MONTREAL, May 21, 2013 /CNW Telbec/ - 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.
During the negotiations, Resolute also offered to match funds raised by participating environmental non-governmental organizations (ENGOs) to further research into endangered species management. It was proposed that any such funding would be jointly managed by the Company and the ENGO community, and dollars would flow to research efforts using post-secondary institutions and other research resources residing in the North. Such an approach would further support development of economic and institutional capabilities of the northern regions.
Last year, as part of the Company's involvement in the CBFA, Resolute played an important role in crafting a proposal for Northeastern Ontario, ultimately resulting in joint recommendations to government. One of the key elements of the proposal divided the Abitibi River Forest Management Unit into three zones. The northern most zone represented establishment of a caribou conservation area covering almost 2,063,000 acres (835,000 hectares). Industry agreed to voluntarily and permanently avoid harvesting the area to provide for better caribou habitat. According to recent developments, the Ontario government support for these recommendations will soon evolve into formal implementation. Additionally, Resolute intends to use as reference the methodological frameworks for protected spaces and caribou conservation, produced under the CBFA, in the Company's ongoing work to improve the current network of protected spaces and to enhance existing caribou conservation plans.
Resolute assumes that in the coming days, certain ENGOs will resume their attacks against the Company. Resolute will not tolerate falsehoods or inaccuracies about the Company's actions. A few months ago, following their announced exit from the CBFA, Greenpeace issued a series of misleading, deceptive and factually inaccurate allegations. Resolute provided clear proof that Greenpeace's claims were false. Ultimately, when cautioned that the Company would commence legal proceedings, Greenpeace finally acknowledged that its "evidence" was untrue and issued a formal retraction.
Last week, Greenpeace once again issued a false and misleading report, ignoring Resolute accomplishments and mischaracterizing the Company's ongoing efforts to be a leading force for sustainable forestry. "As we did then, Resolute will continue to take the necessary steps to protect its reputation and that of our employees, as well as the reputations of our valued customers and other business partners," stated Garneau.
Resolute remains committed to the principles underlying the CBFA and will continue to operate in a manner consistent with a balanced approach to sustainability. In 2012, Resolute achieved the distinction of being the largest manager of forests certified through the Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC®) in the world. The Company is also a member of the World Wildlife Fund's Climate Savers Program, through which it has pledged to reduce absolute greenhouse gas emissions by 65% below 2000 levels by 2015. Recently, Resolute launched Forum Boréal, a new online forum where users can discuss and exchange information about the challenges of sustainable development in the boreal regions of Quebec.
"By continuously striving to improve our sustainability performance, Resolute creates value for our customers, our employees, our operating communities and our shareholders," concluded Garneau.
About Resolute Forest Products
Resolute Forest Products is a global leader in the forest products industry with a diverse range of products, including newsprint, commercial printing papers, market pulp and wood products. The Company owns or operates over 40 pulp and paper mills and wood products facilities in the United States, Canada and South Korea, and power generation assets in Canada. The shares of Resolute Forest Products trade under the stock symbol RFP on both the New York Stock Exchange and the Toronto Stock Exchange.
Marketing its products in close to 90 countries, Resolute has third-party certified 100% of its managed woodlands to at least one of three internationally-recognized sustainable forest management standards, including the Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC®) standards. The Company is also a member of the World Wildlife Fund's Climate Savers program, in which businesses establish ambitious targets to voluntarily reduce greenhouse gas emissions and work aggressively toward achieving them.
SOURCE: Resolute Forest Products Inc.
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