Environment groups applying pressure
By Mike De Souza (Postmedia News), published in Vancouver Sun, May 17, 2012.
See a Globe and Mail story on the same subject further below as well as news articles from April and May 2013 reporting on environmental groups that have withdrawn from the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement. For an article by Roger Annis looking at the original 2010 Agreement as well as other key environmental issues in British Columbia published in 2010, go here.
Canadian forestry companies admit they are not going as fast as they had hoped in fulfilling a May 2010 agreement to protect the boreal forest. “It’s a complex agreement but we’re making progress,” said Mark Hubert, vice- president of environmental leadership at the Forest Products Association of Canada. “Do we wish we were moving faster? Absolutely, but … there’s an extraordinary amount of work going on by both parties to make sure that we get to the finish line, so to speak.”
Hubert made the comments after some environmental groups involved in the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement said that 80 per cent of the goals established in the deal to protect forests and species at risk have not been achieved.
Eighteen companies in the association are part of the deal to protect about 29 million hectares of forest from logging by 2013 in exchange for the suspension of “do not buy” campaigns led by Greenpeace, Forestethics and Canopy. The deal also calls for aboriginal treaty rights and traditional territories to be respected.
A status report by the three environmental groups found that 58 out of 75 goals in the deal had not been met, while only 10 were delivered on schedule.
“Everyone had good intentions two years ago, but this update is a wake- up call that we have a collective responsibility to deliver on the promises of boreal forest protection and improved forest practices within a meaningful time frame,” said Greenpeace spokeswoman Stephanie Goodwin. “Companies that are buying boreal forest products are reasonable in demanding products from forests that are well-managed and protected.”
Another conservation group — a chapter of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society — voiced optimism about the months ahead, suggesting that the criticism was more a strategy to deliver on commitments.
“They [Greenpeace, Forest Ethics and Canopy] operate as watchdog groups and that’s their role,” said Janet Sumner, executive director of the CPAWS Wildlands League, a chapter of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society. “Our role is to be the conservation group that understands science, knows how you do conservation planning, walks the land with the forestry companies, meets with the first nations, builds agreements across communities and goes into government and sells the plan.”
Comparing the exercise to a 12- step process, Sumner suggested that all of the parties were now in “step 10,” but that they are in a race to complete their goals.
“To make the plan be able to stand on its own two feet you actually have to take it out and test drive it with the various people who are going to live with that plan,” she said. “There are communities, there are decision makers like first nations, and there are governments at play.”
Groups decry slow pace of boreal forest protection
By Sean Silcoff, Globe and Mail, May 17, 2012
(go to the article link to see a map of the forested areas in question)
A public rift has opened up between participants in a bold conservation effort aimed at protecting wide swaths of Canadian forest and caribou grounds. Two years after the signing of the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement – a historic accord between nine environmental groups and 21 forest products firms – three of the environmental groups, Canopy, Forestethics and Greenpeace, say there has been too little progress.
The three groups say 58 of the 75 milestones set out in deal haven’t been met and only 10 were delivered on time. Meanwhile, no areas have been protected by legislation so far. “The results are sobering and disappointing,” said Nicole Rycroft, executive director of Canopy, a non-profit environmental group that works with large forest products customers, including The Globe and Mail. “We can’t afford to continue working at this pace.”
However, other signatories to the agreement – the world’s largest conservation and sustainable forest management initiative – said the concerns are misplaced. They point to major advances in talks in recent months, and say the collective is just weeks away from making significant announcements that include the creation of a logging-free zone in northeastern Ontario that is larger than Algonquin Park.
“That’s not our assessment of where things are right now,” Janet Sumner, executive director of conservation group Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society Wildlands League, and a member of the CBFA steering committee, said of the environmental groups’ report. “We’re at the penultimate moment in planning in several regions of the country.”
Ms. Sumner said talks aimed at protecting forests and caribou lands in Quebec’s Lac St-jean region and northwestern Ontario are within weeks of yielding agreements that would then be put before first nations groups and governments for their input.
