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Action Alert: FSC and Big Green "Certified" Ancient Forest Logging Tragedy Worsens

Support for "certified" ancient rainforest logging crumbles further due to string of inappropriate and illegal certifications, most recently in Peru; and as Norway rejects FSC and all primary rainforest logging certification schemes

By, a project of EcoInternet - July 28, 2007

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Additional Background

An ancient rainforest logging operation in Peru recently certified by Rainforest Alliance SmartWood under the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) scheme has been implicated in massive cross-border illegal logging. Workers from the Peruvian company Venao Forestal have been crossing into Brazil and building an extensive road network to illegally fell CITES-listed mahogany. The FSC certifier SmartWood has turned a blind eye to serious illegalities in logging companies it has certified under FSC as providing "responsible forest management". This illustrates yet again that a FSC seal is no guarantee of either ecological sustainability or legality. Global ecological sustainability including addressing climate change critically depends upon ending all industrial scaled ancient forest logging.

The situation is rapidly emerging as a major international incident; for which WWF, Greenpeace, FSC and SmartWood are responsible. The company's activities have been documented by numerous photographs and through GPS plots, and reported on Brazilian TV. The Brazilian government is now accusing the president of Peru, Alain Garcia, of being responsible for forest destruction in the Brazilian state of Acre. WWF provided early technical assistance for the project, a Greenpeace staff person chairs FSC, SmartWood is well known as being fast and loose with certificates; and meanwhile FSC continues to ruthlessly pursue market share at the expense of ancient forests, creating a false impression of sustainability.

Shockingly, the involvement of Venao in illegal logging was well known. SmartWood was informed during its assessment of Venao's existing extensive illegal activities, including the construction of more than 100 kilometres of illegal roads through the lands of several indigenous communities. A study in early 2007 by the National Association of Amazon Indians in Peru reported that Venao's road "is being used to illegally extract mahogany trees from the interior of the Territorial Reserve Murunahua and surrounding areas". SmartWood was told Venao "is exactly the kind of company that Smartwood and the Forest Stewardship Council should be blacklisting, NOT certifying". SmartWood's complacent response was to call upon Venao to "improve the planning and construction of roads".

The revelations about Venao's certification will come, once again, as a major embarrassment to WWF and other ancient forest logging apologists. Under the guise of the so-called Sustainable Forest Products Global Alliance, which is funded by USAID, WWF worked early on in the process with Forestal Venao to provide "technical assistance to improve their forest management as part of the stepwise approach to certification". Peru is now added to a list of countries that already includes Guyana, Congo, Russia, and Indonesia, where WWF has helped massage highly controversial and sometimes illegal companies through the FSC certification process, as Greenpeace sits mute in charge of FSC's board. SmartWood has conclusively shown that they are unfit to remain as an FSC accredited certifier.

Meanwhile the Norwegian government has decided that it cannot rely on any certification system including FSC to help implement its newly announced ethical procurement policy. The Norwegian authorities instead decided to ban all use of tropical timber in public buildings, stating that "the government wants to stop all trade with unsustainably or illegally logged tropical forest products. Today there is no international or national certification that can guarantee in a reliable manner that imported wood is legally and sustainably logged". This announcement acknowledges growing concerns about the FSC system as a whole. It is likely to increase pressure on other governments to drop FSC from its procurement policy because of increasingly serious gaps in its credibility. It has become abundantly clear that commercial ancient forest logging is irredeemable and must be ended.

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