Environment Committee on April 3rd, 2012
Evidence of meeting #29 for Environment and Sustainable Development in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was conservation.
A recording is available from Parliament.
On the agenda
The Chair Mark Warawa
Good afternoon, colleagues.
Welcome, each of you, and our witnesses, to meeting 29 of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development.
We welcome today Mr. Hummel and Mr. Young to share with us some information as we develop our national conservation plan.
Before we hear from the witnesses, I just want to announce the good news that we do have approval on the funding, providing it's approved in the House. It has to now be voted in the House.
So that's good news.
Some hon. members
An hon. member
Way to go.
An hon. member
An hon. member
The Chair Mark Warawa
There was a condition, though. Of course we had the famous boxing match, and that was a good fundraiser; the next boxing match was an agreement by Ms. Leslie and Ms. Rempel to be the next boxers.
The Chair Mark Warawa
That was the condition, so we look forward to that.
Welcome, Mr. Young and Mr. Hummel.
I think we'll start with Mr. Hummel.
You have up to 10 minutes. You can proceed.
Monte Hummel Chair, Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And thank you for inviting the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement to appear before you today to contribute to your study on the development of a national conservation plan for Canada.
There are many aspects of this plan that deserve our comment, but in a 10-minute oral presentation I've decided to focus on just two. First is that the conservation initiatives included in the plan contribute economically as well as ecologically to our country. Second is that the leadership and implementation of this initiative be shared by the federal government with others, especially the private sector, non-government organizations, the provinces, and aboriginal leaders.
To help you understand why these two points are priorities for us, let me first say a few words about the CBFA.
This agreement was formally signed in May 2010—so our second anniversary is coming up next month. It covers about 75 million hectares, which constitute 80% of the licensed boreal forests of Canada, and as such is by far the largest forest conservation agreement in the world, absolutely unique to Canada. It includes 23 of Canada's largest forest companies through the Forest Products Association of Canada, FPAC, and nine leading NGOs. Both sides had previously been at war for decades.
Together these signatories agreed to do a number of things: to defer industrial activity on nearly 30 million hectares to allow time to develop plans to conserve woodland caribou; to cease hostilities in the international marketplace; to deploy the best forest management practices in the world on that part of the forest that would be harvested; and, most important, to actually accomplish more working together rather than apart.
Although much attention has been paid to the first three goals of our agreement dealing with conservation objectives, of equal importance is the economic content of goals 5 and 6, which are designed to achieve the following. I quote:
5) Improved prosperity of the Canadian forest sector and the communities that depend on it; and
6) Recognition by the marketplace (e.g. customers, investors, consumers) of the CBFA and its implementation in ways that demonstrably benefit FPAC Members and their products from the boreal.
I want to make the point that Canadian conservationists and a Canadian conservation plan must be capable of embracing both biodiversity and economic prosperity. In fact, it is much easier to make progress on one if proper attention is always paid to the other. Furthermore, practically speaking, it's always more difficult, if not impossible, to convince governments to take action on conservation measures if they think such measures represent an economic net loss.
Environmentalists are fond of demanding that economic development interests take into consideration the environmental consequences of their operations. Rightly so, and I believe most companies now do this either because they have to or because it's a genuine part of their corporate culture, or both. But the CBFA also represents the reverse proposition, namely a sincere effort to make sure that environmental initiatives provide economic benefits—because it's not a sin to want a job. Being a logger, miner, farmer, hunter, or commercial fisherman does not make you the environmental devil incarnate. Rather, these folks can and should be natural allies in conservation, because their very livelihoods depend on a sustainable or long-term conservation approach to the natural resources upon which they depend. The fact that they have an economic interest should be harnessed as a powerful motivator for conservation.
We at CBFA therefore recommend that both economic and ecological principles should underlie a national conservation plan. We believe our agreement is a living example that it can be done—through active collaboration rather than by lobbing media grenades at each other from a distance. It's not easy, but it is possible.
Further, most conservation proposals not only should but do bring with them measurable economic benefits, a fact that is now acknowledged by leading Canadian businesses and government policy-makers alike. The key, of course, is to value ecological services properly in any cost-benefit equation.
