ForestEthics advocates off-limit logging areas to mitigate climate change, preserve species
In A Brighter Shade of Green, ForestEthics has proposed an ambitious conservation agenda and new green business model for the Canadian forest industry, one the environmental organization says will enhance the sector's ability to deal with climate change and prevent species loss.
Drawing on recognized science, the report terms the Canada's woodland caribou populations the modern-day "canaries in the coal mine," serving as key indicators of overall ecosystem health. In less than a generation, the status of this iconic species (whose image has graced the Canadian 25-cent piece since 1937) has deteriorated from "rare" in 1984 to "vulnerable" in 1995 and "threatened" in 2000 (based on definitions outlined by COSEWIC, the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada).
With endangered caribou as the starting point, the ForestEthics report calls for the establishment of "Off Limit" areas, large tracts of forest land set aside to protect and restore caribou as well as other animal and plant species.
The report includes data illustrating the importance of Canada's forests in helping to mitigate the impacts of climate change. It notes that Canada's total forest area, including temperate rainforests, stores a total of 84.4 billion tons of carbon-12 times the entire world's fossil fuel emissions-with natural forests storing up to 50% more carbon than the reforested areas planted by companies after logging. A Brighter Shade of Green reports that logging in Canada alone currently removes 33.42 megatons of forest carbon stores every year; this, it says, is more carbon than is emitted annually by all passenger vehicles in the country.
The report recommends a precautionary approach to timber harvesting to plan for the role of forests in mitigating climate change. This, it says, will require the setting aside of large areas of intact and old-growth forests to maintain carbon reservoirs and to maximize the resilience of forests to climate change.
"Canada is one of the few countries left in the world that still has enough intact forests left to truly ensure sustainability," says Tzeporah Berman of Forest Ethics. "Protecting Canada's intact forests-an international obligation-is an essential element of a national strategy for re-balancing the carbon budget and for helping our ecosystems adapt to the global warming that is already underway."
The framework proposed in the report emphasizes adaptation of communities and businesses to climate change and says the total annual allowable cut needs to be significantly reduced. "Too much is being logged too fast," it states, adding that "A working group of scientists, NGOs and government must come to an agreement on a sustainable level of cut."
In keeping with the "Waste not want not" adage, ForestEthics proposes a restructuring of the pulp and paper industry to incorporate recycled and agricultural fibre pulping infrastructure. Maximizing recycled content and reinforcing it with non-wood and Forest Stewardship Council-certified wood fibres is the best way to minimize paper's ecological footprint, says the report.
Finally, the report recommends that Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification be applied to all logging operations to assure the international market that Canada's forest practices are environmentally sound. The FSC system is internationally recognized and can ensure that provisions for caribou habitat conservation are incorporated into certifications, it adds.
Companies like Limited Brands, a leading retailer, are already taking the lead in adoptingd this new type of green business model. The company joined forces in a partnership with ForestEthics last December and implemented a precedent-setting paper policy. Limited Brands will no longer do business with suppliers who obtain paper from any caribou habitat range in Canada unless it has been FSC-certified. The policy also states a strong preference for post-consumer recycled fibre.
"Already, some industry leaders like Domtar, Tembec and AlPac are taking action to implement some of the recommendations of our report, including commitments to ecologically responsible forest practices certified by the
Forest Stewardship Council and working constructively to address emerging issues," said Ms. Berman. "We 're also seeing companies like Western Forest Products and Catalyst Paper taking positive steps in developing a sustainable model for conservation in the Great Bear Rainforest."
A Brighter Shade of Green was released shortly before the Forest Leadership Conference. The event, held last month in Vancouver, was co-sponsored by the ForestEthics-Limited Brands partnership.
The report may be viewed on the ForestEthics Web site, www.forestethics.org/brightershade.