A plan to establish an 835,000hectare logging-free zone in the Abitibi River area of northeastern Ontario is even more advanced. The CBFA presented a joint conservation plan to Ontario’s Natural Resources Ministry in February, and the kinks are now being worked out, with input from the province and affected communities. “That plan has been largely accepted,” Ms. Sumner said. “I think we can get that done in the next couple of weeks, and then we should be ready to go.”
Mark Hubert, vice-president of environmental leadership with industry group Forest Products Association of Canada, said “we anticipate being able to move forward with announcements in May. Industry is keeping its commitments made under CBFA … and intends to continue to do so.”
Canopy’s Ms. Rycroft agreed that the CBFA had made significant progress recently, despite missing two deadlines to reach the deals now being negotiated. “I wouldn’t be surprised if there are some concrete gains in the priority areas of Ontario and Quebec in the coming weeks or months,” she said. “But I think sometimes it takes a sober look at results to create the momentum for change. We don’t mistake process for progress or progress for results.” In addition, she said the three deals will only affect 15 per cent of the 72 million hectares covered in the agreement. “We have to get moving on delivering conservation efforts on the other 85 per cent,” she said.
William Amos, director of the Ecojustice Clinic at the University of Ottawa, said the three environmental groups are assessing the trade-offs they made to join with their former foes on the agreement. “They are the ones who agreed to suspend their do-not-buy campaigns … as a condition of joining the CBFA,” he said. “So when they don’t see sufficient progress that represents adequate value for that sacrifice, it’s only natural they will voice their concern … There’s significant risk to them in doing this that they lose some of the good faith they’ve built up” at the CBFA table.
Canopy quits Boreal pact
Environmental group joins Greenpeace, saying little has been accomplished in talks to protect forests
By Brent Jang, environment reporter, Globe and Mail, April 17, 2013
An environmental group has withdrawn from a conservation pact with Canada’s forestry industry, saying little has been accomplished after nearly three years of talks aimed at protecting trees and caribou in the boreal forest.
Vancouver-based Canopy, a not-for-profit organization that supports environmentally friendly paper, said on Wednesday that it had high hopes when it helped to forge the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement (CBFA). Canopy’s decision to withdraw comes four months after Greenpeace Canada pulled out of the conservation pact, which is meant to serve as the framework for companies and environmentalists to spell out specific areas off limits to logging.
Seven environmental groups remain at the table with 19 companies in the forestry sector in the quest to determine ecologically sensitive areas of Canada’s boreal, or northern, forests.
Canopy executive director Nicole Rycroft said she is disappointed by the absence of any major breakthrough since nine environmental groups signed the CBFA on May 18, 2010, with members of the Forest Products Association of Canada.
“We had thought of this and hailed this as a game-changer, but at some point you need to step back and acknowledge that it hasn’t worked out,” Ms. Rycroft said in an interview. “I would hope that in the course of the next month that our move pushes industry to come forward with some protection. I expect that there will be some level of conservation, but from what I can see, it is not going be at the scale that is required to keep our boreal forests healthy.”
She said Canopy will be informing key purchasers of paper about her group’s disappointment with the CBFA, while striving to develop new partnerships with individual forestry firms in priority areas such as Quebec’s Broadback Valley region.
Last month, Greenpeace Canada backed away from its allegations that Montreal-based Resolute Forest Products Inc. had contravened the CBFA.
Mark Hubert, vice-president of environmental leadership at the Forest Products Association of Canada, said it is not easy to reach consensus as companies try to maintain a vibrant forestry business and environmental groups lobby to protect endangered areas.
“It is hugely complex. We wish things were moving faster. We would like to see implementation progress more quickly, but we still have a critical mass of support. That’s what is important,” said Mr. Hubert, who was in Vancouver on Wednesday for a CBFA meeting of industry and environmental representatives. “One less organization is not going to make or break the CBFA.”
Janet Sumner, executive director of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society’s Wildlands League chapter, said logging has continued in some caribou habitat, but her group intends to participate in negotiations as long as progress is possible.