These principles obviously apply to the working land and waterscapes of Canada, which are an important focus for the CBFA and a national conservation plan. These managed areas can and must make an important contribution to biodiversity conservation.
That being said, please notice that protected areas are also important components of the CBFA, as they should be, for a national plan, especially for Canada, which is rapidly becoming one of the last global reservoirs of true wilderness, from which we all ultimately derive.
I predict that leaders who foresaw this fact during this decade, and took steps to protect large representative samples of our country in a natural state, will be seen by future generations as having saved something that became scarce in the world and unique to Canada.
As such, I further predict that wilderness will have not only a resonant cultural and spiritual value but a significant economic value far beyond what anyone now expects. Call it Canada's natural competitive advantage, if you will, every bit as important as our industrial resources.
If I may add a personal note, I've had the privilege of working with this government and our current Prime Minister on the protected areas part of our country's conservation agenda, through substantial increases right across Canada on land and water. Some of these were announced by Mr. Harper himself, such as the large extension to Nahanni National Park and the establishment of a one-million-hectare national marine conservation area in western Lake Superior—the largest freshwater reserve in the world.
This government also made the largest land withdrawal for conservation purposes ever in Canadian history, some 10 million hectares of primarily boreal forest found around Great Slave Lake. I hope the national conservation plan will build on this momentum.
Most of this work has been led by first nations, whose treaty and constitutional rights must be respected through a national plan. Conservation measures should be championed by the people most affected, not imposed, which only leads to a legacy of resentment and no real ownership. After all, it's their home, and they most of all should benefit both culturally and economically. Therefore, the CBFA tries to collaboratively engage aboriginal communities wherever our work hits the ground.
I'll now conclude briefly with my second major point in this submission—namely, sharing the leadership.
The most inspiring and productive conservation initiatives over the last 30 years in Canada were not dreamed up and led by governments but by non-government organizations. Some examples are as follows: the $1.5 billion North American waterfowl management plan led by Ducks Unlimited; the endangered spaces campaign, which resulted in over a thousand new conservation reserves, doubling the amount of protected area in Canada, led by WWF; the natural areas conservation plan on private land, led by the Nature Conservancy of Canada; and, I would argue, the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement, led by FPAC and NGOs, who broke ranks with their peers in order to do things differently.
l'm not saying that governments haven't been, and are not, essential to the success of all these initiatives, because they absolutely are. Governments, after all, have the legal authority to decide about the disposition of public lands and waters in over 90% of this country. They can also greatly influence what happens on private land as well. But the initial vision, ambition, enthusiasm, and intellectual capital—in other words, the leadership—for these transformative initiatives came from outside government.
Quite frankly, the people involved decided not to spend the next decade just complaining about insufficient action from governments, but decided to assume leadership in partnership with governments. This leadership recipe can capture the public imagination in a way that is difficult for strictly government-led initiatives. It can also bring substantial financial resources, technical expertise, marketing capability, and a communication network to the table that is lighter on its feet and more third-party credible than what is normally available to governments.
We often say that conservation is too big a job for any one party to undertake, but we rarely act on that fact. To be sure, it's important that each party do its job and deliver on its responsibilities, including the federal government. But if you really want to make a difference, I urge you to share the leadership of developing and implementing a national conservation plan for Canada. This does more than just involve others as a courtesy; it makes those who should be expressly accountable for its success....
You are giving every indication of wanting to do that through these hearings and through the initial multi-party round table meeting with Minister Kent. We at CBFA are eager to constructively contribute whatever we can to an effective national conservation plan.
Thank you. I'd be pleased to respond to any questions the committee might have.
The Chair Mark Warawa
Thank you, Mr. Hummel.
Next we will hear from the National Aboriginal Forestry Association.
Mr. Young, you have up to 10 minutes.
Bradley Young Senior Policy Analyst, National Aboriginal Forestry Association
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I would like to thank the standing committee for inviting us to contribute to the study regarding the development of a national conservation plan, hereafter referred to as NCP. Harry Bombay, executive director of the National Aboriginal Forestry Association, NAFA, sends his regrets.
