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The Montagnes Blanches forest area in Quebec.

Markus Mauthe

Greenpeace Canada is urging logging companies to shut down operations in five boreal forest areas, a pressure tactic that threatens to undermine peace in the forestry sector.

The forests – Quebec's Montagnes Blanches and Broadback Valley regions, Ontario's Kenogami-Ogoki and Trout Lake-Caribou districts and Manitoba's Boreal Gem – are endangered and in need of protection, Greenpeace forest campaigner Catharine Grant said Wednesday.

"We have commissioned independent mapping. It's not like we're just sitting there drawing lines on a map. We've run the analysis," said Ms. Grant, who released a 32-page Greenpeace report titled Boreal Alarm: A Wake-up Call for Action in Canada's Endangered Forests.

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The report notes that Resolute Forest Products Inc. has assets in three of the zones, namely Montagnes Blanches, Broadback Valley and Trout Lake-Caribou, but the Montreal-based company counters that it is not harvesting trees in Broadback Valley.

Greenpeace's report identified several other companies that have been active in the boreal, or northern, forests: Louisiana-Pacific Canada in Montagnes Blanches, Domtar Corp. in Trout Lake-Caribou and Tolko Industries Ltd. in Boreal Gem were among those named.

Greenpeace launched its Boreal Alarm campaign nearly six weeks after it withdrew from a conservation pact called the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement (CBFA). Twenty-one forestry firms and nine environmental groups signed the agreement in May, 2010. But Greenpeace alleges that Resolute committed logging violations by building a 20-kilometre-long road last year in an off-limits area in the Montagnes Blanches of Northern Quebec.

Resolute strongly denies any wrongdoing, said Seth Kursman, the pulp and paper maker's vice-president of communications, sustainability and government affairs.

"Greenpeace's culture of confrontation remained intact from the very beginning of their engagement in the CBFA. They were not a good-faith, collaborative partner," Mr. Kursman said. He accused the environmental group of irresponsible behaviour by pressing for a halt to logging in five areas – a position he calls simplistic and misleading, given the complex issue of harvesting in conservation areas.

Mark Hubert, vice-president of environmental leadership at the Forest Products Association of Canada, said the industry has made great strides in embracing sustainable logging practices over the past two decades. He said the truce reached in the CBFA was good while it lasted, but Greenpeace has been ramping up the pressure against logging companies, sawmills and wood products customers. "We're certainly not interested in going back to any sort of war in the woods," Mr. Hubert said. "We need to work collectively, not just consider one organization with a particular view of the world."

The industry association's members include Resolute, Louisiana-Pacific and Tolko.

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Domtar spokesman Pascal Bossé played down his company's presence in the boreal forest, saying that Domtar's forestry business was dramatically reduced after the sale of its wood operations to Eacom Timber Corp. in 2010.

Greenpeace is calling for "the immediate suspension of logging in these forests of Quebec, Ontario and Manitoba," adding that it is "advising wood products customers to check their supply chain to ensure they are not sourcing from these forests."

The environmental group said a path must be cleared for "respecting indigenous rights and title, suspending logging in these areas and completing conservation plans based on independent science."

In the ceasefire signed in 2010, environmentalists agreed to suspend their "do not buy" campaigns against offenders in the forestry sector as long as companies honoured their commitments to stop logging in ecologically sensitive areas of Canada's boreal forest.

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