Forests and Climate Change

Much of the forestry-related legislation and initiatives value forests in terms of its ability to act as a carbon off-set.  Forests will be a huge asset to Canada as the cap and trade method of regulating green house gasses is quickly becoming the dominant approach North American governments are taking to establish a green economy and fight climate change.

Ontario’s boreal forest extends from the northern limits of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Forest to the Hudson Bay Lowlands with an area of 50 million hectares.  This region contains two thirds of Ontario’s forest.  Interest in protecting the Boreal Forests may stem from the enormous amount of carbon stored in the ecosystem, and will play an important role in carbon emission forest offset programs within provincial climate change mitigation, legislation and Cap and Trade economics. Ontario and Quebec are particularly interested in carbon trading development visible in the Ontario-Quebec Trade and Cooperation Agreement and the bi-national Western Climate Initiative.

Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement

The Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement (CBFA ) is an agreement between members of the Forest Products Association of Canada and environmental non-governmental organizations (ENGOs).  In 2008, exploratory discussions towards ending decades of strife between the forest industry and ENGOs were undertaken.  The talks led to the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement, a three year truce based on commitments to work together to advance models for forest conservation and forest sector competitiveness.  The agreement involves the suspension of logging on nearly 29 million hectares of boreal forest across Canada to allow for caribou protection planning.

The CBFA was agreed upon without First Nation participation, considering that it sets out logging and conservation activities on First Nation traditional lands.

Ontario Forest Tenure Modernization

Ontario’s existing wood tenure system does not recognize the ability of First Nations to manage the lands and resources in their traditional territories.  To respond to forestry concerns, the First Nations in Ontario Forest Sector Technical Working Group (FSTWG) was created to provide advice to the Chiefs in Ontario, identify and analyse short-term and long-term key policy issues and opportunities facing First Nations related to their cultural, social, economic and environmental participation in the full range of forest sector activities in Ontario.

Ontario, through the Ministry of Northern Development, Mines, and Forestry (MNDMF) initiated a tenure and pricing review in the hopes of modernizing and revitalizing the forestry sector.  FSTWG and the National Aboriginal Forestry Association (NAFA) worked together to ensure First Nation input into the process.  Bill 151, an Act to enact the Ontario Forest Tenure Modernization Act, was passed June 2011, without adequate consultation with First Nations and without mention of inherent and Treaty rights.  Forest tenures are the process by which the province allocates timber on “public” lands in Ontario.  The system currently in place gives large industrial corporations long-term, renewable licenses, and had operated on the same basis in Ontario for over 50 years.  Royalties or “stumpage” fees are generated from license holders when they harvest timber, of which First Nations do not share in.