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Boreal Forest Conflicts Far From Over PDF Print E-mail
Earth News
Wednesday, 19 May 2010 02:06

Boreal Forest Conflicts Far From Over
Mainstream enviros, timber industry shut First Nations out of "historic" deal

By Dawn Paley

Timber companies and environmental organizations came together Tuesday to
announce the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement, which they say could
protect a swath of boreal forest twice the size of Germany, and maintain
forestry jobs across the country.


"This is an agreement between the two principle combatants over logging,"
said Steve Kallick, director of the Boreal Conservation campaign of the
Pew Environment Group.

But Indigenous peoples have been left out of the agreement, and grassroots
environmentalists are concerned that the proposal represents a move
towards more corporate control over forests in Canada.

"Name a forest struggle in Canada that hasn't been spearheaded by First
Nations from the beginning," said Clayton Thomas-Muller, who is the tar
sands campaigner with the Indigenous Environmental Network.

"A lot of First Nations groups, in Haida Gwaii, in the Boreal forest, and
places like Grassy Narrows, Barrier Lake and Temagami, I think they would
have a much different analysis and memory then Mr. Kallick."

The three-year agreement is the largest of its kind anywhere on the
planet, according to a representative from Greenpeace. Twenty one forestry
companies have signed on, as have nine environmental organzations.

But for some, like Thomas-Muller, today's announcement is reminiscent of a
another deal, signed in British Columbia in 2006.

"I think we have to remember the previous version of this deal, which was
the Great Bear Rainforest, and we have to remember how that deal in the
end was signed: it was signed not with all the First Nations partners, it
was signed behind closed doors, by Tzeporah Berman and company," he said.
"And many First Nations felt extremely burned by that."

"It's a massive tomb, uh, tome that we've put together," misspoke Richard
Brooks from Greenpeace at the press conference on Tuesday morning. Only a
twelve page abridged version of the agreement has been made public. It is
unclear when (if ever) the full agreement will be released. According to
Brooks, it will now be presented to various levels of government.

"It will really change the nature of environmental work and the debates
around the environment," said  Kallick. But whether those changes are for
better or for worse is still up for debate.

"The Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement is essentially another huge jump
away from democracy, towards corporate control of the lands of Canada, as
well as the corporatization of what is left of a once defiant
environmental movement," said Macdonald Stainsby, co-ordinator of

Although the big environmental groups will drop their "do not buy" and
divestment campaigns around Canadian timber, Thomas-Muller thinks the
conflicts will continue.

"I hardly think that this in any way represents an end to the conflict
between the true proponants of the war over the boreal forest, which of
course are corporations and First Nations," he said. "What this means is
that First Nations no longer have the support of these mainstream
environmental groups that have fallen into the strategy of conquer and
divide deployed by industry."

For their part, smaller environmental groups are worried the deal will
distract from the ongoing devastation of Canada's forests, and could
contribute to more false solutions for climate change.

“Ontario has no legal limit on the size of clearcuts which are permitted
to flatten an area equivalent to 1,400 football fields each day in our
province,” said Amber Ellis, Earthroots Executive Director, in a press

"Unless we are to believe that the CBI, David Suzuki Foundation, CPAWS and
ForestEthics all under cut their own campaigns, this is only a part and
parcel to set up a carbon market, and allow forest offsets to go alongside
carbon offsets and further entrench false solutions to the climate
crisis," said Stainsby.

"We plan to turn this into a competitive advantage," said Avram Lazer, the
CEO of the Forest Products Association of Canada. "We think this sets the
pattern that everyone should follow."

Greenpeace spearheaded the deal, which was "in some ways" sponsored by the
Pew and Ivey Foundations, according to Lazer.

The Pew foundation has already come under close scrutiny by activists
because of their ties to large oil companies. The Ivey Foundation has been
a prime backer of controversial BC environmentalist Tzeporah Berman's
organization Power Up.

For his part, Kallick would like to see other industries at the table on
the agreement. "They're not within the four corners of this agreement, but
we would love to have similar talks with the oil and gas industry and also
with the mining industry as well," he said.

With files from Dru Oja Jay.


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