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Woodland caribou in the Selkirk mountain range of British Columbia. (HANDOUT/REUTERS)
Woodland caribou in the Selkirk mountain range of British Columbia. (HANDOUT/REUTERS)

Globe editorial

Trees, caribou and fair-minded science Add to ...

The three-year-old Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement may have had its greatest success so far, in developing fair-minded scientific advice on forest industry practices and environmentalist contentions.

The CBFA was entered into by most of the major Canadian forest products corporations and a group of environmental organizations – with particular concern for woodland caribou habitat.

On its face, it is an agreement to agree, an expression of principles, though it has, most notably, reached an agreed-upon plan for northeastern Ontario, now awaiting the imprimatur of the government of Ontario.

Avrim Lazar, a former CEO of the Forest Products Association of Canada, who had previously been a civil servant for a quarter-century, told The Globe’s editorial board on Monday that, in the past, the debate about forestry “depended so much on tame scientists to support us” – that is, as the case might be, either the forest industry or the environmental NGOS.

Mr. Lazar did not mean – or say – that the “tame scientists” were presenting false data or fallacious arguments to the interests that sought their advice. Rather, they quite naturally selected and emphasized “the facts that best supported their position,” as he put it.

In contrast, now that the CBFA organization has been at work, consensus views are far more likely to emerge, according to Mr. Lazar.

Built in to the agreement are a forest practices experts panel and an independent science advisory team of “evolving groups of experts.”

The plans for most of Canada’s vast boreal forests have not yet been settled, but a more objective scientific culture on such a contentious topic is a great achievement.

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