Canadian loggers, green groups to protect forests

Tue May 18, 2010 3:47pm EDT
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By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Most of Canada's largest forestry companies announced a groundbreaking deal with environmental groups on Tuesday that will restrict logging in the country's vast northern forests.

The agreement covers 170 million acres (690,000 square km) -- an area nearly twice the size of Germany -- and ends years of battles over logging in Canada's massive boreal forest, which environmentalists say helps fight global warming by absorbing large amounts of carbon dioxide.

The forestry companies will stop all logging immediately on 75 million acres to protect woodland caribou herds under pressure from development. The two sides will then spend three years working out which restrictions to impose on logging in the remaining 95 million acres.

In return, as the agreement comes into force, the green groups will end international "Do not buy" campaigns against Canadian lumber. The deal took two years to negotiate.

"This is the way everyone hoped the world could work. Instead of fighting and having polarized discussions ... the way of succeeding tomorrow is going to be through constructive good faith engagement," said Avrim Lazar, chief executive of the Forest Products Association of Canada.

The U.S.-based Pew Environment Group, which brokered the deal, said it was the largest commercial forest conservation agreement ever concluded.

Lazar, saying the forestry industry had to modernize and become greener to thrive and win new markets, described the agreement as a business strategy.

"We know where the future is ... we're doing this not just because we love the boreal," he told a news conference.   Continued...

<p>The Alaska Highway is surrounded by boreal forest running north towards Whitehorse, Yukon in this file photo taken June 21, 2007. REUTERS/Andy Clark/Files</p>