Canadian Logger Should Adopt Sustainable Management in Boreal Forest and Stop Suing Critics
WASHINGTON (November 2, 2016) – The Natural Resources Defense Council is urging more than 100 major companies in the United States to demand that Resolute Forest Products drop its litigation against public interest organizations and adopt sustainable forest management in Canada’s ecologically valuable Boreal Forest.
NRDC sent a letter today making those points to key buyers of Resolute products—companies whose annual revenues approach $300 billion and include Lowe’s, Home Depot, Serta, Sealy, Simon & Schuster and leading newspapers such as the Los Angeles Times.
“In recent years, NRDC has watched with concern as Resolute has moved away from internationally accepted sustainable forestry practices,” the letter states. “As a forest products customer, you have the right and responsibility to ensure that products you buy come from companies who log in a manner consistent with sustainable forestry.”
NRDC hopes to work with Resolute’s customers to urge the logging company to drop lawsuits against critics of its logging operations; to stop attacking an international sustainable certification system known as the Forestry Stewardship Council; to ensure free, prior and informed consent from First Nations for activities on their territories; and support forest conservation and strong woodland caribou protection plans in Ontario and Quebec.
Montreal-based Resolute Forest Products, with annual sales of $3.6 billion in 2015, is a global company whose products include market pulp used for paper towels, diapers and coffee filters; framing lumber and flooring; tissue paper; newsprint; and specialty papers for books, catalogs, maps and advertising flyers.
When public interest groups have criticized Resolute’s forestry practices, the company has responded with lawsuits that stifle free speech.
In the most egregious example, Resolute sued Greenpeace and Stand.earth under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act – a law passed in 1970 to combat the U.S. mafia. In another case, the Ontario Superior court ruled that a number of Resolute’s claims were so “scandalous and vexatious” they were stricken from further consideration, according to NRDC’s letter.
By calling out Resolute, NRDC is highlighting a broader problem: How timber companies manage public lands open for logging in Canada’s boreal forest. Across Canada, intact forests on public lands are steadily being degraded. The habitat of the threatened woodland caribou is sharply declining. And the last refuges for the boreal forest’s biodiversity are in danger of being lost under timber cutters’ saws.
Today, the Canadian boreal forest, which covers a sweeping 1.4 billion acres, is under assault from all sides: logging, oil and gas extraction and mining. These actions are increasing air pollution, and reducing the region’s carbon pollution capturing capacity, as well as its reservoirs of stored carbon, thereby undermining efforts to fight climate change. They are also causing soil and water pollution, increasing fire risk and eliminating wildlife habitat.
“The long term health of Canada’s boreal forest is at risk and requires urgent attention from government and industry,” NRDC’s letter states, adding that “we also hope you will help us weigh in with the governments of Quebec and Ontario…to protect caribou and the last intact areas before they are irreplaceably fragmented and degraded.”
The full text of the letter follows:
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international environmental organization that has supported efforts to protect the Canadian boreal forest over the last twenty years. On behalf of over two million members and online activists, we write to inform you of a series of actions that Resolute Forest Products has taken to chill constitutionally protected free speech by public interest organizations and undermine efforts to ensure science-based conservation and sustainable forestry in Canada’s boreal forest. We request that you, as an apparent customer of Resolute, ask Resolute to drop its litigation against public interest organizations and focus its time and effort on addressing pressing conservation issues impacting Canada’s boreal forest.
Resolute has responded to public criticisms of its forestry practices by suing its critics. In the most egregious use of this tactic, Resolute is attempting to use the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) – a U.S. law developed to combat the mafia – to sue Greenpeace and Stand.earth, public interest organizations that continue to be critical of Resolute’s practices in the boreal forest. Other public interest organizations advocating for environmental protection and media organizations have filed amicus briefs in opposition to Resolute’s reliance on RICO. As the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and eleven media organizations and companies stated, Resolute’s claims “share a central purpose – silencing speech on matters of public concern.”
