The Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement: one year on!

Feature story - May 18, 2011
A year after the signing and announcement of the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement (CBFA), there has been significant progress on implementation.

Boreal Forest

Signed May 18, 2010, the historic agreement brought together Greenpeace and eight other environmental groups and 21 forest companies in the Forest Products Association of Canada and created a truce in the long-standing conflict between environmental groups and the forest industry.

The CBFA commits both to protecting more of Canada’s Boreal Forest and reinvigorating the forest industry based on sustainable forest management.

Greenpeace negotiated and signed the CBFA because of the tremendous potential for conservation that it presents. The forest industry has finally accepted there is an urgent need to create large protected areas in the commercial Boreal Forest in order to preserve biodiversity and the habitat of species-at-risk, such as the woodland caribou.

Based on the latest independent science, we believe that between 50 to 70 per cent (36 to 50 million hectares) of the Boreal Forest in the tenures of signatory companies should be conserved while also achieving greater financial stability and prosperity for the industry.

Conservation plans are currently being developed in a number of provinces. To maintain the “solutions-minded” space to allow this to occur, the logging companies have agreed to a moratorium on logging in nearly 29 million hectares of the 72 million hectares of Canadian Boreal Forest covered by the CBFA. The moratorium area protects virtually all of the habitat of the threatened woodland caribou.

Here are two examples where we are working to implement the agreement:

In Quebec, Greenpeace staff are working with AbitibiBowater and the local community in a 57,000 km2 area of intact forest north of Lac-St.-Jean to identify candidate protected areas and to develop specific conservation measures to protect and recover woodland caribou habitat.

In Ontario, a joint working group with environmental organizations including Greenpeace and logging companies (AbitibiBowater, Tembec, Weyerhaeuser) has developed joint recommendations for how to save caribou. These recommendations have been sent to the Ontario government. Now, the group is in the early stages of developing proposals for conservation and protected areas in an area covering 43,000 km2..

A secretariat to oversee implementation has been created and the Boreal Business Forum, a group of 13 customers and investors of the signatory logging companies, with more than $140 billion in revenue, has been created to support implementation of the agreement.

Challenges remain though. There have been delays in reaching some of the milestones and more must be done to reconcile the differences between the historically opposed views of the forest industry and environmental groups. Additional funding is needed for the costly work of planning on such a large scale.

In addition, work continues to involve aboriginal communities and First Nations governments in shaping the outcomes of the CBFA.

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