Wildlife slaughter and fires take corporate gloss off FSC General Assembly

FSC’s forthcoming 3-yearly General Assembly in Cape Town, South Africa, looks like it will be a farcical exercise in corporate-sponsored public relations, whilst the disparity between what the organisation likes to think it is doing and what it is actually doing continues to grow.

Nothing illustrates FSC’s absurd self-deception better than the field trip planned for the pleasure of assembly participants. FSC’s invite to this promises that “FSC has organized a field trip to one of the most beautiful nature reserves near Cape Town – the Jonkershoek Nature Reserve. Mammals like leopards, hone (sic) badgers, baboons, klipspringers and mongooses call the reserve home….A visit to FSC certified pine plantations is a distinctive element of this field trip”.

What FSC’s members and guests will no doubt not be taken to is the certified plantation operations of Global Forest Products in South Africa’s easterly Mpumalanga Province. Here, they would be able to get much closer to the native wildlife, albeit that it would probably be dead: against the protests of local conservationists, GFP has been trapping and shooting the local baboon population, evidently in an attempt to protect the plantations that have been established on the primate’s habitat and which they evidently wish to carry on living in.

Up close and personal: FSC’s certified baboon slaughter

South African activists have now started an on-line petition against the baboon cull. They say that “There is an urgent need for a moratorium to be placed on the killing of free ranging baboons by these timber companies. According to at least two recent witness accounts, this genocide has been ongoing in spite of the forestry companies insistence it had stopped. Hundreds of baboons have been killed in the area in the past by what was then Global Forest Products (now bought by York Timbers) and Komatiland Forests PTY. Once this was confronted, a moratorium was placed on the killing of baboons. Although witness accounts claim these killings have been ongoing, Komatiland Forests have made a statement saying the moratorium was officially lifted in May 2008”.

Alternatively, those gathered for the General Assembly could be taken to see the smoking remains of FSC certified plantations. Once again, dense industrial stands of pine trees have been catching fire across South Africa, often with tragic consequences. As FSC-Watch reported last year, more than ten thousand hectares of FSC certified plantation owned by South African pulp conglomerates Mondi and Sappi in nearby Swaziland had gone up in smoke, with much loss of life. This year, the South African press is reporting that fires are again raging across thousands of hectares of plantation in Mpumalanga, including some owned by the FSC certified Sappi.

This will all no doubt come as an embarrassment to the corporate backers for the General Assembly, which include ‘Gold Sponsor’ Mondi, as well as Tembec and Sveaskog, all of which have been accused of major violations against the FSC’s requirements. But most curious of all the Assembly’s sponsors is South Africa-based certifier SGS – which has been banned from carrying out FSC certifications in several countries and is now languishing in a self-imposed global ‘moratorium’ on issuing new certificates. Perhaps SGS are hoping that their corporate generosity will help smooth troubled relations with FSC, but many FSC members will no doubt be wondering what the FSC is doing taking largesse from one of the certifiers that it is supposed to be controlling.

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