My name is Bradley Young and I am the senior policy adviser for NAFA. Also, I am a member of the Opaskwayak Cree Nation in northern Manitoba.
I would also like to take this opportunity to recognize the traditional territory of the Algonquin Nation, Kichi Sipi Aski, otherwise referred to as the Ottawa area.
First, here is a little background on NAFA. We are a non-governmental organization, first nation controlled, focused on research and advocacy activities in the forest sector. We advocate for the policy frameworks that will address aboriginal rights, values, and interests, which will lead to a more equitable creation and sharing of benefits from the vast forest resources of the land we call Canada.
Given economic realities, increasingly this means a reconceptualization of the broad forest sector. And conservation has been a noticeable component of this for some time, especially when contextualized with first nations engagement.
From what we have seen to date, first nations in the forest approach this under the umbrella of forest stewardship, implying both economic activity and conservation.
Prospectively, as climate change, economic development, sustainability, and multiple visions of prosperity increasingly converge on the same forested land base, a well thought out, discussed, and resourced NCP could potentially play a constructive coordination role here, if the right peoples have a meeting of minds.
Considering that the federal government has constitutional responsibility for “Indians and lands reserved for Indians”, and that most of first nations communities are located in our forests, creating the conditions for aboriginal forest-based development should be a priority. The new federal framework for aboriginal economic development does not reflect this. As the NCP takes shape and potentially impacts the forested aboriginal home and treaty land, oversight in this same manner should be avoided, especially given Canada's pending and current status to various binding international conventions regarding the environment, development, biological diversity, human rights, and the rights of indigenous peoples.
For example, article 8 of the Convention on Biological Diversity states that each nation will establish protected areas with the involvement and consent of indigenous peoples, including equitable sharing of any benefits arising from all related activities.
What have first peoples in Canada done with forest stewardship that speaks to proactive engagement with conservation?
In 2007 NAFA calculated first nations land management totals of 5.5 million hectares, including federal reserves and provincial lands under forest management tenures held by first nations. When considered with gains under innovative conservation approaches, large additional land bases flowing from first nations traditional territories are apparent. Take two of the most emblematic stewardship conservation initiatives of the past decade: the Great Bear rainforest in B.C., at 6.4 million hectares; and the Pimachiowin Aki in Manitoba and Ontario, at 4.3 million hectares. Through these efforts, 10.7 million hectares of first-nations-led or co-managed forest territory has been gained since our 2007 study.
Thus, the total for lands under first nations management in 2012 would be 16.2 million hectares, a significant gain of 294%. This is equivalent to 162,000 square kilometres, roughly the size of Ireland and Scotland combined.
It is clear that conservation initiatives led by first nations have advanced sustainable forest management practices by codifying modifications to existing forestry and natural resource development. Traditional forestry activity is being tailored to meet aboriginal interests, and sensitive biological, spiritual, and traditional uses are being prioritized. The planning and management of these areas, while including non-aboriginal voices, is mediated by first nations representation and secured by sustainable funding generated by trusts controlled by first nations.
Conservation under this approach minimizes the spectre of conservation refugees, whereby lands are conserved and indigenous and local people are restricted or expelled from their homelands for new fortress parks.
From our perspective, the “wilderness protection at any cost” ideology is not sound policy. Many elders the world over call the fortress conservation approach “protecting the land to death”. Why? Take indigenous people out of the equation and the land base either atrophies to an ecologically less dynamic state or it gets overrun by various unsustainable practices.
In fact, since the first exclusionary parks were created 120 years ago under the fortress conservation ideology, biodiversity and/or ecological performance have actually declined in these areas when compared to ancestral indigenous ecological outcomes before demarcation. It is an empirical, scientific, and historical fact that indigenous land management practices have, on balance, resulted in the protection, with indigenous cohabitation and usage, of over 95% of the world's last biodiversity hotspots.
