screen-shot-2016-09-12-at-12-28-14-pmAfter almost two years of discussion, the Canadian Association of Forest Owners (CAFO) and Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) (formerly Environment Canada) recently signed a memorandum of understanding to explore how forest certification might satisfy the requirements for “effective protection” under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA).

The MOU describes how CAFO and ECCC will establish pilot projects, on CAFO members’ land, to examine how the requirements for wildlife and habitat protection, currently included in forest certification standards, align with the protection requirements of SARA.

Chris Lee explains, ”By looking at how the certification requirements line up with the legislation, we can see where there may be gaps, and if there are any, how to best address those gaps. Ultimately, the goal is to revise existing forest certification schemes so they address all the requirements of SARA. This way, the ECCC Minister can make a determination of ‘effective protection’ (the official terminology of the Act) when a forest is certified to a recognized certification system.”

The revision of certification systems could also involve the development of a species at risk module that would be added to existing certification standards and would incorporate any additional requirements that may come to light as part of the pilot projects under the MOU.

The MOU focuses on CAFO members’ private land, but many CAFO members also manage public land and companies operating on public land have expressed interest in this work. The idea is to start with private land, to make this complicated process slightly less complicated, with the hope that a similar approach can be applied to public land. To this end, the provinces and forest companies operating on public land will be kept informed as the pilot projects develop.

Since migratory birds and the Migratory Birds Convention Act (MBCA) are closely linked with species at risk, the MOU also includes steps to consider how the challenge of incidental take may be addressed through the work of the pilot projects.

The next steps in the process include:

  • Identify CAFO members willing to put a portion of their land base forward for pilot projects
  • Establish working groups at each project site
  • Determine a national steering committee (CAFO members and ECCC staff) to oversee progress and report back through each organization