Reforesting Canada

March 2, 1990 Dear Friend: Let me share with you some comments made by Adam Zimmerman, Chairman of Noranda Inc., after the Australian government denied his firm the right to build a polluting pulp mill in the Tasmanian forest. Environmental requirements are “wild down there,” he said in disbelief, holding Canada up as an example of a much more reasonable country. When a corporation comes to Alberta looking to exploit forest resources, he explained, the government “kisses them on both cheeks and gives them grants.” Mr. Zimmerman made this comment approvingly, but to us it exemplifies what’s wrong with Canada’s forest industry: our governments not only adopt weak environmental standards; they also use tax dollars to accelerate the rape of our forests. Without those tax dollars and other subsidies, most of the degradation of our forest lands would never occur. Alberta – as Mr. Zimmerman states – well illustrates this. A flurry of government grants, sweetheart loans and loan guarantees – plus next-to-free trees – are being given to 13 Canadian, American, and Japanese corporations to induce them to help tear down Alberta’s forest lands. Without those grants the companies could not afford to destroy our forests. As Canadians know all too well, Alberta is not alone in subsidizing the destruction of Canadian forests. Nova Scotia, Quebec, Ontario, British Columbia – in fact, most of our provincial governments – do so at a cost not only to the environment but to provincial economies as well. Because of Canada’s virtual giveaway policies, the value of our trees is cheapened. Parts of trees that others process are considered waste by our loggers and left behind to rot, resulting in far fewer jobs per tree felled than occurs in the U.S. and European countries like Sweden, which also have more modern and less polluting forest industries. Although Sweden and the U.S. are far from perfect, their forest stocks have been increasing while ours are in serious decline. Our provincial governments, echoing the Norandas and MacMillan-Bloedels of this land, say Canadian taxpayers need to subsidize these firms to enable them to compete with the Americans, because our northern trees take longer to mature. But the Swedes are competitive – without government subsidies – and they have a growing cycle as long as ours. While our industry is closing down sawmills and other forest operations in communities across the country because of shortages of wood, Sweden, Finland, and others have sustainable forest industries that keep expanding without fear of being wiped out through deforestation. In Scandinavia, as in other regions that have sustainable forest practices, the forests are managed mainly at the local level, either by village or tribal communities or by individuals, generally farmers, who tend their trees as conscientiously as they do their crops. Remote governments and multinationals play a much smaller role. But Canada is woefully out of step with the countries that have successful forest management practices. Governments and multinationals hold all the cards here while the small woodlot owners, farms, and native people have little or no say. If you believe Canada should be doing better – for our environment and for our economy – there are many things you can do. Join local conservation groups. Ask your elected representatives why Canada is paying to destroy its own forests. But most of all, inform yourself, your friends, and your co-workers about the wrong-headed forest policies of our governments. Although public opinion polls show that 95% of Canadians feel deeply for their forests, most of us do not recognize where the problems lie, and so are unable to evaluate government policies. Canada’s forest record – perhaps the worst among the Western nations – needs to be understood before meaningful reform can take place. We need no more Band-Aid solutions, such as token reforestation programs or “provincial parks” that are at the mercy of loggers. What we do need are more federal and provincial parks to protect our vanishing wilderness, and for these parks to be “off-limits” to commercial logging; we need an end to corporate subsidies; we need to respect the land rights of native peoples, whose track record at protecting forests is unparalleled; and we need to put more trust and power in our citizenry by distributing some or all of the remaining Crown land to those individuals – everyone from “forest farmers” to cottagers – who want it and will manage it sustainably. To ensure that the land is distributed equitably, each province should hold public hearings to determine the manner in which the land distribution should occur. The vast majority of Canadians love our forest land and would manage it well – certainly better than our governments and corporations have. Sincerely, Lawrence Solomon Executive Director

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