World Forest Congress Harmony Broken By Canadian Logging

QUEBEC CITY, Canada, September 30, 2003 (ENS) - For the first time, the World Forestry Congress addressed what humans need from the forest, what the forest can provide sustainably and the harmonization between the two. Worldwide, some 1.6 billion people rely on forests for their livelihoods.

The final declaration of the XII World Forestry Congress, issued Sunday, envisions a "future with social justice, economic benefits from sustainable forest management, participatory governance, and responsible use of forest resources."

Hosted by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, the Congress is held once every five years. This year's event, held from September 21 through 28, attracted more than 4,000 participants from 140 countries.


Dr. Hosny El-Lakany, assistant director-general of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (Photo courtesy IISD)
Hosny El-Lakany, assistant director-general of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), said the Quebec gathering helped to bring about more awareness that forest issues should be reinstated on the political agenda at the highest level. He called on the forest sector to commit to physical and psychological rejuvenation, and to take cultural values into account.

Jason Jabbour of the University of Toronto, presented the Congress’s final statement, which said, "Forests have enormous potential to make an invaluable contribution to the imperatives of this era - for environmental security, poverty alleviation, social justice, enhancement of human well-being, equity for present and future generations."

"By harmonizing the needs of people and the planet for forest services we can progress along the path of sustainable development," the Congress declared.

To realize this vision, the Congress called for sustained political commitment, a stronger forest sector, bridges with other partners and sectors, sustained international cooperation, recognition of the knowledge of indigenous people, and management of forests and trees at local and regional scales.

But not all at the Congress was peace and harmony. Quebec Minister of Forests Pierre Corbeil and his chief foresters stated at gathering that damaging logging like clearcutting had not existed in Quebec for at least three years, and that forestry was sustainable within the province.

But Greenpeace Canada took issue with that statement and used the Quebec government's own figures to prove the minister wrong. About 260,000 hectares are clearcut each year in Quebec according to the National Forestry Database Program which was founded by the Canadian Council of Forestry Ministers and is maintained by the government agency Natural Resources Canada, Greenpeace pointed out at the meeting. Corbeil sits on this council.


Almost half of the Canada’s boreal forest region has been allocated to industry and intact, northern forests are being eyed as the next cutting frontier by multinational logging companies. (Photo courtesy Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society)
“All the figures given came from public government sources.” said Richard Brooks, forest campaigner with Greenpeace Canada. “Clearly the government is using fancy language to deceive the citizens of Quebec and Canada. They understand just how negative an image clearcutting has.”

Greenpeace is calling on the Quebec government and industry to end destructive logging practices like clearcutting and adopt an immediate moratorium on developing the most endangered and intact portions of the boreal, or northern, forest until proper conservation land use planning can take place.

And on Canada's west coast, the perennial battle over logging rages on. British Columbia Premier Gordon Campbell astounded the environmental community Friday when he announced that the government would consider logging in provincial parks.

Addressing the Union of British Columbia Municipalities, who moments earlier had passed a motion against logging in parks, Campbell announced that he would not rule out logging in parks to manage the mountain pine beetle outbreak.


British Columbia Premier Gordon Campbell (Photo courtesy UBCv)
“The Premier is using the mountain pine beetle epidemic as an excuse to log in our parks,” saidd Joe Foy, campaign director for the Western Canada Wilderness Committee. “This is about pandering to the timber industry not about maintaining the health of our forests.”

In Quebec City, Herb Dhaliwal, Minister of Natural Resources Canada, who presided over the Congress, said it was a resounding success. He credited the participation of people from all walks of life, especially youth and indigenous peoples who called on governments to recognize their rights to natural resources and meaningful participation in forestry decisions.

Dr. El-Lakany said that the Congress underlined the rights of indigenous peoples, forest communities, forest workers and professionals and recognized their role in decision making related to forest management and utilization.

The Congress participants pledged to work towards reducing deforestation over the next decades, expanding or maintaining forest cover, enhancing forest restoration and strengthening the role of plantations in supplying wood products.

The final statement urged the world community to promote policies, partnerships, education, management and better monitoring, evaluation and reporting on progress in achieving the balance between the needs of people and the planet.

The Congress requested the FAO to monitor, assess and report on progress on the implementation of the conclusions outlined in its final statement. A progress report will be presented to the XIII World Forestry Congress to take place in 2009.