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Praise for the Boreal Forest Agreement participants
By Tony Kryzanowski
I have to admit to an adrenaline rush when I read about the signing of the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement, which is essentially an agreement between traditional adversaries from the forest industry and the environmental movement to work together to preserve the integrity of ecosystems in the boreal forest.
To recap, the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement is a collaboration between 21 major Canadian forest products companies and nine leading environmental organizations. The agreement will apply to future management of 72 million hectares of forests from British Columbia to Newfoundland and Labrador.
To put this in perspective, this represents an area about twice the size of Germany.
What it specifies in terms of immediate action is the suspension of logging on nearly 29 million hectares of boreal forest--representing virtually all boreal caribou habitat within company tenures--to allow for intensive caribou protection planning while maintaining essential fibre supply for uninterrupted mill operations.
Another component is the suspension by participating organizations of divestment and "do not buy" campaigns targeting the boreal operations and products of companies participating in the boreal agreement. Companies and retailers that have been hit by these campaigns in the past are now breathing a sigh of relief.
Over the medium to long term, the parties agree to make representations to governments and local authorities to encourage them to come on board to launch specific conservation programs and achieve objectives related to balancing environmental protection with economic opportunity.
Whether these targets are met remain to be seen. However, considering that a framework has been developed so that both parties can actually talk to each other like adults makes the prospects for success a lot more likely.
Almost simultaneously, however, came news that 60,000 barrels a day of oil was spewing into the Gulf of Mexico from a totaled offshore oil rig owned by BP that did not have properly functioning emergency shutoff equipment. Later came news that one of the reasons why this happened was because of yet another inept government organization in the United States that essentially kowtowed to just about every whim from the petroleum industry to cut corners to maximize profit.
The daily news of yet another failure to cap the well and media spin from BP executives to try to minimize their liability was so depressing, I actually stopped watching the nightly news.
In general, I tend to give industry of all types a lot of slack in how they manage day to day operations because I know how hard it is. But time and experience have inevitably led me to this conclusion: the Canadian forestry sector gets it when it comes to humanity's impact on the environment. The petroleum sector? Well, not so much. These two events just confirm my suspicions.
Now, I'm sure the petroleum sector also has all kinds of motherhood agreements related to environmental protection, although I have to say that ultimately the proof is in the pudding.
Let's look at that sector's recent track record. Let's start with migrating waterfowl dying in toxic tailing ponds in Fort McMurray. How about houses having to be moved in the town of Calmar, Alberta because of their proximity to a leaking gas well that a petroleum company surrounded with what looks like a steel garden shed, and just abandoned. What about the miles and miles of old pipelines abandoned in the Rainbow Lake area of Alberta by many companies that no longer exist? This makes it a nightmare for logging contractors working in the area who are required to build pipeline crossings, because they often come across
Let's also consider how long it took the petroleum sector to finally reduce the size of seismic lines to minimize the amount of wood fibre left to rot or burn. At one time, more wood was harvested from seismic line cutting on an annual basis in Alberta than the total annual allowable cut of forest companies.
I haven't even touched on the impact of fossil fuels on the production of greenhouse gases and global warming.
I can't cheer hard enough for President Barack Obama's plea on his recent address from the White House Oval Office for the developed world to work harder to wean itself off fossil fuels and onto sustainable alternative energy sources. Yes, there is a massive shortage of biomass to replace the fossil fuels being burned to generate power in Canada. But we also live in the second largest country in the world with all kinds of arable land that could be planted into fast growing woody crops or other sources of biomass for use in energy production. Talk about a job creation opportunity and a new cash crop.
It gives me no great pleasure to slam another industry sector, especially living in a province benefiting economically from the extraction of fossil fuels. But at some point a person has to ask which business sector is doing a good job of harmonizing its activities with the needs of the rest of humanity and which industry is cutting corners or doing the minimum.
I want to thank all business leaders in the Canadian forest sector who worked with their counterparts in the environmental movement to bring about this Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement.
I am proud to be writing about your success stories at a time when it's really hard to find something positive to say about business in general, given what else has been going on in the world lately.
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