Circling back to economics, which in Canada to a large degree is really about humans interacting with natural resources in the forest, first nations again are updating this ancient sensibility. For example, the Whitefeather Forest initiative in Ontario includes an innovative bioeconomic forestry enterprise and also establishes first nations management responsibility for the forest, including numerous sensitive sites identified by traditional knowledge holders.
On a broader national basis, many other communities are accounting for and planning to harness the value of ecological services maintained on their traditional forested lands. This includes carbon trading, water storage and supply, and various ventures counting on rich, intact biodiversity capital. Also, markets for non-timber forest products such as maple syrup, wild rice, and a growing number of confections and herbal remedies continue to develop, albeit slowly. And last but not least, hunting, fishing, and trapping in the forest continue to play emblematic roles in most communities and enjoy constitutional protections.
With continuing downward pressure on traditional forest enterprises and such significant gains coming from regional conservation initiatives, it is clear that first nations investing limited time and resources into forest sector development have discrete paths before them when analyzing potential initiatives in the bush. Strategic economic development, complementary conservation management, traditional activities, and implementation partnerships appear to be the broad trajectory of this promising path. Some are doing it all, yet others mix and match, and still others focus on just one activity.
Additionally, there are other coordination and applicability crossovers. With over $500 billion of other natural resource development projected for the coming decades, significant convergent pressures are apparent. Most of this development will be in the forest, but will not necessarily be forestry. Respectively, first nations are actively engaged on multiple fronts, assessing, negotiating, confronting, confounding, advancing, modifying, and/or participating in the numerous projects planned or under way, on top of considering aboriginal conservation initiatives.
Thus an overlapping field of vision is in place, again, all largely taking place in the forests of Canada—our defining national feature and internationally recognized treasure.
In response to this we are developing a national first nations natural resource development map to provide context and scope to this dynamic story. It will be built upon the same utilitarian excellence of our reports on forest tenures in Canada, updated to current digital realities.
Within this space, while not as high profile as some other sectors, the aboriginal forest sector is an important segment of the economy where aboriginal people are gaining prominence. Through land claim settlements and increased access to provincial forest tenures, aboriginal people now have access to forest resources over a significant land base of over 16.2 million hectares through over 300 sui generis agreements with an aggregate volume of over 14 million cubic metres in annual allowable cut.
We are harvesting approximately only a third of this. It is our contention that new markets must be opened up, sectorally supported, and invested in to realize shared prosperity here. Importantly, these themes do not have to collide with conservation. Progressively, in the eyes of many, they can mutually support each other under a first nations stewardship ethic.
In closing, to advance the national conservation program, we feel that policy and programming development and investment are needed in the following areas: the aboriginal forest sector, including the investigation of innovative conservation arrangements; and national-level first nations dialogues, with the participation of national, provincial-territorial, and community organizations, leadership, and sectoral experts.
Thank you very much. I look forward to your questions.
The Chair Mark Warawa
Thank you, Mr. Young.
We now have our round of seven minutes of questioning. We will have four questioners for you.
We will begin with Mr. Woodworth for seven minutes.
April 3rd, 2012 / 3:50 p.m.
Stephen Woodworth Kitchener Centre, ON
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Thank you to the witnesses for attending with us here today. It is a very important subject. I was very interested in all that you had to say about accommodating both the economic and the conservation goals we all share.
I'd like to direct most of my questions to Mr. Hummel. I'll have two general categories. One is just to get a little more information about the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement. The second would be to get some information about specific strategies, if I can.
Since I only have seven minutes, I'm going to try to give short questions to which short answers are possible, beginning with, what provinces does the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement operate within?
Chair, Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement
We're in all of the provinces in which the boreal forest is found, which is all of them except Nova Scotia and P.E.I. We have focused projects in Alberta, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan, two large pilot projects in Ontario, and one large pilot project in Quebec. Those are priorities for us, but we have work going on in all of them.
Stephen Woodworth Kitchener Centre, ON
Your evidence was about the Forest Products Association of Canada and environmental organizations. Can you tell me if there is any oversight of mining, tourism, or things that are not related to what I would consider to be traditional forest products that is accomplished through the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement?