World Rainforest Movement

A demand for a moratorium on FSC certification of timber plantations

As it has been already informed, the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) has started the Plantations Review process (See WRM Bulletin 92).

Several organizations, WRM among them, that since long time ago have been requesting the FSC to review the certification of plantations, have supported the process with documentation and research on the negative social and environmental impacts of those monoculture large scale tree plantations.

During the meeting that launched the process, WRM expressed that FSC “should suspend further certification of large-scale industrial tree plantations until the review was finalized”. A moratorium on further certifications is claimed, while the already granted certifications are reviewed.

As the board of directors seems not to have adopted a resolution, several social and environmental organizations from different parts of the world have sent an open letter requesting “a moratorium on the certification and re-certification of industrial timber plantations”.

These organizations have also decided to initiate a campaign to gather signatures around the world to send a second letter this time to the Plantations Review Committee before its next meeting on November 7, in Madrid, Spain.

In the letter sent to the FSC board of directors, the organizations stated that: “Industrial timber plantations established as large scale chemical and mechanical intensively managed monocultures, have a wide range of negative environmental and social impacts that have not yet been adequately assessed and comprehensively quantified, and that cannot therefore be meaningfully mitigated against”.

It was also said, that although the problems caused by the industrial tree plantations affect also the northern countries: “The problems caused by industrial timber plantations are often more acute in the south, where trees grow fast and high yielding alien plantations have rotation cycles as short as seven years. These short rotations result in abnormally high depletion of soil nutrients, leading to long term soil impoverishment, together with accelerated top-soil losses”.

As an example it was pointed out that: “In South Africa, more than 1 million hectares of industrial timber plantations have been certified by the FSC and timber companies use the FSC label to promote their products as ‘environmentally friendly’. Yet these plantations have been responsible for major impacts on the scarce local water resource, lowering the groundwater table and drying out countless wetlands, fountains and streams – which severely limit land use options and thereby jeopardize rural people’s livelihoods. All industrial timber plantations in South Africa have been established in areas with the highest rainfall and deepest soils, replacing valuable grasslands, and disrupting or displacing the traditional communities that occupied those areas”.

The letter concludes: “There is growing and justified opposition to the spread of industrial timber plantations world-wide, and we cannot endorse continued FSC certification of industrial timber plantations using the current flawed principles and criteria. Therefore, the FSC board of directors must suspend certification of industrial timber plantations until the review process has been finalized and the broadly approved findings and recommendations incorporated”.

In the letter that will be sent to the Plantations Review Committee the organizations make an urgent call for the full withdrawal of the FSC from plantation certification in case those plantations – both certified and non-certified- are proving to be environmentally destructive, socially unfair and even economically unviable –as is the case of countries where they are subsidized – and de-certified the already certified plantations. They also reaffirm the demand for a moratorium.

The letter is available at: Organizations that would like to support this appeal can sign in the WRM web page or send their details to Ana Filippini ( before November 4, 2005.

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