This past Saturday, May 18, marked three years since I stood with 29 other environmental groups and logging companies and signed the world's largest conservation agreement, the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement (CBFA). I remember how I felt that day: elated, a little stunned; but, above all, optimistic about the progress that we could make collectively toward protecting one of our most critical natural resources: North America's Boreal forest.
Why does this forest in particular matter? Stretching across North America like a green crown, the Boreal forest cleans our air, gives us fresh water, helps stabilize our climate, and is critical for the four-legged creatures that call it home, like the woodland caribou. The woodland caribou is one of the most endangered mammals in North America.
For the past three years, 21 logging companies, all members of the Forest Products Association of Canada, plus nine leading environmental groups, have worked tirelessly towards solutions. And when I say tirelessly, I mean tens-of-thousands of hours of analysis, planning, negotiation and meetings between environmentalists and loggers trying to create new ways forward. This is after many years of hard-hitting campaigns, urging major retail brands to stop buying wood, pulp and paper that comes from caribou habitat. It's hard work. I do it because the Boreal helps sustain life as we know it: there are few more critical regions in the world when it comes to ecosystem-based resources (think fresh air, clean water).
But hard work only takes you so far. Despite the dedication of many over the past three years, there has been one company unwilling to make real commitments: Resolute Forest Products. Today the seven remaining environmental signatories of the CBFA are suspending further work with Resolute Forest Products.
Simply put, Resolute's leadership is incapable of looking beyond what it has defined as its narrow, short-term economic interests and they are not competent enough to create an agreement that balances environment and economics. They are all take and no give. Creating a win-win between logging companies and environmentalists isn't easy--but we have done it. Many times. In places like the Great Bear Rainforest, Chile, and the Inland Temperate Rainforest of British Columbia. In all those cases, there were tough negotiations, passionate disagreements, but in the end we all gave something up for the greater good.
On the other hand, Resolute--in the midst of negotiations that were aimed at getting extremely stressed forests and caribou herds a little space to recover, while ensuring that economic concerns were taken into account--announced that they're looking to expand logging operations. They will now become a source of wood, paper and pulp that is all about conflict, threatened caribou, and greed. That is the last thing that big brands in North America and Europe will want to be associated with.
While Resolute has proven unwilling to act in good faith, the other signatories of the historic CBFA remain committed to finding solutions for the Boreal. So am I.