Failed audits, destruction of intact forests: Report reveals AbibitiBowater's miserable logging record in Ontario
A new Greenpeace report shows, that despite receiving advice to not extend the company's licence, the Ontario government allowed AbitibiBowater to clearcut thousands of hectares of vital woodland caribou habitat in northwestern Ontario, increasing the threat to the survival of caribou, a provincially listed species at risk.
The report, "Crisis in our Forests: A case study of AbibitiBowater's irresponsible forestry in the English River Forest," shows that AbitibiBowater was allowed to clearcut intact and old growth areas fragmenting 80,000 hectares of forest over a 10-year period. The report notes that, since logging began in the English River Forest, Ontario has allowed successive companies to reduce the original intact, old growth areas in the forest unit to about 300,000 hectares from approximately one million hectares.
"Ontario has allowed AbitibiBowater to so badly mismanage the English River Forest and this destruction means that remaining populations of woodland caribou are in real danger of becoming extinct in this area," said Kim Fry, forest campaigner and author of the report. "Our case study gives a clear picture of what's wrong with logging in Ontario and why we are rapidly losing what little remains of intact forest areas in the southern Boreal."
The report shows that the auditors conducting a government-mandated Independent Forest Audit of the English River unit felt AbibitiBowater's approach was "harvest now, reduce later." The English River unit was among the most heavily logged forest units in Ontario between 1989 and 2001. The auditors gave the company a failing grade on the audit and recommended that AbibitiBowater's licence to harvest the English River not be extended in 2004.
Despite the concerns of the audit, Ontario extended the licence and approved an annual, average clearcut size of 1,984 hectares for the next 10 years. The Ontario regulated clearcut size is 260 hectares. One approved clearcut will be 15,897 hectares.
Using information from independent forest audits of AbitibiBowater, satellite mapping of logging in the English River unit, forest management plans and Ontario government information for the area, the report reveals that the company is not committed to forest conservation. Only eight per cent of the English River unit is protected from harvest and no new protected areas have been proposed. The report also shows that AbitibiBowater has impoverished First Nations in the area.
"This is an indictment of both AbitibiBowater and the Ontario government," said Fry. "The problems in the English River unit are examples of what occurs across the southern Boreal in Ontario. The province leaves important areas of intact forest in the hands of logging companies that don't manage the forest properly. The result; continued destruction of high-value conservation areas and caribou habitat."
The record of AbitibiBowater is an important source of information for the tenure reform and caribou conservation planning processes currently underway in Ontario. AbitibiBowater is licensed to manage 8.7 million hectares of the Ontario forest planning area of 45.1 million hectares.
The "Crisis in Our Forests" report includes a French-language companion report that shows that AbitibiBowater also has serious problems managing the Waswanipi-Broadback forest in northern Quebec.