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Environment

Canada's logging deal fails to appease all

Earlier this year Canadian loggers and environmentalists signed a landmark agreement hailed as a model of sustainable forestry management. But a fresh lawsuit suggests not everyone is happy with the deal that was cut.

A logging tractor in the woods

The agreement has been proclaimed good for both loggers and green groups

It's not everyday you see Greenpeace making nice with forest companies.

But a deal, signed earlier this year in Canada, will result in less logging in the country's vast northern forests.

It's being trumpeted as an end to the polarized fighting between loggers and environmentalists, despite signs that it may already be splitting forest campaigners.

The May 2010 Boreal Forest Agreement between nine environmental groups and 21 major forest companies covers more than 72 million hectares (278,125 square miles) of public forests from Canada's east to west coasts and is equivalent to an area twice the size of Germany.

This week, the two heads, Avrim Lazar, president of Forest Product Association of Canada and Richard Brooks, the forest campaign coordinator for Greenpeace Canada, described the deal as a "revolutionary understanding" in a joint op-ed for National Geographic magazine.

"It's of global significance because this is the way everyone hoped the world could work."

Give and take

A green pickup truck with a bumber sticker that reads, Trees are the answer

Both sides agree they need trees and forests

Under the deal, new logging on nearly 29 million hectares of boreal forest has been suspended for three years, and conservation plans for endangered species, including Canada's woodland caribou, have been developed.

For their part, environmental groups have suspended "do not buy" campaigns directed against Canadian forestry companies.

The Canadian forestry industry is worth over 40 billion euros ($53 billion Canadian).

After years of confrontations with the forestry companies, the nine environmental groups that signed the agreement would achieve the results they wanted, according to Richard Brooks, the forest campaign coordinator for Greenpeace Canada.

"This is our best and last chance to save woodland caribou in the boreal forest over a vast area," Brooks said.

"It is our last chance to save vast areas that will be durable to climate change. It's our best and last chance to put in forest management practices that we can be proud of here in Canada, and around the world."

Species still at risk

Caribou

Some speices of caribou are still in danger, First Nations members say

Yet doubts about the agreement's true value are already beginning to emerge.

One of conservationists' key motivations for the agreement was to secure habitat for woodland caribou, an emblematic species of Canada's boreal forests.

Yet even with the agreement in place, the caribou's habitat continues to be threatened, and the species remains at risk.

On September 9, a group of Alberta's First Nations people launched a lawsuit against Canada's federal government.

The group said the Canadian government wasn't doing enough to protect woodland caribou and their habitat in the boreal forest.

"Minister Prentice, the federal minister of environment, is required, under the federal Species at Risk Act, to prepare a plan to assist in the recovery of the caribou, and he hasn't done that," said Jack Woodward, a lawyer representing Beaver Lake Cree Nations, Enoch, Cree Nations and Athabasca Chipewayan First Nations.

The First Nations groups are arguing a large part of the boreal forest in north-eastern Alberta is critical habitat for woodland caribou, and must be free of industrial development.

The suit draws on research from the University of Alberta that has suggested some herds could face extinction if their forest habitat isn’t further protected.

Ellen Adelberg, of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society - one of the environmental organizations that signed onto the Boreal Forest agreement, said the issue highlights the concern that more needs to be done to protect boreal woodland caribou habitat as they teeter on the brink of extinction.

She added that pressure is mounting on industry and governments to protect more boreal woodland caribou habitat, a point proven by the agreement, and the First Nations legal petition.

Author: Cesil Fernandes (sms, cf)

Editor: Nathan Witkop

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