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The Montagnes Blanches area of Quebec is the area where Greenpeace wrongly alleged Resolute Forest Products was breaching the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement.

Markus Mauthe

Resolute Forest Products Inc. has scored a victory over Greenpeace Canada, after the environmental group backed away from its recent allegations that the company contravened a forestry conservation pact.

Resolute said Tuesday that it had conducted its own internal investigation into Greenpeace's accusations in December that the Montreal-based company violated the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement (CBFA). Resolute said it found Greenpeace vastly mis-characterized logging activities in the boreal, or northern, forests. The environmental group has backtracked and acknowledged that Resolute did not breach any rules.

By listening to Resolute's counterpoints, Greenpeace is demonstrating that it takes opposing views from companies seriously, said Stephanie Goodwin, Greenpeace's senior forest campaigner based in Vancouver. "Resolute challenged our investigation," she said. "Our analysis was based on the use of an incomplete map that lacked a data layer."

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Greenpeace withdrew from the CBFA in December as part of its protest over what it believed were Resolute's logging violations. Ms. Goodwin said Greenpeace will continue the boycott because of its long-standing concerns about harvesting trees in sensitive areas.

"Some of the things that Greenpeace said were so outrageous," said Seth Kursman, the pulp and paper maker's vice-president of communications, sustainability and government affairs. "We have stood steadfast in our position that Resolute has been aligned with the word and spirit of the CBFA. We would not allow the deceptive accusations and misinformation to stand."

For instance, Greenpeace investigators said they came across freshly built roads, but Resolute noted those were short sections constructed by the Quebec Ministry of Natural Resources for the purpose of opening up access for reforestation. Greenpeace also produced a video of what appeared to be a devastated area, but Resolute explained that the images were of wooded property previously burned by fire. Another video that purportedly showed a machine allegedly causing destruction was determined by Resolute to be a scene of reforestation.

Twenty-one forestry firms and nine environmental groups signed the CBFA in May, 2010, with the goal of reaching consensus on permanent areas of protection from logging. "Logging in an endangered forest in the absence of any conservation plan is legal but wrong," Ms. Goodwin said. "There has been no thoughtful analysis on where you can conserve."

Vancouver-based Canopy, a not-for-profit organization that supports environmentally friendly paper, suspended "all formal engagement" with Resolute in December. The group will stick with that suspension because it remains disappointed by the lack of progress in protecting the boreal forest, said Canopy executive director Nicole Rycroft, who noted that the three-year CBFA is set to expire on May 18.

David Lindsay, president of the Forest Products Association of Canada, said there is a process in place for corporations and environmental groups to discuss ways to properly manage the boreal forest, and the three-year time frame could be easily extended to allow for further negotiations. "It's more complicated than anybody thought it would be," Mr. Lindsay said. "A very large and complex agreement requires good relationships with everybody."

While Greenpeace said Resolute has shown that it is onside with the CBFA, the environmental group voiced its disenchantment with ongoing logging in the boreal forest, which includes woodland caribou and old-growth trees. "The best judge of the agreement's success is whether it has achieved the change in the forest it promised the world. It has not. The Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement is no longer a credible tool for forest protection," Greenpeace said.

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