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Markus Mauthe

An environmental group has withdrawn from a conservation pact with Canada's forestry industry, saying little has been accomplished after nearly three years of talks aimed at protecting trees and caribou in the boreal forest.

Vancouver-based Canopy, a not-for-profit organization that supports environmentally friendly paper, said on Wednesday that it had high hopes when it helped to forge the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement (CBFA). Canopy's decision to withdraw comes four months after Greenpeace Canada pulled out of the conservation pact, which is meant to serve as the framework for companies and environmentalists to spell out specific areas off limits to logging.

Seven environmental groups remain at the table with 19 companies in the forestry sector in the quest to determine ecologically sensitive areas of Canada's boreal, or northern, forests.

Canopy executive director Nicole Rycroft said she is disappointed by the absence of any major breakthrough since nine environmental groups signed the CBFA on May 18, 2010, with members of the Forest Products Association of Canada.

"We had thought of this and hailed this as a game-changer, but at some point you need to step back and acknowledge that it hasn't worked out," Ms. Rycroft said in an interview. "I would hope that in the course of the next month that our move pushes industry to come forward with some protection. I expect that there will be some level of conservation, but from what I can see, it is not going be at the scale that is required to keep our boreal forests healthy."

She said Canopy will be informing key purchasers of paper about her group's disappointment with the CBFA, while striving to develop new partnerships with individual forestry firms in priority areas such as Quebec's Broadback Valley region.

Last month, Greenpeace Canada backed away from its allegations that Montreal-based Resolute Forest Products Inc. had contravened the CBFA.

Mark Hubert, vice-president of environmental leadership at the Forest Products Association of Canada, said it is not easy to reach consensus as companies try to maintain a vibrant forestry business and environmental groups lobby to protect endangered areas.

"It is hugely complex. We wish things were moving faster. We would like to see implementation progress more quickly, but we still have a critical mass of support. That's what is important," said Mr. Hubert, who was in Vancouver on Wednesday for a CBFA meeting of industry and environmental representatives. "One less organization is not going to make or break the CBFA."

Janet Sumner, executive director of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society's Wildlands League chapter, said logging has continued in some caribou habitat, but her group intends to participate in negotiations as long as progress is possible.

"Every group needs to do its own assessment. You can have a great process, but we can't just talk. Somebody needs to agree to something," Ms. Sumner said. "All we're doing is talking while there's logging. It is complex, but we need to see something by the third anniversary and we're definitely pushing for results."

Canada's foresters estimate that half of the country's lumber production comes from trees harvested in the boreal forest.