The RICO suit is just one in a series of lawsuits the company has served on its critics. In 2013, Resolute brought a defamation case against Greenpeace for statements critical of the company’s operations and practices in the boreal forest. While this litigation is ongoing, the Ontario Superior Court recently ruled that a number of the assertions by Resolute in that case should be struck as improper and irrelevant, and indeed referred to one of the assertions as “scandalous and vexatious.” We expect U.S. courts to similarly condemn the manner in which Resolute has framed its critics’ conduct in the RICO suit. In 2014, after the Rainforest Alliance – a leading sustainable forestry certifier – produced audits citing Resolute for non-compliance with FSC standards in two of its tenures, the company sued Rainforest Alliance for breach of contract with the stated purpose of suppressing those reports. The Rainforest Alliance litigation was ultimately settled, but Resolute’s complaint is notable for having named individual staff members as defendants. This is a chilling tactic that we most strongly condemn.
The real issue at play in the Canadian boreal is how companies like Resolute exploit the public lands opened for logging by provincial governments under their forest management regimes. Across Canada, intact forests landscapes on these public lands are steadily being degraded, the habitat of the threatened woodland caribou is declining precipitously, and one of the last refuges for the boreal forest’s biodiversity is in danger of being lost as logging pushes up against the northern cutting boundaries. The long term health of Canada’s boreal forest is at risk and requires urgent attention from government and industry.
In recent years, NRDC has watched with concern as Resolute has moved away from internationally accepted sustainable forestry practices. After Canadian conservation organizations determined that they were not able to make meaningful progress towards science-based conservation and forestry plans, the organizations suspended their cooperative work with the company. At the same time, Resolute has not only significantly decreased its commitment to Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC) certification, but also actively criticized the system itself. As recently as 2010, Resolute pledged to have 80% of its lands certified by the FSC. As yet, since 2012, the acreage of land managed by Resolute pursuant to FSC certification guidelines has fallen by nearly 50%. Indeed, by 2015, Resolute announced that it would not seek new certifications from FSC and signaled that it may not renew existing certifications.
As a forest products customer, you have the right and the responsibility to ensure that products you buy come from companies who log in a manner consistent with sustainable forestry. NRDC hopes to work with you to urge Resolute to drop its litigation against public interest organizations, cease its attacks on the FSC system, ensure free, prior and informed consent from First Nations on their territories, and support efforts to establish strong caribou protection plans in Ontario and Quebec. We also hope you will help us weigh in with the governments of Quebec and Ontario, asking them to continue to back the FSC and promulgate real plans to protect caribou and intact areas before they are irreplaceably fragmented and degraded.
We will be in touch with you to discuss how you can effectively engage on these critical issues. In the meantime, thank you for your time and please do not hesitate to reach out to us with any questions or concerns.
The letter was sent to:
Aim Media TX LLC
Dickenson Press, LLC
Edwards Brothers Malloy
Signature Book Printing
Archie Comic Publications
Kappa Graphics LLP
Penguin Random House
The Perseus Books Group
Simon & Schuster
Advanced Graphics Printing
Creps United Publications, LP
Midstate Printing Corporation
Prime Package & Label LLC
Ramallo Bros. Printing, Inc
Boise Cascade Building Materials
US LBM Holdings
E.C. Barton & Co.
Stock Building Supply
National Industrial Lumber
Universal Forest Products
Twin Rivers Paper Co.
Monadnock Paper Mills
First Quality Tissue
Gould Paper Corp.
Kempf Paper Corp.
Maple Leaf Distribution
Cleveland Plain Dealer
Las Vegas Review-Journal
Los Angeles Times
New York Daily News
New York Post
Orange County Register
San Francisco Chronicle
San Jose Mercury News
Tampa Bay Times
Telegram & Gazette
The Villages Daily Sun
Wall Street Journal
The Washington Post
Cengage Learnings Holding
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 2 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, Montana; and Beijing. Visit us at www.nrdc.org and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.
 Brief of Amici, The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and 11 media companies in support of Greenpeace’s motion to dismiss and motion to strike, September 15, 2016, Pg. 3, https://www.rcfp.org/sites/default/files/2016-09-16-resolute-forest-products-inc-v.pdf.
 Ontario Superior Court of Justice, Resolute Forest Products Inc. v. Greenpeace, August 26, 2016, pg. 22