Canopy helps reclaim caribou’s forest home: 170 million acres

The Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement is the largest conservation initiative in the world at a time when less than 1/4 of the world’s original forests remain in the large tracts necessary to maintain the critical diversity of a functioning forest.

As one of the lead organizations in an initiative of nine environmental organizations working with 21 logging companies, the non-profit organization, Canopy, signed the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement on May 18, 2010. Working closely with allies Greenpeace and ForestEthics, on what are called “markets campaigns”, Canopy partnered with large paper customers to shift expectations of boreal logging companies. This Agreement is the largest conservation initiative in the world at a time when less than 1/4 of the world’s original forests remain in the large tracts necessary to maintain the critical diversity of a functioning forest. It involves 170 million acres of boreal forest that preserves the Earth’s greatest unfrozen freshwater reservoir. It is also our shield against climate change because the boreal forests are the largest terrestrial carbon sink (rather than carbon release) on the planet. 201 billion tons of carbon are held in the peat, soil, and trees which is equivalent to 26 years of global greenhouse gas emissions.

 

Canopy has changed where paper comes from over the last ten years by partnering with over 650 book publishers, magazines, newspapers, and printers. This is an initiative that is driving sustainable change by using alternative materials to paper harvested from endangered forests. Canopy focused on these industries because 50% of the forests end up as pulp and paper products. Now Canada is a model for the world with the greenest publishing industry on the planet.

 

Canopy’s most successful effort, that generated a great deal of media attention, was in 2003 when Raincoast Books began publishing Harry Potter books on 100% post-consumer, 100% Ancient-Forest Friendly paper. It started a green wave in the publishing world. Currently 30 other publishers of the Harry Potter series choose to use Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) or recycled content paper.

 

The Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement represents two years of negotiations between forestry and environmental groups and the support of heavy hitters in the publishing and printing industries like the Globe and Mail and Transcontinental Inc.

 

At a Canopy presentation last Thursday, Nicole Rycroft, executive director of Canopy, indicated that the agreement is an exciting first step, reflecting the greening of the marketplace which is what influenced the forest companies to get involved. Rycroft described it as a testament to the power of the marketplace to drive solutions like these.

 

It requires the continued support and leveraging of the marketplace to ensure companies stay the course to meet the agreed upon milestones. Ultimately Provincial and First Nations Governments will have to make final decisions and legislate permanent protection.  While agreements are being implemented, 28.5 million hectares of critical caribou habitat and intact forest will have no logging or road building which creates the time for logging companies to shift away from areas that need to be protected and convert to sustainable practices. As companies in the forest industry pass the 75 milestones set over three years, they will get recognition in the marketplace, giving them a competitive edge.

 

Green is now the lifeline for the forest industry because they have fallen on hard times. The status quo for forestry companies has been untenable for decades. They are motivated to change by years of financial difficulty and customer pressure. Money remains the motivation for their desire to become green.  Profitable companies like Cascades are doing the right thing being green and they are seeing strong market support. Canopy and similar organizations have been a key factor in this transformation.

 

Canopy worked hard to build on the good will of the publishing industry, bringing out their desire to not negatively impact the forests. In their new role as environmental leaders, publishing companies are now powerful leveragers and allies, advocating for environmental change.

 

With the need for big solutions now with large-scale climate change and species extinction, government is not the vehicle for these solutions, Rycroft said. We must think outside the box. Canopy’s strategy recognized the slow response time of governments, which often takes the lead from powerful industry players. Visionary industry leaders, in the publishing field, knew instinctively that this was the right thing to do. Businesses are more entrepreneurial meaning they are more creative, nimble, and willing to take leaps and risks, which then further empowers governments to take bold action.

           

Nicole Rycroft in front of slide of the endangered woodland caribou

 

Rycroft went on to explain why saving the woodland caribou is one of the six goals of the agreement. Currently, 40 of the 57 herds in Canada have a less than 50% chance of survival. If the caribou’s survival is ensured, environmentalists know that other animal species will also continue to live in the boreal forest.

 

Rycroft indicated we need to reduce our consumption of paper and there is much scope for that. She questioned the digital shift as a solution stating that we do not want to replace one environmental disaster with another. She suggested we write to our favorite newspapers to ask if they have an endangered forest friendly paper purchasing policy.

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