments and the role other stakeholders will need to play in the years ahead.

Aboriginal Peoples recognized

Importantly, the participants recognize that Canada’s Aboriginal peoples, its First Nations, are governments as well, equal but different from provincial and national governments. These First Nations have say over their traditional territories on which the participant companies operate. We believe these governments and their communities will be decision-makers just like provincial governments and we hope they will support the outcomes of our planning work.

The collaborative leadership approach to the Agreement indicates that the values of 21st-century leadership must include the interwoven aspects of the environment and the economy. Without one supporting the other the feasibility of a sustainable future is virtually impossible.

It is this leadership that spurs innovative thinking, collaborative partnerships and successful future endeavours in both business and in resource management.

The Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement is the backbone to the idea that more can be done and that boundaries should never be drawn on environmental progress. This Agreement is the new environmental and business model for the world.

–Avrim Lazar, President and CEO, Forest Product Association of Canada
–Richard Brooks, Forest Campaign Coordinator, Greenpeace Canada

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Richard Brooks (left), Steve Kallick of the Pew Environment Group (center), and Avrim Lazar shake hands on the deal.

Photo courtesy of Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement 

Environmental Organizations Participating in the Agreement:

Canadian Boreal Initiative, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, Canopy, David Suzuki Foundation, ForestEthics, Greenpeace, The Nature Conservancy, Pew Environment Group International Boreal Conservation Campaign, and Ivey Foundation

Forestry Companies Participating in the Agreement:

AbitibiBowater Inc., Alberta-Pacific Forest Industries Inc., AV Group, Canfor Corporation, Canfor Pulp Limited Partnership, Cariboo Pulp & Paper Company, Cascades inc., Daishowa-Marubeni International Ltd., F.F. Soucy Inc., Howe Sound Pulp and Paper Limited Partnership, Kruger Inc., Louisiana-Pacific Canada Ltd., Mercer International, Mill & Timber Products Ltd., NewPage Corporation, Papier Masson Ltée, SFK Pâte, Tembec, Tolko Industries Ltd., West FraserTimber Co. Ltd., and Weyerhaeuser Company Limited — all represented by the Forest Products Association of Canada

Full text of the Agreement (1.08MB pdf)

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