To the Editor:
The government of Ontario recently announced it is seeking public input on how to best protect the woodland caribou in northern Ontario while protecting economic development in the region.
This has been a contentious issue and it is understandable that passions would run high on both sides of the debate, but we think there is a better, more constructive path forward through creativity and cooperation.
In 2010, we came together as a group of forest companies and conservation organizations under the banner of an unexpected agreement to work together to find solutions to problems such as this one.
Forest companies such as Abitibi-Bowater, Tembec and Weyerhaeuser have joined with environmental groups such as the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, Greenpeace, Ivey Foundation, and the David Suzuki Foundation in signing the landmark Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement (CBFA).
It commits our group to work with each other, governments, First Nations and others to find a constructive way to ensure the survival of species at risk like caribou while also providing for a stronger and more competitive forestry industry.
We have developed recommendations that protect threatened caribou while safeguarding jobs in northern Ontario. Our plan proposes to minimize the expansion of the industrial footprint within caribou ranges and ensures that all non-closed mills have long term, economic and secure supplies of wood.
The recommendations propose to offset the increased costs industry may face in deactivating old roads and increased silviculture.
We also ask that government monitor populations of woodland caribou to better understand whether they successfully reoccupy previously disturbed areas.
There would be no disruption to any existing forestry operations by our proposed measures to protect this species.
There is no doubt the global economy is in the midst of the next industrial revolution – this time a green one.
Who prospers and who doesn’t will be determined by who embraces this revolution, who learns to produce more with less and who most quickly realizes that making and selling products with a strong environmental pedigree is critical to maintaining and expanding your market share.
We believe there can be a bright future for both forest industry jobs and caribou in the north. Getting us there, however, will require discarding the jobs versus environment mindset and recognizing that environmental sustainability is the basis for industry prosperity.
Making smart policy choices will enable Ontario’s forest industry to truly compete in a worldwide ‘green’ market place.
Successful forest conservation and business competitiveness require effective involvement of Aboriginal peoples and their governments. We are committed to involving Aboriginal peoples in a manner that is respectful of and engages Aboriginal rights, title, interests and aspirations.
The CBFA proposals set the stage for a transformation of the forest industry and offer a “win-win” for jobs and the environment.
The government has an exciting opportunity to take advantage this opportunity. We strongly urge them to do so.
Ontario Members of the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement
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