Certified destruction of California’s ancient redwood forests

The following was submitted by the Greenwood Earth Alliance:

We are appalled at the Forest Stewardship Council activities in our region, specifically in Mendocino County, California, where the FSC’s certifier, Scientific Certification Systems, certified a program of clear-cutting (with the absurd stipulation of a 50 year phase-out), pesticide use (no phase-out date; and including the use of imazapyr, a persistent pesticide that violates FSC guidelines), species extinction, and continued depletion of 235,000 acres of once magnificent redwood forest, now owned and being logged by the Fisher family of Gap Inc. (formerly Louisiana Pacific lands). This private certification not only destroyed the public’s right to review long term timber management plans, as provided for in California law, it was followed by a dramatic escalation of logging, and by the company’s application for a federal “incidental take permit” (i.e., “license to kill endangered species”) that will permit the company to kill endangered species – and any future listed species–and destroy their habitat throughout this forest ownership for the next 90 years. Neither the intention to file for an ITP nor any of the company’s long term plans or potential impacts were disclosed to the public prior to certification.

As an example of the impact of this FSC certification on the public’s rights, a local town water district, whose watershed is being logged by the company, cannot find out how much of the watershed is going to be logged over the next 5 years or 10 years, and what the impacts may be. Not even human needs and rights are respected–let alone those of our redwood forest’s extremely imperiled birds and fish, or our extremely imperiled planet. But perhaps the most poignant example of the impacts of this certification is that, when the Fisher family took over these forests, in 1998, there were still some small remnants of the most imperiled species–the coho salmon and the marbled murrelet–and a chance at restoration of ancient forest biological diversity. The program of logging that the FSC certified insures that those species will vanish from these forests forever.

The FSC’s intervention in the long and passionate history of local efforts to save Mendocino’s redwood forests—a history that includes “Redwood Summer,” the bombing of Judi Bari and Daryl Cherney, the formation of the Redwood Coast Watersheds Alliance, and hundreds of protests, lawsuits and organizing efforts was disheartening in the extreme. Just as this effort had finally succeeded in a court ruling requiring the disclosure of Big Timber’s long term plans and potential impacts, the FSC came upon the scene and privatized the review process, colluded with timber-friendly agencies, and completely undermined the ruling and the vital public right of review. FSC guideline no. 1 requires respect for local laws. There was no respect. They did not even mention the lawsuit in the “Public Summary,” nor the FSC’s mandate that the company abide by the ruling; instead they referred to every environmental group in Mendocino County—all of whom opposed this certification–as “a vocal minority.”

These unique California forests once contained trees that grew to 20 feet in diameter, 300 feet tall and 2,000 years of age. They now contain trees that average 12 to 16 INCHES in diameter, with habitat conditions severely degraded. These ancient forests are being managed as plantations for the production of small trees of inferior wood; subdivision has already begun, and conversion to other land uses is a likely outcome, a violation of yet another FSC guideline.

We have not seen any change in FSC policy. If anything, things have gotten worse. We recently found SCS and Greenpeace working in cooperation with Swiss-based Precious Woods-Amazon to gain an exemption from the City of San Francisco’s ban on the use of tropical hardwoods. PWA is targeting virgin hardwoods in the Amazon, entering previously unentered forest with an extensive network of roads, has doubled its original, certified rate of cut because it couldn’t make enough profit, and is pushing the local economy toward more forest depletion and away from diversification.

We were involved in opposing that exemption and the San Francisco Department of the Environment has decided not to pursue it. Given the current lack of U.S. federal environmental regulation, and with global warming upon us, it is not a time to be weakening local environmental laws. And it is an utter outrage that an FSC-certified company and Greenpeace were trying to do so.

We have since learned that impacts of the FSC such as these–on the environment and on public policy–are not unique to northern California. They are endemic throughout the FSC’s worldwide certification program. We have also learned that no effort of reform has succeeded, and that none is possible, due to collusion between the World Wildlife Fund and timber interests. Policy is headed in the wrong direction, toward widespread industrial and high impact logging. The most serious structural problems–lax and vague certification standards, inadequate FSC monitoring, a non-transparent process with no public oversight, the direct financial relationship between certifier and logging company, and competition for business among the certifiers–have not been addressed, and will not be addressed.

The FSC has clearly been co-opted by industry and cannot be trusted. Throughout our recent campaign to save Mendocino’s ancient redwood forests, we have heard from people far and wide, who are confused about the situation in Mendocino because they have gotten the impression that Mendocino Redwood Company’s logging practices are endorsed by Greenpeace. Greenpeace in fact strongly criticized MRC logging practices and agreed to sponsor our appeal of the MRC certification. It is a magical name, Greenpeace. We urge Greenpeace to use it well in defense of Mother Earth, and not in defense of those who are destroying her.


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