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Resolute Forest Products standing up to the environmental activist bullies

By Tony Kryzanowski

Canada’s Resolute Forest Products is locked in a pitched legal and public relations battle with environmental activist groups Greenpeace and ForestEthics.

Once again, this is a clear case of egos run amuck within these environmental groups.

The environmental groups may think that the tail has the power to wag the dog through a campaign of intimidation, but once again they are about to find out otherwise, and it will cost them and their financial supporters dearly in their pocketbooks.

Resolute is suing Greenpeace for $7 million in damages for intentional interference with economic operations. An attempt by Greenpeace to quash Resolute’s lawsuit against them has failed at the Ontario Court of Appeal level, and they were ordered to pay $20,000 in court costs.

ForestEthics has even gone so far as to declare in July that it was effectively banishing Resolute from the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement (CBFA), as if it even had that power and authority.

While this dispute has undoubtedly resulted in some short term financial pain for Resolute, this forest company’s courage to face down environmental activist bullies like Greenpeace and ForestEthics is a great service to the entire Canadian forest industry.

Resolute says that despite issues with Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification on some of its forested lands, it is 100 per cent certified by the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), an organization that competes with FSC on certifying sustainable forestry practices. It is continuing to seek certification of forests previously FSC-certified, and has reached an agreement with FSC auditor Rainforest Alliance to conduct a second Corrective Action Verification Audit with a new audit team on one of its northwestern Ontario forests. This was after a dispute on the first audit, which has been sealed by the court as part of a settlement with the Rainforest Alliance.

I agree with Resolute that there is nothing wrong with demanding to be treated fairly as part of the auditing process, and the fact that the Rainforest Alliance was willing to settle on the content of its first audit rather than face a court challenge speaks volumes.

Apparently, being SFI certified wasn’t good enough for Greenpeace. It has shown its true colors by being more interested in capturing media headlines and rebuilding its financial war chest by spreading bogus information, rather than working with Resolute to protect at risk species like the Woodland Caribou, while also being concerned with protecting important forestry jobs.

For example, a Greenpeace e-mail to its supporters recently referred to the Caribou Forest in Ontario as an “ancient forest” in its successful campaign to stop Best Buy from sourcing its paper for flyers from Resolute. Say, what?

As a fire origin forest, the boreal Caribou Forest of Ontario will typically burn every 100 to 150 years, usually from fires from lightning strikes. This is part of its natural renewal, if the wood is not harvested before it is overmature. Referring to it as an ‘ancient forest’ would be laughable if it wasn’t so pathetic.

This only puts on full public display the scientific ignorance that companies like Resolute must contend with in dealing with some environmental activist groups, apparently Greenpeace being one of them.

Things seemed to have been improving between Canada’s forestry companies working in Ontario and environmental activist groups with the signing of the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement (CBFA) in 2010. With the agreement, forestry companies agreed to set aside significant amounts of the boreal forest for the protection of the endangered Woodland Caribou in northern Ontario in exchange for a halt to public attacks from environmental groups that signed the CBFA.

Greenpeace was one of the groups, but it bowed out at the end of 2012, deeming that companies like Resolute were not keeping up with their commitments, like building forestry roads in off-limits areas in Quebec. This claim was quickly proven false, and before the ink on the letter announcing they were leaving the CBFA was dry, Greenpeace was already eating crow.

Having recently traveled through a considerable part of the Caribou Forest in Ontario, I saw nothing out of the ordinary with logging practices among contractors working in that area. In fact, I was aghast at the amount of paperwork they must endure from regulatory agencies like the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) on an annual basis to ensure they all are complying within, for example, the restrictions placed upon them by the Endangered Species Act, which is meant to protect species like the Woodland Caribou.

My guess is that the problem with maintaining the caribou population in northern Ontario has little to do with forest management practices but more to do with the same problem as other areas of the country where small pockets of caribou are holding on by a thread, and that is predation primarily from wolves.

I am pleased to read that northern Ontario communities, including the City of Thunder Bay, are throwing their support behind Resolute Forest Products in their dispute with Greenpeace and ForestEthics in their ‘You Deserve A Voice’ campaign, recognizing the $90 million investment the company has made into northwestern Ontario. Resolute Forest Products has also signed a Memorandum of Agreement with a number of area First Nations communities, which is providing them with an additional $100 million in new business opportunities.