SmartWood issues another controversial certificate to Tembec

The FSC certification of large-scale industrial logging operations continues. A year ago, FSC-watch posted a critique of the certification of Tembec’s logging operations in Canada.

Earlier this month, another one of Tembec’s logging operations was certified, also by SmartWood. This post was written by David Nickarz, a forest activist in Winnipeg, Canada:

Tembec gets green logo in Manitoba

On October 11 2007, Tembec held an Open House seeking input into their 2009 to 2028 twenty year logging plan. Just the day before, the Tembec mill in Pine Falls received its Forest Stewardship Council certification.

The Forest Stewardship Council bills itself as an international organization that brings people together to find solutions which promote responsible stewardship of the world’s forests. It also accredits independent third party organizations who can certify forest managers and forest product producers to FSC standards. Smartwood is one of those third parties that have certified Tembec in Pine Falls. FSC includes conservation groups like Greenpeace and the World Wildlife Fund.

There have been rumblings in the forest conservation movement about FSC — questions about if it’s really changing the way forestry is done in the world. I’ve been involved in the forest conservation movement for 17 years and have seen way too many clear cuts in my time. I must admit that I was hopeful at the prospect of the FSC being a way out of our current industrial forestry model that is doing so much damage to the boreal forest.

What I saw at the meeting was more of the same. There was no indication of changing the way the plan to clear cut log, make paper or respect protected areas.

Tembec will continue to clear cut as its sole means of tree harvesting. Tembec will still get its wood from protected areas like Nopiming and Duck Mountain provincial parks. Tembec will continue to use pesticides like round-up to suppress the growth of hardwood trees after logging. They will also continue to operate places that are critical habitat to endangered species like Woodland Caribou and rare species like the Green and Mink Frogs.

The only difference between what they are doing now and 10 years ago is that they can display a logo that says their operations are more ‘responsibly managed’.

Over the past several years Tembec has been charged with violating the Wildlife Guidelines. This has resulted in repeated warnings and fines. In 2006 Tembec was fined 10,000 for violated the Wildlife Guidelines for a clear cut in Nopiming Provincial Park. Instead of complying with the law, Tembec is currently lobbying the province to weaken the guidelines.

I spent a lot of my time at the open house with Vince Keenan, Divisional Forester for the Tembec mill in Pine Falls. He eagerly told me about their plans to maintain levels of older forests through their computer modeling.

He told me that Tembec has goals for maintaining older forest types on their licence area (Forest Management Licence 1 is 9000 square kilometers and is located East of the Southern basin of Lake Winnipeg.) One example is lowland Black Spruce forests; the ones with the deep sphagnum moss. Tembec’s goal is to maintain 22% of lowland Black Spruce as old trees — meaning over 100 years in age. That sounds great until you look at the forest inventory map and see that 43% of lowland Black Spruce trees are already classified as old.

That means they plan to cut down half of the old Spruce trees, which happen to be the majority species required to make paper in their Pine Falls mill. For all the conservation-speak of the FSC boreal standards, the forest will be carved up according to what the mill requires.

As far back as 2001, Nicole Freris and Klemens Laschefski were cautious about the environmental aspects of the FSC certification scheme.

“The environmental sector of FSC uses its pressure to progressively tighten the criteria for certification, reducing the volume of wood extracted. However for certified companies to be economically viable production quotas need to be maintained.”1

Pat Popp is a deer hunter and outfitter who’s livelihood is affected by Tembec’s logging. Popp was not impressed by Tembec’s plan.

“We’re talking 20 years here. I was hoping to see a commitment to phasing out some of their more destructive practices, like clear cutting and spraying herbicides, but the only thing they seem intent on doing is to keep destroying as much wilderness as possible to feed their mill. How FSC can certify an operation that clear cuts massive areas, use herbicides, and is one of the worst polluters in the province, is beyond me,” said Popp.

A New Authority

The FSC has become a new authority in the forest. I find myself asking questions of the certification company Smartwood as if they are a government agency. I feel the need to lobby them to get my concerns addressed about what is happening in our forests. I was refused a list of preconditions for Tembec’s certification by Alexandre Boursier, a regional manager of the certification company Smartwood.

I am not the first to question the legitimacy of the FSC. Some forest activists now find themselves in the unenviable position of lobbying a large conservation group to protect old growth and primary forests.

In July 2007 the ‘e-activist’ network Ecological Internet had launched a letter-writing campaign aimed at Greenpeace, asking them to withdraw their support for FSC-certified ‘ancient forest logging’. The campaign demanded that Greenpeace publish a report on questionable FSC certificates, which is believed to have been under investigation by the green group for many months, but has remained unreleased.

If the FSC meant even a marginal benefit to forests then I could see the need to support the effort. As to the legitimacy of the FSC, in terms of a true effort to protect forests, I assert that it has failed.

1. SEEING THE WOOD FROM THE TREES, By Nicole Freris and Klemens Laschefski. An edited version of this article was published in “The Ecologist” Vol. 31, No 6, July/August 2001


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