MONTREAL, Sept. 13, 2011 /CNW Telbec/ - AbitibiBowater Inc. (NYSE: ABH) (TSX: ABH) is echoing the concerns of Ontario Northeastern municipal leaders with regards to the newly proposed forest management approach on the Abitibi River Forest that would result in the immediate reduction of the conifer wood supply in the area by 25%, with reductions of up to 65% after 20 years. Last week, the Northeastern Ontario Municipal Association (NEOMA) held a press conference in Timmins, Ontario, to publicly express concern with the Abitibi River Forest's Long-Term Management Direction (LTMD), a document recently released by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (OMNR) for public comment.
The Company is concerned that if confirmed, these significant proposed reductions in wood supply could jeopardize future forest sector investments and curtail employment opportunities generated from forest activities, impacting the economic foundation of 25 Northern Ontario communities.
"We should not have to make a choice between protecting caribou and protecting northern jobs. All too frequently this either/or choice is placed before the public, and everyone is told to line up on the side that best reflects their values. This is unfortunate as environmental considerations and economic outcomes are not mutually exclusive. We agree wholeheartedly that sustainable forest management must recognize all three pillars - economic, social and environmental," stated Richard Garneau, AbitibiBowater's President and Chief Executive Officer.
AbitibiBowater supports a transparent and balanced approach involving the relevant stakeholders, ensuring all three sustainability pillars are addressed. Serious collaborative work is needed to revisit the proposed implementation of the Caribou Conservation Plan in the Abitibi River forest, factoring in the impact of wood supply and its corresponding effects on future employment. This work has to involve representatives of impacted communities, forest companies operating in the area, the OMNR and ENGOs.
"We need to roll up our sleeves and work together, review maps, analyze the numbers, seek out the latest independent science, and come up with solutions that save caribou and provide the resources necessary for a sustainable and prosperous manufacturing sector," concluded Garneau.
AbitibiBowater supports constructive solutions, engaging stakeholders in a collaborative spirit. One potential solution to the LTMD is a reassessment of the southern boundary of the Kesagami range by the OMNR. The assessment should consider the potential benefits of moving the boundary of the range to focus efforts on the areas where the caribou presence is not in dispute. The work could be done in a separate process that does not affect the timing of the current Forest Management Plan, considering that most agree that the wood supply for the next ten years is adequate for current needs.
AbitibiBowater and other member companies of the Forest Products Association of Canada, as well as a number of environmental organizations, are partners in the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement. The group works to identify solutions to conservation issues that meet the goal of balancing the three pillars of sustainability linked to human activities: economic, social and environmental.
AbitibiBowater is a global leader in the forest products industry, producing a diverse range of products, including newsprint, commercial printing papers, market pulp and wood products. The Company owns or operates 18 pulp and paper mills and 24 wood products facilities located in the United States, Canada and South Korea. Marketing its products in close to 90 countries, AbitibiBowater also has third-party certified 100% of its managed woodlands to sustainable forest management standards. The Company's shares trade under the stock symbol ABH on both the New York Stock Exchange and the Toronto Stock Exchange.