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Management Side
The Final Word by Chuck Swann
The largest undisturbed boreal forest on Earth spans northern Canada and comprises two million square miles of pines and firs. It has become the subject of a boreal brouhaha. The fuss began largely because the Forest Stewardship Council, supported by 13 American environmental advocacy groups, wants the governments of Ontario and Quebec provinces to lay some additional tight conservation measures on the vast forest. The Quebec Forest Industry Council, which represents nearly half of Canada's $20 billion timber industry, opposes these measures.

Thus we are being treated to what is apparently another round--and this is a big one--in the seemingly unending cage match between environmentalists and industry. Both sides have pertinent points to make.

Canada has 50 million acres of FSC certified forest and more than half of this is in Quebec. FSC certification requires that timber harvesters respect the land rights of indigenous people, take measures to reduce the impact of logging, promote reforestation and maintain forests that have special social or economic value. Now, the FSC is pushing implementation of a new measure that would require timber companies to set aside new swaths of the boreal forest for conservation, in addition to the 42% of the boreal forest that lies north of the area where Quebec allows forestry for supplying mills.

The Quebec Forest Industry Council, on the other hand, has sent a warning to the Quebec government forest ministry that the new measures would threaten thousands of jobs and the communities that rely on them. The industry-sponsored council says the new measures are so restrictive they would nullify the value of maintaining FSC certification. The council says that if companies have to choose between maintaining FSC certification and maintaining their wood supply, they will opt for their wood supply.

But the Canadian timber industry exports nearly two-thirds of its harvest to the United States, and big-time American buyers such as Kimberly Clark and Procter & Gamble prefer to use FSC certified wood. How much American preferences can influence Canadian practices remains to be seen.

Chuck Swann is the senior editor of Paperitalo Publications. He can be reached by email at chuck.swann@taii.com.

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