REFILE-Canada loggers, green groups reach landmark deal
(Refiles to correct spelling of surname in paragraph 10 to Kallick from Killick)
* Companies will halt logging in 75 million acres
* Green groups will stop "Do not buy" campaigns
* Called biggest-ever forest conservation agreement
By David Ljunggren
OTTAWA, May 18 (Reuters) - Most of Canada's largest forestry companies announced a groundbreaking deal with environmental groups on Tuesday that will restrict logging in the country's vast northern forests.
The agreement covers 170 million acres (690,000 square km) -- an area nearly twice the size of Germany -- and ends years of battles over logging in Canada's massive boreal forest, which environmentalists say plays an major role in fighting global warming by absorbing large amounts of carbon dioxide.
The forestry companies will stop all logging immediately on 75 million acres to protect woodland caribou herds under pressure from development. The two sides will then spend three years working out which restrictions to impose on logging in the remaining 95 million acres.
In return, as the agreement comes into force, the green groups will end international "Do not buy" campaigns against Canadian lumber.
The U.S.-based Pew Environment Group, which brokered the deal, said it was the largest commercial forest conservation agreement ever concluded.
"It raises the global sustainability bar for the forestry industry, exchanging the highest standards of conservation and forest management for an end to boycotts that have dogged timber companies for decades," Pew said in a statement.
"This will translate into market advantage for participating companies. We think this is a radically pragmatic agreement that will have significant ripple effects worldwide for forest products' environmental standards."
Tuesday's deal includes forests in seven of Canada's 10 provinces. A similar agreement was reached four years ago to end a dispute over logging in the rainforest on Canada's Pacific Coast.
Canada's boreal forest consists mostly of coniferous trees such as spruce, fir and pine, well as large wetlands regions. It covers an area of about 1.4 billion acres, stretching from Newfoundland and Labrador on the Atlantic to the Yukon in the far northwest. Only about 10 percent of the forest is currently protected, according to a study last year.
Steve Kallick, director of the Pew Environment Group's international boreal conservation campaign, said the deal had taken two years to negotiate.
"There were so many parties involved, and so many people who had previously been at odds, that we had quite a bit of trust-building that was required," he told Reuters.
Green groups involved in Tuesday's announcement include Greenpeace, the Nature Conservancy, ForestEthics, and the David Suzuki Foundation, as well as the Pew Environment Group.
Among the 20 firms involved are: Canfor Corp (CFP.TO), Tembec (TMB.TO), Tolko Industries, West Fraser Timber (WFT.TO), Weyerhaeuser (WY.N), Mercer International (MERC.O), Kruger Inc, AbitibiBowater ABWTQ.PK and NewPage Corp NEWPG.UL, in addition to the Forest Products Association of Canada. (Reporting by David Ljunggren; editing by Rob Wilson)
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