Canadian Forest Company Seeks Millions from Greenpeace in U.S. Courts

Published June 30, 2016

On May 31, 2016, Resolute Forest Products (RPS) sued environmental group Greenpeace in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia.

RPS claims Greenpeace violated federal racketeering, trademark, and defamation laws, as well as Georgia state law barring tortious interference with Resolute’s operations.

Resolute claims Greenpeace’s six-year-old boycott campaign, titled “Resolute: Forest Destroyer (RFD),” falsely accuses RPS of destroying endangered forests and species, exploiting aboriginal peoples, and impairing the ability of the boreal and coniferous forests to mitigate climate change.

Greenpeace has already suffered a legal setback in Canadian courts since it started the RFD public relations campaign. In March 2013, Canadian courts required Greenpeace to apologize to Resolute and offer an official “Notice of Correction” concerning statements it made suggesting Resolute had violated the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement.

Despite this setback, Greenpeace has continued RFD and has successfully pressured Home Depot and Best Buy to shift orders or stop purchasing lumber from Resolute. Resolute claims it has lost $50–$100 million in profits over the past four years and as a result of Greenpeace’s media campaign. Resolute also says the campaign has forced the company to close one paper mill in Ontario, Canada and two paper-production machines in Quebec, Canada, resulting in the loss of 300 jobs.

Resolute Not Destroying Forests

In an effort to end the RFD campaign and recoup some of its losses, Resolute sued Greenpeace in 2014 in Canada for defamation and “intentional interference with economic relations.” In January 2015, the Ontario Court of Appeal refused to hear Greenpeace’s appeal of a lower court’s judgment rejecting its motion to quash Resolute’s claim. The court also ordered Greenpeace to pay Resolute $20,000 in court costs.

In the Canadian lawsuit, Resolute is suing for $7 million, and Resolute is suing for millions of additional dollars in damages and punitive fines in the United States.

Resolute’s complaint states it is not a “destroyer” of the boreal forest in any sense of the word, since Canada has retained about 90 percent of its natural forest cover. Agriculture and urbanization, not forestry in general or Resolute’s timber operations, are responsible for the 10 percent loss in forest cover over the past several hundred years. Resolute says less than 0.5% of the Canadian boreal forest is harvested annually by the entire logging industry, and only a minority of the annual harvest is linked to Resolute.

Michael Bowe—an attorney with Kasowitz, Benson, Torres, and Friedman and Resolute’s legal counsel—says every area the company harvests is promptly regenerated naturally, by seeding, or by planting. On average, from 2010 to 2012, Resolute planted more than 60 million trees per year as part of its reforestation efforts. Resolute’s efforts, combined with those of  other Canadian forestry companies, has resulted in virtually no permanent loss of boreal forest acreage annually due to logging.

“The accusation that Resolute is ‘destroying’ the boreal forest is absurd,” said Bowe. “It has planted over a billion trees in the boreal forest—a billion more than Greenpeace—and has caused virtually zero permanent deforestation.

“This false allegation maligns a good company [that is] run by good people who care for the forest, because their livelihood and that of all the communities they support depends on it,” Bowe said. “Greenpeace, in contrast, has no skin in the boreal forest.”

Resolute’s complaint also notes, contrary to RFD claims, its logging practices have actually improved the boreal forest’s uptake of atmospheric carbon dioxide. Numerous studies show, and the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has acknowledged, harvesting in the boreal and other large old-growth forests provides a significant means of mitigating climate change, because young forest absorb substantially more greenhouse gases than older forests, which are often net-emitters of greenhouse gases. 

Standing up to ‘Extortion Tactics’

Ecologist Patrick Moore, a co-founder of Greenpeace and leader of Greenpeace Canada for 15 years, no longer agrees with the group he founded on the issue of boreal forest logging.

 “I am proud to have worked with Resolute for more than three years on this issue,” said Moore. “They are the only company in North America to stand up to the lies, blackmail, and extortion tactics employed by Greenpeace.”

Contrary to claims made by Greenpeace, Moore says Resolute is not exploiting Canada’s aboriginal people.

“Resolute has the support of the local communities and the aboriginal people in the northern forests, where they are growing trees sustainably and providing essential employment for local citizens.

“Greenpeace has placed fundraising ahead of the truth, and they should be made to pay for the damage they have done,” Moore said. 

H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D. ([email protected]) is a research fellow with The Heartland Institute.