SmartWood’s certification of TemRex criticised

Last month, SmartWood awarded an FSC certificate to TemRex’s industrial logging operations in Quebec, Canada. The certificate came with 26 outstanding “corrective action requests” (with which the company has to comply at some point in the future), 20 “observations” (which are voluntary) and 10 “notes for future auditors”.

FSC-watch received this from Bob Eichenberger with the subject line “bullshit in Gaspésie”:

To all good foresters

The Forest Stewardship Council was a great idea and carried a lot of hope to anyone who read through the ten principles concerning the integrity of the forest ecosystems, the rights of rural and native peoples, biodiversity and so on. However, since most ecological practitioners work on a small, local and low-impact scale, it is costly and difficult to be inspected and certified by an international body. On the other hand, the FSC had to certify someone if it wanted to survive at the scale at which it operates. Group certifications were a way to get around this problem and maintain the necessary credibility of both, the agency and the forest stewards. It saddens me to see that this was not enough.

The FSC has started to award its certification to industrial operations. Tembec, Kruger, Domtar and the like are all claiming to be ecological and are using the FSC for their PR and advertising. For the individual buyer, these claims are costly and difficult to verify since it entails research and on site expeditions to see if the forestry practices are really acceptable. So all I can share is our experience in our area.

In the fall of 2005, an FSC evaluation team organised a public meeting at the Francis Hotel in New Richmond, Quebec, in Gaspésie, just across the Chaleurs Bay from New Brunswick. The purpose was to inform and consult the public about a possible certification of TemRex (a consortium of Tembec and Rexfor) for the whole of their work and practices in the Gaspé peninsula.

The evaluation team could not even get through the principles before the gathered public told them that: “TemRex doesn’t do any of that!” For some time I had been gathering pictures of the disaster area that our public forest has become. The interior of the Gaspé peninsula is degraded, eroded, emptied and impoverished. The pulp and lumber mills have closed BECAUSE THERE IS NO WOOD LEFT!! All TemRex does is clearcut with heavy machinery followed by monoculture plantations. This is being certified by the FSC.

Even on consulting the Rainforest Alliance assessment report, the amount of “weaknesses” and “non-compliances” make it hard to believe that TemRex can now, in 2006, place a full page add in the local paper boasting that they are FSC certified. During a phone call, Alexandre Boursier, the head of the assessment team told me that CLEARCUTTING IS AN ACCEPTED PRACTICE BY THE FSC.

Heavy industry used to denigrate the FSC while being certified by CSA and ISO 14001. These agencies have lost their credibility with the public because they accept clearcutting. Now, the FSC is about to lose its most valuable asset: its name.

I work my ass off, using climbing techniques for low impact selective cut. I transport logs over the snow to limit damages to the soil and the need for logging road networks. I mill my own wood and further transform the forest products into modular framing and other commodities in order to live off a minimal amount of harvest. I know that I am far from being the only one who puts in time, energy and investment in achieving a level of human interaction with the forest that is truly benign. I certainly do not want to be lumped in with the same lot who destroy huge landscapes, liquidating the resources into concentrated wealth into the hands of a corporate few at the detriment of nature and rural communities.

So come on all you good foresters out there. Let’s have the courage to admit that another great idea has not worked out as we had hoped. We can start by drawing the line between those who clearcut and those who don’t. Websites such as www.lowimpactforestry.org who list the foresters who are in with them is a good start. Every region should have one of those. The FSC has let us down, it has chosen its source of bread and butter. May it live with the consequences.

If anyone doubts what I am saying or my motivation in scrapping an agency which once had filled me with hope, I am ready and willing to bring any visitor up, past the private and family woodlots that surround our peninsula, to the vast depressing certified moonscapes that bring most Gaspesians to tears when travelling through or flying over it.

For more information, contact

Bob Eichenberger – ecoforesterie(AT)globetrotter.net

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