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"PL's annouced they have been certified by a timber products Industry sustainable certification group, not FSC. The feel good public relations gimmick behind their certification process is a joke. As information below illustrates, even the more eco-friendly FSC process has it's flaws and is obviously not sustainable. Green washing in progress. Watch out! Why is my species still going extinct?"
the coho salmon

BACKGROUNDER: Serious Concerns Regarding Forest Certification

By Glen Barry, President,, Inc.
July 14, 2001

Many forest conservationists, myself included, have eagerly embraced forest certification, particularly standards set by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), as a promising tool to protect forests. However, it is rapidly becoming apparent that certification is no panacea, and serious flaws in the principles of forest certification pose real dangers to the World's forests.

FSC received the support of many forest conservationists because it was believed that placing value upon forests - tropical forests in particular - would lead to more forest conservation and protection. It was thought that by empowering local people to pursue small, community based "eco-forestry" initiatives, certification would provide an alternative to more destructive land uses. To date, FSC has not lived up to this ideal. Industry and government are the owners of some 96% of currently certified forests. Non-industrial or communal logging operations are only 34% of the total number of certificates, covering 3% of the certified forest area. It appears that FSC is supporting expansion of industrial scale logging of the world's remaining primary forests.

A variety of important additional criticisms are being voiced. Natural patterns of plant diversity and wildlife are not well protected in certified commercial logging operations. Increasing numbers of grassroots environmental organizations are being excluded from FSC decision-making processes. Dissent is not welcome and is rarely heard. Overstated rhetoric regarding ecological sustainability threatens to legitimize increased commercial logging and ultimately the final demise of the World's remaining large forest wildlands. The voice of wildland and old-growth protection is not being heard.

Failure to respond to these criticisms will lead to widespread withdrawal of support for certified forestry from forest conservationists and their grassroots organizations, and resumption and intensification of campaigns to boycott all tropical and old- growth timbers.

Recently both "Conservation Biology" (April 2001) and "The Ecologist" have featured scientifically rigorous examination of certified forestry. In particular the article in "The Ecologist", entitled "Seeing the Wood from the Trees" by Nicole Freris and Klemens Laschefski, provides an excellent critique of the FSC movement and its implications for forest conservation. This article is made available exclusively on the Internet at the request of the authors on's Forest Conservation Portal at The article's URL is The article deconstructs the highly touted "Precious Woods Amazon" logging operation in Brazil, widely touted as one of the best examples of successful certified forestry in primary tropical rainforests.

The article addresses a series of ecological, social and economic myths found within the rhetoric used by supporters of forest certification. What impact does certified timber extraction have on native old-growth forests? Does buying certified tropical timber products really contribute to saving the world's rainforests? The tone of the article is set with the rhetorical question, "If certified logging of the disappearing rainforests is the answer perhaps we have forgotten what the question was... "

The case is compellingly made that certified forestry is highly intensive commercial logging that threatens the ecology of most if not all remaining natural forest wildlands. They conclude that certification does not halt predatory logging practices in tropical forests, that it is rejuvenating the tropical timber trade that had been hurt by environmental boycotts, it is profoundly impacting tropical ecosystems, and local social benefits are minimal. "Certified tropical timber sold to an ecologically conscious elite of the first world has little influence on the global dynamics of the timber business... buying certified tropical timber is no more than an additional pressure on primary forests."

It is becoming apparent that certified forestry profoundly changes old-growth forests and there are real biological costs that are not well incorporated into FSC criteria. However, the most problematic aspect of FSC certification comes long before actual management activities, when decisions are made to log any particular old-growth forests. There are serious questions regarding possible widespread certification of logging of the World's remaining old-growth wildlands - in the Amazon, Congo Basin, Papua New Guinea, Russia and Canada in particular; and remaining smaller old-growth forest remnants found elsewhere - that are not being addressed.

What is to become of the World's remaining large forest expanses? Does more benign management such as FSC certification legitimize large areas of old-growth forests being logged for the first time, and thus irreversibly ecologically diminished? Because certified forest management is more careful and follows more reasonable management principles, should more forests be managed and less preserved than otherwise would be the case? Are there procedures for certifying agencies to recommend that a particular forest not be logged at all, based upon outstanding natural values, and despite the intention of the owners to do so?

Forest stands are not sustainably managed - forest landscapes and ecosystems are. FSC's principles must be expanded and strengthened to consider larger questions of best use of remaining forest wildlands, and their landscape level sustainability. Mechanisms must be developed to ensure that promotion of certification is not providing incentives, nor establishing pressure, to increase supply of certified timber by opening more wildlands to logging. There must be criteria to determine when strict preservation is favorable to management of any type - even if there is pressure to log the area.

For certification to be a positive force for protection of large forest wildlands and landscape level sustainability, certified management of any one area must be coupled with widespread establishment of much larger, adjacent and encompassing strictly protected areas. 10% conservation set asides is not adequate. More attention must be paid in the certification principles to the ratio and spatial arrangement of preserved forests relative to certifiably managed forests - seeking to meet the scientific requirements for upscale sustainability of the forest ecosystem. Otherwise the World's forest wildernesses will become tree farms.

The degree to which mainstream environmental groups such as WWF and Greenpeace have embraced forest certification is shocking. It does not seem to have been based on sound scientific analysis of the requirements for forest sustainability. But rather seems to be based upon being seen as doing something, anything; and enlarging their memberships and financial resources. Apparently FSC, WWF and Greenpeace are working with Malaysian loggers to certify some of their massive and rapidly expanding rainforest logging operations. These companies such as WTK, Rimbunan Hijau, Samling and others are notorious eco-villains, with an appalling history of environmental and social abuses. Should environmental groups be in the business of reforming predatory loggers? Can they be reformed? Regardless of the management practices, is logging of this scale justifiable? These environmental conglomerates ultimately are legitimizing extensive commercial logging of most of the World's forest wildernesses.

Despite this scathing critique, this author continues to hope that FSC certification will realize its potential as a force for sustainable forestry AND forest protection. Certified forestry in concept clearly shows great potential to be ONE component of a strategy for the eventual elimination of deforestation and achievement of global forest sustainability. But not until rules are developed that clearly state and promote preservation of most remaining old-growth wildlands, limit most certification to regenerating secondary forests, and place any certified management of wildlands that does occur within a matrix of protected areas adequate to guarantee sustainability of ecosystems across landscapes. Furthermore, FSC must not take for granted the support of ardent conservationists that seeks to protect the World's remaining old- growth forest heritage.

Until FSC can amend its criteria to ensure the World's remaining forest wildlands are not diminished due to forest certification, there should be no certification of commercial forestry in remaining wildlands and old-growth forests. Unless FSC quickly develops procedures to leave most wildlands and old-growth unlogged, they will witness renewed calls to the World's citizens to boycott all tropical and old-growth timbers. will be leading the charge. works to end deforestation, preserve old-growth forests, conserve all forests, maintain climatic systems and commence the age of ecological restoration.

Copyright 2001,, Inc. This article may be reproduced granted the author and are cited as the source.


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