Felling trees has sky-high price. Deforestation is drying out cloud forests. [Nature, 19 October 2001]
Forest Stewardship Council Certifies Plantations
A troubling fact has come to our attention: an increasing number of
large-scale tree monocrops are receiving Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)
certification throughout the world.
Among the plantations recently given a "green" stamp of approval are Shell's
plantations in Argentina, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay; SAPPI's, MONDI's and
SAFCOL's in South Africa; Klabin's and V&M Florestal's in Brazil; Perum
Perhutani's in Indonesia; Fletcher Challenge's in New Zealand/Aotearoa and
many others. If this trend continues, many more tree
monocultures will also be guaranteed "sustainable" by the FSC, an
organization which enjoys great credibility among the public.
The FSC was created as a result of increased awareness by consumers about
their role in forest destruction, resulting from successful NGO campaigns,
particularly regarding unsustainable logging practices in the tropics. When
consumers began to ask their suppliers for certified wood, a number of NGOs
decided to promote a process which could give them the choice of a "green"
product. The NGOs came up with a number of principles and criteria that they
insisted should be met before an FSC certificate was granted.
Nine of those principles are focused on forests and one on plantations
(number 10). We believe that it is this decision -- to allow large-scale
monoculture plantations to be certified along with other forestry
operations -- which lies at the root of the current disturbing trend. People
throughout the world are increasingly aware that plantations are not
forests. Numerous local communities and organizations have documented the
impacts of large-scale plantations and opposed them because of their social
and environmental impacts. The plantations in question have resulted either
in deforestation or in the degradation of other ecosystems, particularly
grasslands and wetlands. On the ground reality is showing that large-scale
tree monocultures -- no matter how many mitigation measures are implemented --
inevitably result in large-scale impacts on water, soils, flora, fauna and
people because of their sheer scale.
Even if one accepts -- which we don't -- that plantations are forests, the
fact is that Principle 10 is so weak that most plantations -- with the
exception of those in areas marked by land conflict -- can be declared
"sustainable" and given FSC certification.
We do not pretend to challenge the FSC and even less to question our NGO
friends involved in it. What we do request is for them to revisit the whole
issue of plantation certification, to take into account the plentiful
existing documentation regarding the basic unsustainability of the
plantation forestry model and either to exclude plantations from FSC
certification altogether or to modify substantially Principle 10.
The FSC's main strength is its public credibility. Certification of
unsustainable forestry operations -- such as large-scale tree monocultures --
can erode this credibility. A critical review of its own principles by the
FSC can only increase it. We sincerely hope that the FSC will be able to
accomplish the latter.
More in the World Rainforest Movement's Bulletin, February 2001