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Avrim Lazar is president and CEO of the Forest Products Association of Canada and Richard Brooks is Forests Campaign Co-ordinator for Greenpeace.
As we move into the home stretch of the Ontario election race, it’s a good time to consider the health of our forests and the future of an industry that has fuelled Canada’s growth since the early days of European settlement.
Throughout Ontario, the forest industry and northern communities recently have been through tough times. Markets have changed, global competition has increased, mills have closed and many jobs have been lost.
Meanwhile, one of our most iconic wildlife species, Boreal woodland caribou, has been listed as a species at risk. Scientists are rapidly increasing their knowledge about caribou and the causes for the decline. These include habitat loss due to human settlement, industrial uses such as forestry and mining, predation and natural population cycles. There is a clear recognition that this problem should be addressed.
So should we protect caribou and lose northern jobs, or ignore caribou’s needs to grow our economy? In the Ontario election debate all too frequently, our politicians take one side or the other on this issue.
Some say roll back the legislative protection for caribou and focus on cutting more forests and developing more land. Others say ignore the need for maintaining community jobs and economic growth and instead protect caribou.
Environmental organizations and the forest industry are at least partly to blame for creating this stark choice between a rock and a hard place. For years, we were public enemies. Fortunately for jobs and for caribou, our approach is changing.
Here in Ontario, Abitibi-Bowater, Weyerhaeuser, and Tembec and conservation groups Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, David Suzuki Foundation,
Greenpeace and Ontario Nature are working together under the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement. We are working to show that a prosperous forest industry and caribou can co-exist.
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