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Boreal Forest Conflicts Far From Over

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Issue: 69 Section: Environment Topics: forestry, land title, forest offsets

May 20, 2010

Boreal Forest Conflicts Far From Over

Mainstream enviros, timber industry shut First Nations out of "historic" deal

by Dawn Paley

Green Logs? Remix of an image by Rene Ehrhardt, CC 2.0. Photo: Rene Ehrhardt

VANCOUVER—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 Canada.

"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 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, tar sands campaigner with the Indigenous Environmental Network, addressing Kallick's exclusion of First Nations as "principle combatants" over forestry policy.

"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 organizations.

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 12-page abridged version of the agreement has been made public. The full agreement was leaked to the Vancouver Media Co-op (VMC) May 19. 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 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 OilSandsTruth.org.

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 proponents 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 release.

"Unless we are to believe that the CBI [Canadian Boreal Initiative], 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 Avrim Lazer, 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 its ties to large oil companies. The Ivey Foundation has been a prime backer of controversial BC environmentalist Tzeporah Berman's organization PowerUp.

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. This article was originally published by the Vancouver Media Co-op. Dawn Paley is a Vancouver-based journalist.

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Comments

A Big Concern Re: The New Boreal Forest Agreement

A Big Concern Re: The New
Boreal Forest Agreement
by John H.W. Hummel

Dear Friends: After examining a leaked copy, found here: http://vancouver.mediacoop.ca/sites/mediacoop.ca/files2/mc/Final.pdf of the new Boreal Forest Agreement between Forestry Companies and several large environmental groups, I am much troubled by section 12 on pages 38 and 39 of this document.

In my opinion, this particular section is an ingenious bit of divide and conquer on the part of the Forest Companies.

Here's why:

1) If you look at the attached Map of this agreement, you will see that large chunks of the Boreal Forest are designated under the agreement as "Commercial Forestry Zone". As the forestry companies who are party to the agreement will not be logging in areas designated as "Area of Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement', where is clear-cut logging likely to intensify during the three years of the agreement? Obviously in the area designated as "Commercial Forestry Zone"! Please Note: Grassy Narrows' entire traditional territory is now designated under this agreement as 'Commercial Forestry Zone'.

2) Many First Nations and their allies in the smaller environmental groups will certainly try and protect sections of these "Commercial Forestry Zones" For example Grassy Narrows First Nation. How can they do that? Boycotts of the products of the Forest Companies who are destroying their lands, direct actions, media campaigns etc. In short, everything this agreement was
designed to prevent.

3) Greenpeace, Forest Ethics and other ENGO's are party to this agreement. It is likely that other ENGO's, some First Nations and some Aboriginal organizations will sign onto this agreement. The signatories to this agreement are actively trying to recruit other groups to sign on and be bound by this agreement.

4) All of the groups who have and are likely to sign on to this agreement, are associated with other ENGO's and First Nations "through membership or otherwise". For example, a few weeks ago Greenpeace was supporting Grassy Narrows at protests at Queen's Park over Mercury Poisoning, Forest Ethics (as far as I know) supported Grassy Narrows in their logging blockades.

5) My read of pages 38 and 39 (section 12) is that it sets up an intelligence service for the Forest Industry where signatory members must immediately inform on other "third parties" to the Forest Industry if those "third parties" are planning any sort of actions against, for example, Weyerhaeuser. Not only that, but the ENGO signatories to the agreement are also required to work with the Forest Companies to neutralize the statements or planned actions of those "third parties".

I say that this is an ingenious bit of divide and conquer because, it obliges the signatories to inform on anyone they are associated with (who does not go along with this deal) to the Forest Companies. This creates mistrust that weakens the larger environmental movement, weakens the Indigenous rights movement and weakens existing or emerging alliances between Indigenous
People and ENGO's.

The only way to avoid all this division is to remember that only a few individuals in the ENGO's who signed this agreement have actually read the entire agreement. The leadership of these groups only released an 8 page abridged version of the agreement to the public and the attached leaked 39 pages of the agreement does not include any of the Schedules or maps that are also part of the agreement.

One big question is: When the agreement runs out in three years, where will the companies log then?

Anyway, what do you make of this new agreement? hope you let me know.

For Land and Life,
John H.W. Hummel
Nelson, B.C.

P.S. Here is a recent press release I found on the Internet which which points out other potential difficulties regarding this new deal: http://forests.org/blog/2010/05/release-greenpeace-partners-wi.asp

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