Tensions between Resolute Forest Products and some of the conservation groups involved with the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement have reached a boiling point. Several groups announced on May 21 that they are suspending further work with Resolute Forest Products on the agreement, but remain committed to continuing their work with other signatory companies to plan for protection of critical Boreal woodland caribou habitat and sustainable forest management practices.
Resolute expressed disappointment that negotiations under the CBFA have broken down. “We were a good faith player in this process,” says Resolute spokesman Seth Kursman. But, he adds, the company wouldn’t endorse plans that were not aligned with the basic tenets of the CBFA, and will not support commitments that will “lead to the decimation of [jobs] in the North.”
Resolute has no intention of withdrawing from the CBFA, Kursman says.
The environmental groups who no longer wish to participate in discussions with Resolute include CPAWS, ForestEthics and the Ivey Foundation.
“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 ForestEthics.
However, Resolute has proven to be willing to work within the framework of the CBFA. Last year, as part of the company's involvement in the CBFA, Resolute played an important role in crafting a proposal for Northeastern Ontario, ultimately resulting in joint recommendations to government. One of the key elements of the proposal was the establishment of a caribou conservation area covering almost 835,000 hectares. The forest products companies involved agreed to voluntarily and permanently avoid harvesting the area to provide for better caribou habitat. There are indications that the Ontario government’s support for these recommendations will soon evolve into formal implementation.
Resolute believes its contributions to CBFA working groups and its overall commitment to sustainable forestry positively impacted the process. According to the company, its employees participated in CBFA activities, offering concrete proposals and committing thousands of work hours to the initiative. Resolute also stepped forward to provide funding and offered significant additional financial support to the process.
The company defends its position by saying it will not support proposals that do not balance environmental, social and economic considerations.
“Resolute will simply not abdicate our responsibility to address regional concerns of the North, including the First Nations' interests with whom we have a number of business and economic development initiatives already in place or pending. We agree that environmental concerns must be at the forefront, however, the regional social and economic impact must also be part of the equation," said Richard Garneau, president and CEO of Resolute Forest Products.