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Have environmentalists lost sight of what they are fighting for?

Aug. 8, 2017 - The Globe and Mail recently published an article by Gloria Galloway describing a national charity that was taking our federal environment minister to court for allegedly failing in her responsibility to monitor the protection of “endangered boreal woodland caribou.” Progress a little further into the article and you realize that an activist group known as the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) is suing the Canadian federal government.

August 8, 2017  By Ian Dunn

It appears that environmental activists have been spending more of their time and fundraising dollars in courtrooms lately. In Ontario, CPAWS has taken the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry to divisional and appeal courts over the implementation of the Endangered Species Act. Losing both cases and not satisfied with the outcome, CPAWS appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada, which, on May 4, 2017, dismissed the case. Still not satisfied, CPAWS has taken to social media to publicly slam the courts and the ministry.

Greenpeace, which has consistently and relentlessly attacked our sustainable forestry practices in Canada’s boreal forest, has admitted in court that their assertions “do not hew to strict literalism or scientific precision” and that accusations of forest destruction are “non-verifiable statements of subjective opinion” and should not be taken “literally.” It’s a shocking admission that demonstrates how Greenpeace has evolved from legitimate environmental work into an organization willing to say anything to generate fundraising dollars.

On May 24, 2017, the World Wildlife Fund hosted an income tax reduction and estate tax elimination seminar in Toronto where attendees learned how to “minimize or even eliminate taxes on your estate” and “convert assets into an income you can’t outlive and leave a lasting legacy.” Furthermore, a British Columbia based group called the Wilderness Committee, is now lobbying the Ontario Government to end sustainable forestry in Algonquin Park. In fact, they have collected 3,500 signatures by offering their canvassers a “commission at a rate of 45 per cent of the total value of memberships, sales and donations collected in a pay period.” These two examples have crossed a line from grassroots environmental action into profit-driven businesses.

It is clear activists have lost sight of what they were fighting for: conservation of our forests and wildlife. Fortunately, while activists are in court and hosting tax-planning seminars, the actual management of our forests remains in good hands. Just as bridges are built and designed by professional engineers, our forests are managed by professional foresters. These licenced professionals are publicly accountable for their actions, using the latest science to inform their decisions on how to best manage our public forests. Furthermore, the sustainability of our Crown forests is confirmed regularly through the development of forest management plans and reports by registered professional foresters independent forest audits every five years, and annual certification audits by a variety of third-party certification systems.


Despite being the ones who conserve and create habitat for all forest-dwelling species, practitioners are the ones who are the most vulnerable to admitted “rhetorical hyperbole and vigorous epithets” from environmental activists. Environmental campaigns aimed at our customers, for example, have contributed to the closure of facilities within our own province leaving small northern communities devastated.

Sustainable forest management also offers a solution to many of the challenges associated with climate change and the sector has played an historic role in contributing to Canada’s low-carbon economy. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has stated, “. . . in the long term, a sustainable forest management strategy aimed at maintaining or increasing forest carbon stocks, while producing an annual sustained yield of timber, fibre or energy from the forest will generate the largest sustained climate change mitigation benefit.” Facilities that process this wood fibre in Ontario have reduced greenhouse gas emissions 64 per cent since 1990, significantly greater than the provincial target of 15 per cent.

The opportunities that lay ahead for Ontario’s forest sector are endless, in both solid wood products as well as the emerging bio-economy. We cannot let fundraising goals and “rhetorical hyperbole” get in the way of a sustainable future for Ontario’s most renewable sector – forestry. Let’s keep our forests and people working.

Ian Dunn, R.P.F., Ontario Forest Industries Association

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