Alberta-Pacific Earns Certification for Sustainable Forest Management

Alberta-Pacific Earns Certification for Sustainable Forest Management

Alberta-Pacific Forest Industries Inc., or Al-Pac, has been certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) as demonstrating environmentally responsible, socially beneficial, and economically viable forest management practices.

The certification of 5.5 million hectares (13.6 million acres) of Alberta-Pacific's forest management area in northeastern Alberta represents the largest FSC-certified forest in the world. FSC is recognized internationally as one of the most independent, rigorous and credible forest certification systems.

The certification follows a comprehensive ten-month assessment according to FSC Canada's National Boreal Standard, which conforms to FSC's ten international principles and 56 criteria that reflects regional conditions and practices to be applied in a well-managed Canadian boreal forest.

"This FSC certification independently validates the direction we have taken as a company since we started operations in 1993," explains Andy Neigel, Alberta-Pacific's general manager and vice president operations. Neigel says Alberta-Pacific chose to pursue FSC certification because of it's credibility in the global marketplace, track record as a results-oriented independent organization, endorsement by Aboriginal people, conservation groups and business, and focus on achieving social and economic as well as environmental standards.

"FSC certification is a good fit for our company, our customers and our position in the global market. We are now able to satisfy requests we are receiving from customers worldwide who are introducing FSC-certified paper and seeking suppliers of FSC-certified kraft pulp."

Neigel also acknowledges the contributions of Alberta-Pacific team members, the collaboration with local communities and conservation groups, and the leadership of the provincial government in its commitment to sustainable forest management and responsible stewardship to the successful certification.

Alberta-Pacific's Forest Management Agreement Area (FMA) is within publicly-owned land that is awarded by the Province of Alberta's Department of Sustainable Resource Development.

FSC's executive director International Heiko Liedeker says the size and location of Alberta-Pacific's forest area will have a ripple effect on the supply and demand for FSC-certified products on the global market.

"We expect other companies and other countries to take notice of the achievement of Alberta-Pacific and the progress of Canada in embracing the responsible management of their forests, particularly in the boreal forests," says Liedeker. "We know from our surveys that the demand for many FSC-certified products is greater than the supply. Customers and consumers are becoming more aware and are requesting more products from well-managed forests, which now includes Alberta-Pacific's forest."

World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Canada, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society and Ducks Unlimited were instrumental in helping the company meet ecosystem management objectives relating to forest, ecology and wildlife required under FSC certification. They also assisted Alberta-Pacific in identifying High Conservation Value Forests and areas that should be deferred from harvest and act as ecological benchmarks to compare to harvested landscapes.

"Alberta-Pacific's successful approach to responsible forest management demonstrates that good forestry practices can also be good for business," says WWF Canada president Mike Russill. "The certification of 13.6 million acres of boreal forest in western Canada will result in more choices for the increasing number of environmentally-conscious consumers who want FSC-certified products and will help ensure communities that rely on Alberta's forests for their livelihoods will continue to prosper into the future. We congratulate Alberta-Pacific on their achievement and look forward to continually working with them in the future to make further conservation gains."

Alberta-Pacific initiated the certification process in 2000 with a review of its forest management practices compared to FSC principles & criteria. The company engaged SmartWood, a program of the Rainforest Alliance, to develop a detailed audit that their assessment team conducted in late 2004. The audit included verification of Alberta-Pacific's forest management operations, interviews with more than 100 stakeholder, Aboriginal and community representatives, and reviews of written responses to surveys sent to 200 residents in the area.

"This certificate is significant because of both its size and location," notes SmartWood director and Rainforest Alliance chief of forestry Richard Donovan. "Alberta-Pacific has joined in the FSC community's journey towards sustainability. Perhaps most importantly to those interested in, or affected by, the company's operations, this journey will include future annual FSC audits by SmartWood and continued interaction with interested parties on the key issues embodied within FSC's Principles and Criteria." The Athabasca oilsands area of Al-Pac's FMA, representing just under 300,000 hectares, was excluded from the certified area because this area is not managed according to Al-Pac's ecosystem management principles.

With Alberta-Pacific's certification, Canada is now the leading country in the world for FSC-certified forests with 14.3 million hectares, or 22.8% of the global total. Alberta-Pacific's certification is also the first in Alberta as well as the first within the boreal forest of western Canada.
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