MONTREAL, May 21, 2013 /PRNewswire/ - Resolute Forest Products Inc. (NYSE: RFP) (TSX: RFP) today expressed the Company's disappointment that negotiations under the auspices of the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement (CBFA) have broken down after three years of collaborative efforts. Parties were unable to reach mutual agreement on a workable plan to jointly further conservation efforts while balancing environmental, social and economic considerations in the Canadian boreal forest.
The CBFA was signed by members of the Forest Products Association of Canada (FPAC), including Resolute, and a group of environmental organizations to establish a common framework to further support boreal conservation efforts while safeguarding the livelihood of thousands of citizens in communities that depend on healthy working forests.
While it was challenging to find common ground among organizations with such diverse interests, Resolute believes its contributions to CBFA working groups and its overall commitment to sustainable forestry positively impacted the process. Company employees participated in all CBFA activities, offering concrete proposals and committing thousands of work hours to the initiative. Resolute also stepped forward to provide funding and offered significant additional financial support to the process.
Over the past several weeks, intense negotiations took place leading up to the third anniversary of the CBFA. Resolute put forward proposals for Northwestern Ontario that endorsed the setting aside of an additional 504,000 acres (204,000 hectares) of forest for conservation, providing additional protection of caribou and other species. This commitment is on top of the approximately 4,942,000 acres (2,000,000 hectares) of Ontario forests that have already been established as protected spaces, parks and other initiatives over the past 15 years.In Quebec, Resolute put forward additional candidates for protected areas to move up the total percentage to 12%, equivalent to 1,710,000 acres (692,000 hectares), focusing primarily on best habitats for caribou conservation. The Company also specifically addressed concerns related to the Montagnes Blanches and the Broadback Valley. The Resolute proposals were made with full knowledge that further curtailment of the Company's fiber supply is likely in the near future due to revisions of the annual allowable cut by Quebec's Chief Forester, and by the implementation of a government endorsed caribou conservation plan. "It is unfortunate the CBFA signatories were ultimately unable to reach alignment on how to strike a balance among environmental, social and economic priorities - the three pillars of sustainability," stated Richard Garneau, President and Chief Executive Officer. "Rural, northern and First Nations communities have paid a heavy price from the economic and market challenges the industry has faced over the past decade. We believe we have a responsibility to ensure that they understand and have a say in any plans that might affect their futures. Outcomes of the CBFA process that did not involve serious stakeholder consultations would have lacked legitimacy and could not have been considered reasonable proposals," continued Garneau. "Resolute will simply not abdicate our responsibility to address regional concerns of the North, including the First Nations' interests with whom we have a number of business and economic development initiatives already in place or pending. We agree that environmental concerns must be at the forefront, however, the regional social and economic impact must also be part of the equation," said Garneau.