“Every group needs to do its own assessment. You can have a great process, but we can’t just talk. Somebody needs to agree to something,” Ms. Sumner said. “All we’re doing is talking while there’s logging. It is complex, but we need to see something by the third anniversary and we’re definitely pushing for results.”
Canada’s foresters estimate that half of the country’s lumber production comes from trees harvested in the boreal forest.
Deal to protect boreal forest caribou fails
Three years of negotiations between Resolute Forest Products and environmental groups aimed at protecting Canada’s boreal forest have ended in failure, with talks breaking down over how much land to set aside for conservation.
Resolute (TSX: RFP) said Tuesday it could not accept a proposal from environmentalists that it says would have threatened thousands of jobs in remote communities. “The final asks of the environmental organizations that were brought to us last evening were so extreme, were so draconian they would have forced the closure of multiple mills, multiple projects throughout Quebec and Ontario,” said company spokesman Seth Kursman.
He said Resolute was disappointed that an agreement on a workable plan to balance conservation efforts with social and economic considerations could not be reached. “What they were looking for was land withdrawal that far exceeded anything that we were willing to do because it was totally out of balance with the three guiding principles of sustainability,” Kursman said.
Agreement would have been largest, most complex ever
Talks to reach a Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement began in 2010 after seven environmental organizations and 19 forest companies agreed to find a way to protect threatened woodland caribou while still giving companies access to 72 million hectares of public forests. Greenpeace and the conservation coalition Canopy pulled out of talks last year, saying there has been nothing to show for the work since 2010.
The Forest Products Association of Canada had described the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement (CBFA) as the largest and most complex deal of its kind. The association said it regretted that environmental groups have suspended the talks with Resolute, but was pleased they remain committed to the overall agreement with the industry.
“Forest companies belonging to FPAC remain committed to the principles of the CBFA and want to continue the hard work necessary to protect the environment, including threatened species such as woodland caribou, while also protecting the forest products industry and the communities and jobs that depend on it,” the association said.
Will work with other companies
Several environmental groups said the commitment to ongoing work with other forestry companies remained strong, despite the decision to suspend talks with Resolute.
“We are very pleased with the groundbreaking solutions for conservation we have forged under the CBFA with companies such as Tembec, Alberta Pacific Forest Industries and Millar Western Forest Products in northeastern Ontario and Alberta respectively,” said Janet Sumner of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society.
The groups said they have suspended work with Resolute until it can commit to scientifically defensible conservation plans that would give caribou a reasonable chance of survival.
“We believe that Resolute is not meeting its commitments to ensure caribou survive on the forests it manages. In our opinion, it has so far proven itself unwilling to strike a balance between its economic interests and the local survival of a nationally threatened species,” said Todd Paglia of Forest Ethics.
835,000 ha caribou conservation area proposed
Resolute said it made a series of proposals during intense final negotiations, including setting aside an additional 204,000 hectares of forest in northwestern Ontario for conservation.
That was on top of about two million hectares of Ontario forests that have already been protected over the last 15 years.
Resolute also agreed to protect 12 per cent or 692,000 hectares of Quebec forest, focusing on the best habitats for caribou conservation.
The two sides last year crafted a joint recommendation to government about establishing a caribou conservation area covering 835,000 hectares in northeastern Ontario.
Chief executive Richard Garneau said rural, northern and First Nations communities have paid “a heavy price from the economic and market challenges the industry has faced over the past decade.” He said the process did not involve “serious stakeholder consultations” and would have lacked “legitimacy.”
“We agree that environmental concerns must be at the forefront. However, the regional social and economic impact must also be part of the equation,” Garneau said in a news release.
Boreal forest agreement no longer working: Greenpeace
The Canadian Press, May 21, 2013
Greenpeace says boreal forest agreement no longer working
Billion-dollar caribou (The Nature of Things)
Scientists weigh in on Bipole, boreal forest
Canadian boreal forest agreement website