ANALYSIS: Industrial Logging in Canada’s Boreal Forest Is Unsustainable, Accelerates Climate Change
WASHINGTON – A new analysis provides evidence that large-scale logging in Canada’s boreal forest is not sustainable, despite claims from forestry companies operating there and U.S. corporations that purchase wood and pulp from the boreal. NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) found industrial logging operations are endangering the climate-critical boreal forest and undermining the rights of Indigenous Peoples to say how their traditional lands are managed.
“Powerful companies’ sourcing practices are damaging some of the world’s last intact forests, and putting Indigenous Peoples’ rights and species at risk,” said Courtenay Lewis, Manager of Ecosystems Policy for NRDC’s Canada Project and co-author of the report. “American manufacturers like P&G that purchase vast quantities of wood pulp from these companies are complicit in the loss of the boreal to unsustainable logging, and the threat this poses to the global climate.”
Industrial logging in Canada clear-cuts more than one million acres every year from the carbon-rich boreal forest, which stores nearly twice as much carbon as exists in all the world’s oil reserves, and nearly twice as much carbon per acre as the Amazon. Canadian provinces have given industry enormous leeway to clear-cut high volumes of the country’s remaining forest, and have failed to adequately report the climate emissions associated with logging, which has led Canada to consistently rank with Brazil and Russia as one of the top three worst global offenders for intact forest landscape loss.
NRDC’s analysis is based on wood sourcing by mills for three companies—Resolute Forest Products, Domtar, and Aditya Birla Group—in Quebec and Ontario. NRDC found these industrial logging companies source alarming levels of wood from areas with weak forestry standards that fail to guarantee critical environmental and human rights protections. A substantial amount of wood is taken from forest units that overlap with threatened boreal caribou habitat.
NRDC’s findings include:
- Combined, the three companies in one year sourced an amount of wood from public lands that if converted to “2x4” board, would stretch from the earth to the moon seven times.
- Industrial impacts are increasing in vulnerable areas. For instance, since 2013 the logging footprint in Ontario’s 2.5 million-acre Trout Lake Forest, critical for threatened species, has increased by more than 430%.
- None of the companies are publicly committed to requiring the free, prior, and informed consent (FPIC) by Indigenous Peoples potentially impacted by forestry operations supplying wood to the companies’ mills.
- These companies are overwhelmingly using industry-dominated certification systems to source from forests containing the habitat of threatened species.
“You can’t see the forest if you’re just thinking about trees. The Canadian government and industry claim that planting saplings where forests once stood means there isn’t any long-term damage, but no amount of tree planting makes clearcutting Canada’s intact forests sustainable,” said Anthony Swift, Director of NRDC’s Canada Project.
American corporations are complicit in intact boreal forest degradation and threatening Indigenous self-determination when they purchase wood products without confirming the sustainability of their supply chains. P&G, for example, uses virgin wood pulp from the boreal to make Charmin toilet paper and other one-time use paper products. Citing concern of the climate and human right impacts of boreal sourcing, last fall P&G’s shareholders overwhelmingly called on the company to report on how it will eliminate deforestation and intact forest loss from its supply chains.
“P&G faced a rebellion by 67% of its voting investors who sent a message that the company’s failure to protect communities, forests, and the global climate through its supply chain is unacceptable. Yet P&G continues to tout spurious claims about the sustainability of its sourcing practices. The path to leadership and responsibility is clear for P&G; the world is waiting for meaningful change,” said Shelley Vinyard, Boreal Corporate Campaign Manager with NRDC and co-author of NRDC’s “Issue With Tissue” report, a review of the U.S. tissue sector’s impact on the Canadian boreal forest.
NRDC’s industry recommendations include:
- Requiring free, prior, and informed consent of impacted Indigenous Peoples and supporting Indigenous-led conservation initiatives;
- Sourcing 100% of wood from Forest Stewardship Council–certified forests with strongly-implemented protections;
- Supporting efforts to safeguard undisturbed boreal forest, including boreal caribou habitat;
- Replacing virgin forest pulp with more sustainable alternatives, such as recycled paper.
The full analysis, “By a Thousand Cuts: How Powerful Companies’ Wood Sourcing Is Degrading Canada’s Boreal Forest,” can be found here.
NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, and Beijing. Visit us at www.nrdc.org and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.