FSC and logging of old-growth forests

On 28 September 2010, Ecological Internet issued the action alert below. So far, people from 69 countries have sent 3,654 protest emails – to join in, visit Ecological Internet’s website.

Action Alert: Urge Forest Stewardship Council to Stop Greenwashing Industrial Primary Forest Logging

The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and its members, certifiers and suppliers must commit to ending the certification of primary forest timbers, falsely implying it is sustainable to log 500 year old trees for toilet paper, lawn furniture and other consumer items. Please participate in EI’s on-going global campaign to end primary forest logging, and to protect and restore old forests, as keystone responses to abrupt climate change, biodiversity loss and global ecosystem collapse. Please take action to ensure FSC stops certifying primary forest logging; even as together we continue to successfully confront rapacious logging companies and their government enablers – 4 major victories in last months alone!

Background The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) was created in 1993 to “promote responsible management of the world’s forests”. Yet FSC has failed miserably, with massive ecological impacts, as it exists primarily to greenwash primary forest logging as being acceptable. FSC efforts support “sustainably” logging tens of millions of hectares of primary and old-growth forests – 500 year old trees in millions of year old naturally evolved ecosystems – for lawn furniture, toilet paper and other throw-away consumer items. Many environmentalists initially supported FSC, expecting it would reduce logging of primary and old growth forests, and result in more community based eco-forestry. Instead, by building a massive market for primary forest timbers, FSC has become a major cause of old forest loss and diminishment.

Ancient, ecologically intact forests – rainforests in particular – are the ultimate expression of life, evolution and ecology. Primary forests logged industrially for the first time – FSC certified or otherwise – are destroyed and what remains is permanently ecologically damaged in terms of composition, structure, function and dynamics. Logged primary forests’ carbon stores, biodiversity and ecosystems will never be the same in any reasonable time-span. Selectively logged rainforests become fragmented, burn more and are prone to outright deforestation. While other certification schemes are even worse, this is not the issue, as primary forest logging cannot be done ecologically sustainably and should not be happening at all. Ecological Internet is NOT the only organization concerned, as the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation – a FSC co-founder – recently resigned from FSC over these very ecological concerns – joining a growing list.

Best estimates are FSC has already certified the first time industrial logging of sixty million hectares (about 150 million acres) of primary and old-growth forests, and an equal amount is threatened in FSC’s plans for coming years. This is nearly 460,000 square miles of primary and other old forests destruction – an area the size of South Africa, or nearly two times the size of Texas! But no one really knows the full extent of the problem, as FSC says it does not compile how many old forests it certifies for first time heavy industrial logging (how convenient). After years of stonewalling by FSC and member organizations, FSC must respond to the following questions: 1) how many hectares of primary forests has FSC certified for industrial logging, and how much more is planned 2) and how does logging primary forest protect them?

FSC must commit to ending its certification of any primary forests. In light of current and emerging ecosystem, biodiversity and climate science; as well as evident abrupt climate change and the ongoing biodiversity extinction crises, it is clear that FSC certification for industrial primary and old-growth logging is antiquated and dangerous. FSC should meet market demand for well-managed forest timbers by certifying only 1) small scale community eco-forestry practiced by local peoples in primary forests, 2) regenerating and aging secondary forests, and 3) non-toxic and mixed species plantations. The forest movement has to commit to fully protecting and restoring old carbon, species and ecosystem service rich forests as a keystone response to achieve global ecological sustainability, or risk becoming irrelevant.



  1. I do not believe that ending of FSC certification of primary forest will help primary forests. In tropics absence of certification for forest management that may lead to the situation that forest may be cleared to different use. Absence of FSC certification of primary forests in Sumatra did not protected them from clearing to palm oil plantations. I think that forests, and especially certified forest is better than palm oil plantation or agricultural fields.
    In boreal zone governments, for example in Russia or Canada, allocated primary forests for logging concessions. Absence of FSC certification will lead to the clearing of these forests for internal markets or to export to China or other countries, where demands for green timber is low. Having these forest certified the most valuable parts of HCVF’s will be protected as part of old growth forest moratoriums.

    I would personally support the ban for primary forests logging in Europe, where tiny massives of such forests remains. But for other countries this proposal will lead to acceleration of forest destruction. The intention to use CO2 sequestration mechanisms to protect primary forests is only intention, as that may works only in special sircumstances in tropics (REDD+) but not globally.

    So I think this proposal may lead to acceleration of forest destruction globally and is not based on good analysis.

  2. @Andy – thanks for this comment – I’ve forwarded it to Glen Barry at Ecological Internet for his response.

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