On 19 June 2008, Spanish pulp company ENCE lost its FSC certification in Spain, when its subsidiaries Norte Forestal (Norfor) and Silvasur had their certificate withdrawn. Norfor manages just over 12,000 hectares of industrial tree plantations in the northeast of Spain and Silvasur has almost 70,000 hectares in Andalusia. Both companies were certified by SGS Qualifor in October 2004. The Norfor certificate was questioned by Greenpeace, WWF, theAsociación Pola Defensa Da Ría, Verdegaia, and Association for the Ecological Defence of Galicia. In October 2007, Accreditation Services International reported that the environmental concerns were justified, and that Norfor was non-compliant with FSC’s Principles and Criteria.
This week, the Uruguayan authorities ordered a stop to all ENCE’s activities in Uruguay after ENCE’s subsidiary Eufores was caught destroying 80 hectares of forest which is strictly protected under Uruguayan law. In 2006, after World Rainforest Movement published a report criticising FSC’s certificates in Uruguay, Heiko Liedeker dismissed the report, saying that “Consumers can count on the FSC system as a guarantee for good forest management.” SGS Qualifor certified Eufores in December 2004.
“ENCE at one time requested ‘to intervene’ a native forest, but during a routine inspection we discovered they had uprooted 80 hectares before we even answered yes or no to the original request”, Daniel Sanromán, head of the Uruguayan Forestry Department, told MercoPress.
According to a press release from Uruguayan NGO Guayubira (below) this is not the only area of forest that ENCE has cleared. The company took great care to cover its tracks – burning the forest, clearing the trees and burying them in pits which were then filled with gravel.
As Guayubira points out, ENCE’s actions are clearly in breach of at least two FSC Principles: destroying native forests and violating national legislation. FSC-Watch looks forward to announcing that FSC has stopped greenwashing ENCE’s destructive operations in Uruguay.
Guaybira Press release – 19 August 2008
ENCE and illegal clearing of native forests The need for a full investigation
It was announced today that the Ministry of Livestock, Agriculture and Fisheries (MGAP) has ordered the temporary suspension of all of the Spanish Company ENCE’s permit applications to the Department of Forestry. This decision, which we fully endorse, was adopted after verifying that ENCE had illegally cleared close to 80 hectares of native forest in the department of Paysandú to use the land for a eucalyptus plantation.
This is an extremely serious incident, given that native forest is expressly protected by Law 15.939 and can only be logged with authorization from the MGAP, which ENCE had not obtained in this case.
The confirmation of this illegal act is a good opportunity to highlight the fact that in July of this year, Guayubira visited the area of Paysandú where tree plantation operations are concentrated and received numerous reports of the clearing of native forests. These included eye-witness accounts of the indiscriminate destruction of centuries-old trees by ENCE. We were also informed that a town councillor in Paysandú had collected letters attesting to this illegal activity and filed a report at the corresponding police station. Based on this information, Guayubira filed a complaint with the pertinent authorities at the MGAP.
In response to the numerous reports received, MGAP representatives visited the area in question and confirmed the illegal clearing of five sections of native forest totalling 80 hectares in all. According to the information provided by the MGAP, the permits issued to the company to cut trees in other areas had specifically stipulated that these sections of native forest were to be preserved.
At the same time, it should be stressed that this incident is merely the latest of a long string of environmental violations committed by ENCE, dating back to the era of the Franco dictatorship in Spain and continuing today. Just this past June, after a lengthy battle, a group of Spanish organizations achieved the withdrawal of FSC certification for ENCE’s eucalyptus plantations in Spain, on the basis of infractions similar to those now confirmed in Uruguay. One would hope that the same measure will be adopted with regard to the certification of ENCE’s plantations in our own country, given the fact that the company has violated at least two FSC principles, by destroying native forests and violating national legislation.
Moreover, it is quite likely that these 80 hectares are merely the tip of the iceberg. Firstly, the complaints filed refer to the deforestation of between 300 and 400 hectares of land along a 15-kilometre stretch of the Queguay River, now occupied by the La Gambeta, Los Gurises and Las Pampas plantations. Secondly, a complaint was filed in May by town councillors from Paysandú with regard to the destruction of native forest by ENCE in the Guichón area.
Yet another aggravating factor in the company’s illegal conduct is the way in which the deforestation was carried out. The first step was to set fire to the trees, after which their remains were cleared and buried in pits three metres wide and two metres deep, laid out in strips 100 metres apart and covered with gravel. In other words, great pains were taken to conceal all evidence of the crime.
On the basis of these facts, Guayubira believes that the violations uncovered warrant not only the corresponding penalties, but also a thorough investigation of the more than 180,000 hectares of land acquired by ENCE, and the continued suspension of all of the company’s permit applications to the Department of Forestry until such an investigation has been completed.
For more information or interviews, contact: Grupo Guayubira 410 0985 / 413 2989 / 099 367 966 info[AT]guayubira.org.uy www.guayubira.org.uy