Forest Stewardship Council launches mediation in Quebec boreal forest battle

MONTREAL -- The Forest Stewardship Council is launching a mediation process to try and bring peace to Quebec's woodlands.

The organization that oversees the world's most recognized forest certification standard said Thursday that the process will bring together Resolute Forest Products, First Nations, unions, environmental groups and others to find "common ground" over contentious issues raised about FSC certification in Canada.

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The announcement came several weeks after Resolute (TSX:RFP) threatened not to seek new FSC certifications for its Canadian forests over fears that possible changes to an international designation process might constrain its supply of wood.

"The goal of this is to put all of this behind us," said Francois Dufresne, president of FSC Canada.

He said sustainable forest certification is needed to maintain durable jobs and respect aboriginal rights and to allow the company to have access to the market with certified product.

Germany-based FSC International added that strengthening the certification standard in Canada's boreal forest would enhance the country's international standing and credibility as a supplier of forest products from responsible sources.

The sessions to start early next year are expected to last one to three months. The primary focus will be on Resolute's suspended Lac St-Jean certificate and terminated Mistassini certificates.

Resolute didn't immediately return calls seeking comment.

Greenpeace forest campaigner Shane Moffatt welcomed the mediation process but urged the FSC to extend mediation to Resolute's operations in northern Ontario.

Four of Resolute's FSC certificates covering more than eight million hectares in both provinces have been suspended or terminated over the last two years, according to the environmental group, which said the company's operations in those areas threaten the survival of woodland caribou.

Moffatt called on Resolute to commit to collaboration.

"It's not about us winning or others winning, it's about really compromising. That's the heart of the FSC system here, " he said in an interview.


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