Alberta-Pacific certification to FSC standard puts Canada in first place worldwide
Alberta-Pacific Forest Industries (Al-Pac) has obtained the world's largest Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification for 13.6 million acres (5.5 million hectares) of the company's forest management area in northeastern Alberta. The certification by SmartWood, a program of the Rainforest Alliance, catapults Canada to first place worldwide in terms of FSC-certified land. Canada is now home to 14.3 million hectares, or 22.8%, of the world's FSC-certified forests.
The newly-certified area is the first in Alberta and covers nearly 9% of the province, in an area of boreal forest. Al-Pac's achievement will also bring hundreds of thousands of tons of FSC-certified, elemental chlorine-free hardwood pulp to the world's markets.
Brent Rabik, Al-Pac's director of strategic projects, explained the importance of certification to the company. "It's risk management for us," he said. "We haven't been asked by any of our customers to get certified, but we believe that in the future, everyone in the pulp and paper markets will eventually need to be certified to some standard to survive.
"We decided to go with FSC/SmartWood because they have the most rigorous standards, so we will be well-situated in the future. We can provide consumers assurance that buying our pulp is seen as a favorable thing in the marketplace."
SmartWood is the world's largest FSC-accredited forest certifier, with more than 69 million acres (28 million hectares) now under certification around the globe.
"FSC certification is a good fit for our company, our customers and our position in the global market. We are now able to satisfy requests we are receiving from customers worldwide who are introducing FSC-certified paper and seeking suppliers of FSC-certified kraft pulp," said Andy Neigel, Al-Pac's general manager and vice-president of operations.
Neigel also acknowledged the contributions of Alberta-Pacific team members, the collaboration with local communities and conservation groups, and the leadership of the provincial government in its commitment to sustainable forest management and responsible stewardship to the successful certification.
Al-Pac's forest management area (FMA) is within publicly-owned land. The company manages an area some 5.8 million hectares in size under an agreement with Alberta's Department of Sustainable Resource Development. The Athabasca oilsands area of Al-Pac's FMA, representing just under 300,000 hectares, was excluded from the certified area because this area is not managed according to Al-Pac's ecosystem management principles.
The company began the certification process in 2000 with a review of its forest management practices compared to FSC principles & criteria. In 2004 at the final stage of the process, a five-person certification team, led by senior forester Keith Moore, implemented a comprehensive ten-month assessment in accordance with FSC Canada's National Boreal Standard. The National Boreal Standard conforms to FSC's ten international principles and 56 criteria reflecting regional conditions and practices to be applied in a well-managed Canadian boreal forest.
"The assessment demonstrated that Al-Pac has improved its approach to dealing with Native peoples and to protecting legacy forests, which include old-growth trees, caribou habitat and historically significant sites," said Richard Donovan, SmartWood director and chief of forestry for Rainforest Alliance. SmartWood favourably reviewed Al-Pac's conservation efforts in adjoining and overlapping oil and gas exploration operations, although the lands most intensely affected by oil and gas exploration are not covered under the certificate.
"This certificate is significant because of both its size and location," Donovan noted. "Alberta-Pacific has joined in the FSC community's journey towards sustainability. Perhaps most importantly to those interested in, or affected by, the company's operations, this journey will include future annual FSC audits by SmartWood and continued interaction with interested parties on the key issues embodied within FSC's Principles and Criteria."
World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Canada, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) and Ducks Unlimited were also instrumental in helping the company meet ecosystem management objectives relating to forest, ecology and wildlife required under FSC certification. They helped Al-Pac determine high conservation-value forests and areas that should be deferred from harvesting to provide ecological benchmarks for comparison with harvested landscapes.
Al-Pac is 70% owned by Mitsubishi and 30% by Oji Paper. The company operates Canada's newest, and North America's largest, single-line bleached kraft pulp mill. It is a signatory to the Boreal Forest Conservation Framework and a member of the Boreal Leadership Council.
The Framework provides a balanced approach to protection and development, including a call for at least half of Canada's vast Boreal region to be permanently set aside from development, and cutting-edge sustainable development practices to be implemented on the remaining landscape. Other signatories include Domtar, Suncor Energy, Tembec, Dehcho First Nations, Innu Nation, Poplar River First Nation, CPAWS, Ducks Unlimited Canada, Forest Ethics and World Wildlife Fund Canada. Together, they are the founding members of the Boreal Leadership Council, first convened by the Canadian Boreal Initiative in 2003.
More information is available from Barry Bartlett at Alberta-Pacific Forest Industries, 780/525-8336, or on-line at www.borealcanada.ca, www.rainforest-alliance.org.