Certification of monoculture tree plantations – open letter to FSC members

“Plantations are monocultures, created from seemingly endless rows of identical trees. They suck the water out of nearby streams and ponds and lower the water table, leaving little or no water for people living near the plantations. They deplete soils, pollute the environment with agrotoxics and eradicate biodiverse local ecosystems. Activists in Brazil call them the green desert because of the way they destroy local people’s livelihoods and environments. But what’s almost as bad as the plantations themselves is that this sort of plantation is given a green seal of approval by the Forest Stewardship Council.”

This comes from a new World Rainforest Movement briefing titled “FSC certification of tree plantations needs to be stopped“. The briefing is timed to coincide with the FSC’s General Assembly, which will take place from 3-7 November 2008 in South Africa.

download the pdf file

Despite the fact that FSC has been carrying out a “Plantations Review” for the past four years, FSC continues to certify some of the most destructive plantation operations in the world. In an attempt to change this, a number of organizations from countries impacted by FSC-certified plantations have written an open letter to FSC members. If you wish to support local communities struggling against tree plantations, please sign on to the letter by filling out the form on WRM’s website or by sending an email to support@wrm.org.uy, before 31 October 2008.


The undersigned wish to urge members of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) to urgently resolve the serious problem of FSC certification of monoculture tree plantations, at the FSC general assembly to be held in Cape Town, South Africa.

One of the topics for discussion at the general assembly is a Review of FSC Principles and Criteria, and there is therefore an opportunity for changing those principles in such a way as to exclude the certification of monoculture tree plantations by FSC.

FSC members -particularly from the environmental and social chambers- must be made aware that certification of that type of plantation is not only eroding the FSC’s credibility but -more importantly- that it is undermining local people’s struggles against plantations.

Those peoples are struggling to protect the same things that FSC members from environmental and social organizations agreed needed to be protected when they joined the FSC: indigenous, traditional and peasant communities’ rights and livelihoods; forests, grasslands and wetlands; water, soils and biodiversity.

All large scale tree plantations impact heavily on most -and usually all- of the above. There is now more than sufficient documented evidence of those impacts in a large number of countries, ranging from South Africa and Swaziland to Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Ecuador, Uruguay, Spain, Ireland and others.

The obvious conclusion must be that large scale tree monocultures are uncertifiable.

In spite of that, time and time again FSC-accredited certifiers have awarded the FSC seal to them. Little has mattered that those plantations were being opposed by local communities and that the FSC label would result in further strengthening already very powerful companies whose activities are destroying Nature and peoples’ livelihoods.

Four years after having launched the FSC Plantations Review, nothing has changed. In spite of abundant documentation demonstrating the negative social and environmental impacts of plantations, there are currently at least 8.5 million hectares of plantations already certified, as well as an unknown area within the 37.7 million hectares grouped under the category “semi-natural and mixed plantation and natural forest”, which hides a large number of plantations.

The time has now arrived for FSC members -particularly from the social and environmental chambers- to take sides: to continue to allow business as usual, or to fight for change; to protect the interests of large pulp and timber corporations or the rights of local peoples and Nature; to carry on accepting that plantations are a “type of forest” or to agree that they have nothing in common with them; to greenwash a most harmful land-use, or to oppose social and environmental destruction.

We therefore call on those FSC members who share with us the desire to protect local peoples and Nature from the damage caused by the expansion of tree plantations to raise their voices at the upcoming general assembly and to help bring about the change that is needed.

Centro de Estudos e Pesquisas para o Desenvolvimento – CEPEDES Brazil

Federação de Órgãos para Assistência Social e Educacional – FASE Brazil

CENSAT-Friends of the Earth Colombia

COECOCEIBA Friends of the Earth Costa Rica

Observatorio Latinoamericano de Conflictos Ambientales – OLCA Chile

Acción Ecológica Ecuador

Asociación pola Defensa da Ria – APDR Spain

Asociación para a Defensa Ecolóxica de Galicia -ADEGA Spain

Federación Ecoloxista Galega – FEG Spain

Grupo Guayubira Uruguay

Pesticides Action Network PAN Uruguay

REDES – Friends of the Earth Uruguay

Timberwatch Coalition South Africa

World Rainforest Movement

Further information on the destructive nature of industrial tree plantations is available onWRM’s website.


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