Major U.S. Companies Urge Canadian Governments to Sustainably Manage Boreal Forest

Seventeen companies representing a range of sectors using paper and pulp products that may be sourced from Canada’s boreal forest, including Gap Inc., Hallmark, Seventh Generation, and Clif Bar & Company, urged government leaders in Canada to protect threatened areas of the boreal. In a letter to federal and provincial officials, the companies expressed concern that the lack of enforceable protections for boreal woodland caribou risks undermining the Canadian boreal forest as a “responsible option” for their sourcing.

"The majority of boreal forest exports end up in the U.S., which gives American purchasers a critical voice in calling for policies that protect threatened forest species. Boreal materials end up in a variety of products, and increasing numbers of companies are looking to Canada’s policymakers to implement strong environmental safeguards around boreal logging,” said Courtenay Lewis, Manager of Ecosystems Policy at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) Canada Project.

In the letter sent to federal and provincial government officials late last week, including recently-elected Ontario Premier Doug Ford, seventeen companies wrote they were “concerned by the lack of action by Canada’s federal and provincial governments to protect the habitat of the threatened boreal woodland caribou; a species whose population is in decline, and whose health is considered to be indicative of the overall state of the Canadian boreal ecosystem.” The companies also expressed concern that the degradation of this habitat contributes to global climate instability and goes against the wishes of many Indigenous Peoples.

The United States imports 80 percent of the combined forest product exports from Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, and Newfoundland and Labrador. Canada’s eastern provinces of Ontario and Quebec, which account for more than 75 percent of forestry activities in Canada’s boreal forest, are even more dependent on the U.S. market.

The boreal caribou was listed as threatened 15 years ago under Canada’s Species at Risk Act, and industrial activities—particularly widespread logging— pose the key threat to this species. Government analyses estimate that only 14 of Canada’s 51 boreal caribou herds are expected to be self-sustaining if current trends continue. Furthermore, research cited by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada indicate that, if current trends continue, 30 percent of boreal caribou could disappear in the next 15 years.

Despite the extractive activities threatening boreal caribou – and an October 2017 deadline imposed by the federal government- no province or territory has created meaningful caribou protection plans. Some provinces have even reversed progress toward caribou protection, further jeopardizing the future of this species. In the months ahead, the federal government has the option to respond to this inaction with interim protections for specific herds.

Anthony Swift, Director of NRDC’s Canada Project said “Federal and provincial governments should create habitat protection plans in close partnership with Indigenous Peoples, who have provided models for sustainable economic development across Canada in the form of protected areas and frameworks for caribou management.”

A copy of the corporate letter is posted here.  For more information about the boreal caribou, see a blog by Courtenay Lewis here.

For a French translation of this press release, please go here.


The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) 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 and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.