ANYONE who knows Northern Ontario knows that forestry is king. We supply enormous amounts of wood, pulp, paper and a growing array of other products to the world made from the trees that comprise the vast boreal forest.
Forestry took a big hit in the last recession and forestry companies that survived had to be keen to adapt.
One way to do that in a world increasingly concerned with sustainability is to apply to join the international Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) established in 1993 to “promote environmentally appropriate, socially beneficial and economically viable management of the world’s forests.”
An FSC label on a company’s wood products is a valuable symbol. To maintain certification, a company must periodically invite an independent certifier to inspect the forest and its management.
In 2013, an independent FSC certification body — the Rainforest Alliance — found “major non-conformances” affecting some Resolute Forest Products FSC-certified forests. Here in the Northwest the Black Spruce and Dog River certificates were suspended while the Caribou Forest certificate was terminated.
This led to a legal battle after Resolute gained an injunction against public release of the Caribou audit. With the matter unresolved, Resolute took the unusual step of publicly questioning FSC management and policies, causing FSC to demand the company stop harming FSC’s credibility. Following an April meeting, FSC “acknowledged the positive signs shown by Resolute” to begin to regain its certificates.
Since then, the target has shifted to various environmental groups that have been calling on forestry companies to cut the boreal forest sustainably. This region’s municipal association and chamber of commerce want such groups to “cease and desist” campaigns they say are “based on ideology and misinformation and not on evidence-based science . . . .” Last week, the federal and Ontario forestry ministers claimed much the same thing.
To challenge groups comprised of environmental scientists with forestry expertise is itself a stretch. The FSC process relies on such groups to uphold its standards with thorough audits. (A recent flyover of the Ring of Fire by the Wildlands League that alleged ecosystem damage from construction of temporary mining exploration camps is one example of exaggeration.)
In the main, the work of these groups is beneficial to the betterment of natural resources industries and the economy of the North. Who else will independently ensure “environmentally appropriate, socially beneficial and economically viable management” of our forests?