World Rainforest Movement

What is behind the term “Planted Forests”

The term “planted forests” was coined by FAO with the aim of placing tree plantations on the same level as forests. Gradually it has spread and been assimilated by many international and national organizations, while multinational corporations from the forestry sector have taken advantage of this to emphasize the matching, as was evident at the latest World Forestry Congress, held in Argentina in October 2009. 

To consider a forest and a tree plantation as synonymous in addition to not making sense could also be termed as an aberration – they have little or nothing in common except for the presence of trees and even so the difference is enormous as most of the trees in tree plantations are alien species and, in most cases -except for economic reasons- are more damaging than beneficial to the environment. This does not stop us from being bombarded with their ecological advantages centred mainly on the reduction of atmospheric pollution produced by carbon dioxide. 

So, if the environmental advantages are not that substantial, what is behind this equation? Only and exclusively a big business, boosted by the forestry sector companies that have no qualms in admitting it, but of course with a green-wash or eco-wash which currently sells well.

What we are saying is not a product of our invention, nor of our eco-egocentric “radicalism,” or even of our “ignorance,” as some malicious self-interested people would call us, with the sole purpose of keeping certain interests in the running. What we are stating is reflected in the Conclusions and Strategic Actions of the Buenos Aires Declaration, made at the Thirteenth World Forestry Congress [held from 18 to 23 October 2009 in Argentina]. This Declaration suggests carrying out certain actions: 

* Implement mechanisms for cross-sectoral monitoring and reporting to influence policies and actions related to forestry.
* Promote land tenure reform providing secure rights to communities and local stakeholders to use and manage forest resources.
* Develop financing strategies within the framework of national forest programmes using innovative instruments for investment and market development in forestry.
* Focus immediately on climate change related mechanisms as the first priority with particular attention to REDD issues.
* Recognize the importance of planted forests in meeting economic, social and environmental needs.
* Focus activities on degraded landscapes, especially restoration of degraded forest lands.
* Develop and implement technologies to maintain and enhance the productivity of planted forests and their contributions at local and landscape levels.

That is to say, on the one hand, to fight against any idea opposing forest plantations now that, on a world level, a broad opposition movement has arisen, firmly opposing the matching of forests with tree plantations, while involving the struggles of indigenous peoples to keep their native forests as a source of life and well-being. This idea is closely linked with that of bearing on governments to establish laws making land acquisition more flexible and to finance their plans – not a hard thing to achieve on their part.  From the present 7% tree plantation coverage, that is to say 270 million hectares, their intention is to reach 30% by the year 2030. 

The excuses are well thought out: “The importance these plantations have in reducing CO2,” especially at this time of great social concern over climate change and its effects, as reflected in one of the items they establish as a priority. 

With recognition of the importance of “planted forests,” that is to say tree plantations, a more appropriate term, the intention is to make forest equate with plantation, thus allowing forests and all the species going to make up this ecosystem to be replaced by plantations of any kind of tree species although lacking in forest dynamics and placing them in the same category. But this does not work, it cannot be sold, so they refine the idea and set it out more skilfully, launching the idea that “monoculture plantations are a way of controlling deforestation and helping to counteract the pressure generally exerted on primary forests.”  This idea is hard to maintain if, as we have seen, the plan is to increase by 23% fast-growing tree plantations in the next 21 years and if, for this expansion, the use of abandoned farm land is not feasible (although not rejected) because “degraded” forest lands are preferred (namely, forests in various stages of regrowth). We should not forget that for increased output, the introduction of genetically modified species is an option.

In fact, the 205 companies from all around the world present at the Thirteenth World Forestry Congress, did business amounting to 36 million dollars with the Congress serving to “strengthen the sector’s private trade networks placing them at the forefront of the new challenges and trade opportunities opening up in forest trade.” No country is safe from these plans -including ours, where forestry companies and their associations intend to share out the further 3.8 million hectares the government wants to plant over the coming 30 years within the National Forestry Plan and thus apply for their share in the budgets allocated for this purpose.  It is not in vain that the most usual complaint made by forest producer associations to the various administrations is their slowness in this matter.  .

But there is always a match, and in response to plans to invade the world with tree plantations, voices are being raised on an international level forcefully opposing them, and many of these voices are organized within the World Rainforest Movement.  In Spain the struggle against the destruction of native forests and the introduction of alien species has always been one of the ecologist movement’s premises. We are now facing new challenges that have to be met and the first one is to take apart the idea that a “planted forest,” that is to say a plantation, is a synonym for Forest.  

ARBA (Association for the Rehabilitation of Native Forests)

– World Rainforest Movement
– Los bosques plantados: un valor en alza. La demanda de la industria y el cambio climático incrementan su potencial.  FAO 2009.  Forest Products Journal.
– State of the World’s Forests 2009. FAO 2009.