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Texas-Sized Swath of Canadian Forest Saved by Industry-NGO Partnership

A Canadian timber trade group and a slew of environmental NGOs have partnered to develop conservation plans for 72 million hectares of public Boreal Forest -- an area larger than the state of Texas.

The Forest Products Association of Canada (FPAC) and nine environmental groups including Greenpeace and the Nature Conservancy unveiled the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement Tuesday, which calls for a three-year suspension of logging on nearly 29 million hectares of Boreal Forest and the development of plans for sustainable forest managment and the protection of sensitive species, such as endangered caribou.

This brings to the table corporate and nonprofit heavyweights Weyerhauser, Mercer International, and the Pew Environment Group, among others. First Nations representatives will also participate in developing plans to advance the agreement's core targets; third-party auditors will monitor and report progress.

“The importance of this agreement cannot be overstated,” Avrim Lazar, FPAC president and CEO, said in a statement Tuesday. “FPAC member companies and their ENGO counterparts have turned the old paradigm on its head. Together we have identified a more intelligent, productive way to manage economic and environmental challenges in the Boreal that will reassure global buyers of our products’ sustainability."

The agreement has six main goals:

• Use of leading, on-the-ground sustainable forest management practices based on standards in three existing certification programs, using the Forest Stewardship Council's National Boreal Standards as a reference point.

• Identify a network of protected areas that together represent Boreal ecosystem diversity and provide ecological benchmarks.

• Protect and aid recovery of at-risk species, such as the Boreal caribou.

• Address climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions throughout the forestry lifecycle in the Boreal Forest.

• Improve prosperity of the Canadian forest sector and surrounding communities.

• Promote participating organizations in the marketplace in relation to the agreement.

Under the agreement, there will be no new harvesting by participating forest companies over the next three years on nearly 29 million hectares within the covered areas. In exchange, all environmental groups will terminate their "Do Not Buy" campaigns targeting participating companies.Bull caribou

The near-29 million hectares of forest land will immediately placed in "100 percent moratoria," according to Greenpeace Forest Campaign Director Scott Paul.

"To be clear, today’s agreement is an agreement to START a three-year negotiation process," Paul wrote in a blog post Tuesday. "For the next three years Greenpeace and a bunch of other environmental groups will be negotiating with a consortium of 21 logging companies. Seats will soon be filled by First Nation representatives, too. A 100-something page framework for talks has already been agreed with 60 something measurable milestones that must be met along the way -- all monitored by an independent third party."

Next steps include completing priority projects in five regions that include the development of caribou action plans and management measures. The partners will also create management guidelines and perform a gap analysis between the new guidelines and existing practices at company members. Develop joint positions on the areas of climate and energy policy that cross with forest management and conservation.

Twenty-one companies comprise the FPAC, including AbitibiBowater, Alberta Pacific Forest Industries, AV Group, Canfor, Cariboo Pulp & Paper Company, Cascades Inc., DMI, F.F. Soucy, Inc., Howe Sound Pulp and Paper, Kruger Inc., LP Canada, Mercer International, Mill & Timber Products Ltd, NewPage Port Hawkesbury Ltd, Paper Masson Ltee, SFK Pulp, Tembec Inc., Tolko Industries, West Fraser Timber Co. Ltd, and Weyerhauser Company Limited.

The environmental groups participating include the Canadian Boreal Initiative, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, Canopy (formerly Markets Initiative), the David Suzuki Foundation, ForestEthics, Greenpeace, Ivey Foundation, The Nature Conservancy, and the Pew Environment Group’s International Boreal Conservation Campaign.

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