On November 24th, according to a report in the Peruvian newspaper La Republica, police raided the docks in the Amazon port of Iquitos, confiscating the equivalent of 60 heavy truck-loads of timber. The wood, worth around $0.5m, was bound for Mexico and the US – and reportedly 80% of it was owned by the FSC certified company, Inversiones La Oroza SRL. (Posting amended 10/12/15)
Greenpeace has just released a very critical report about FSC’s failure to prevent forest destruction even in FSC certified logging operations in Russia. The report is titled, “FSC in Russia: Certifying the Destruction of Intact Forest Landscapes” and can be downloaded here. Greenpeace reports that,
The FSC is failing to distinguish good forest management practices from the typical model of unsustainable forest exploitation widely employed in intact boreal, or taiga, forests. It is therefore failing in its mission to be a tool for forest protection.
The outcome of Greenpeace’s complaint against Congolese logging company SODEFOR, announced by the FSC on March 23rd, will probably not please the complainants very much, but it once again has served to highlight some of the glaring weaknesses in the FSC system.
Another news documentary causing embarrassment to the FSC appears in its home country, exposing the questionable practices of certified companies. ARD’s Plus-minus programme travelled to Russian Karelia to inspect the forestry practices of IKEA subsidiary and timber supplier, Swedwood. What it found there was not pretty. As the documentary points out, Swedwood’s large clear-cuts in ‘old growth’ forest appear to breach FSC’s requirements concerning the treatment of High Conservation Value forest. The use of heavy machinery on vulnerable soils could have a lasting impact.
In one of the political blogs still commenting on the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s second raid on Gibson Guitars for possible contraventions of the Lacey Act, Republican pundit Andrew M. Langer, berating Gibson for “consorting with environmentalists”, refers to an old saying that “if you lie down with dogs be prepared to get up with fleas”. He adds that “Apparently if you lie down with environmentalists you should be prepared to get raided by the Feds.”
The raiding of Gibson Guitars in Tennessee in August by US Federal Fish and Wildlife officials for suspected violations of the Lacey Act – which forbids US companies from importing wood obtained from illegal sources – has once again cast a very hard light on the FSC system, and in particular on the Rainforest Alliance, whose SmartWood scheme is the FSC’s most prolific issuer of FSC certificates. An October 2nd article (which we reproduce in full below), published in the ‘Tennessean’ newspaper, has opened new revelations about the relationship between Gibson and the Alliance, which sound loud alarm bells about the ‘independence’ of the certifier.
Last week saw the distressing announcement by UNESCO that the Rio Platano Biosphere Reserve had been put back on the organisation’s ‘In Danger’ list, at the request of the Honduran government because, it said, of “the combined threats of illegal logging, fishing and land occupation, poaching and the reduced capacity of the State to manage the site”. Covering 500,000 hectares, and being one of Central America’s most important protected areas, Rio Platano has also gained fame as being a source of mahogany used in the manufacture of Gibson guitars.
Certification in any of the countries in the Congo Basin was always going to stretch the credibility of the FSC system to the limit – as the miserable experiences in Cameroon of companies such as SEFAC and Wijma have shown (the former of which remains ‘suspended’ for forest management but, illogically, still certified for Chain of Custody). Sadly, because the FSC is unable to control its certifiers, these lessons seem not to have been learned; allowing its certifiers to issue certificates in DR Congo was always bound to end in disaster.