An ancient rainforest logging operation in Peru recently certified by
Rainforest Alliance SmartWood under the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) scheme
has been implicated in massive cross-border illegal logging. Workers from the
Peruvian company Venao Forestal have been crossing into Brazil and building an
extensive road network to illegally fell CITES-listed mahogany. The FSC
certifier SmartWood has turned a blind eye to serious illegalities in logging
companies it has certified under FSC as providing "responsible forest
management". This illustrates yet again that a FSC seal is no guarantee of
either ecological sustainability or legality. Global ecological sustainability
including addressing climate change critically depends upon ending all
industrial scaled ancient forest logging.
The situation is rapidly emerging as a major international incident; for which
WWF, Greenpeace, FSC and SmartWood are responsible. The company's activities
have been documented by numerous photographs and through GPS plots, and reported
on Brazilian TV. The Brazilian government is now accusing the president of Peru,
Alain Garcia, of being responsible for forest destruction in the Brazilian state
of Acre. WWF provided early technical assistance for the project, a Greenpeace
staff person chairs FSC, SmartWood is well known as being fast and loose with
certificates; and meanwhile FSC continues to ruthlessly pursue market share at
the expense of ancient forests, creating a false impression of sustainability.
Shockingly, the involvement of Venao in illegal logging was well known.
SmartWood was informed during its assessment of Venao's existing extensive
illegal activities, including the construction of more than 100 kilometres of
illegal roads through the lands of several indigenous communities. A study in
early 2007 by the National Association of Amazon Indians in Peru reported that
Venao's road "is being used to illegally extract mahogany trees from the
interior of the Territorial Reserve Murunahua and surrounding areas". SmartWood
was told Venao "is exactly the kind of company that Smartwood and the Forest
Stewardship Council should be blacklisting, NOT certifying". SmartWood's
complacent response was to call upon Venao to "improve the planning and
construction of roads".
The revelations about Venao's certification will come, once again, as a major
embarrassment to WWF and other ancient forest logging apologists. Under the
guise of the so-called Sustainable Forest Products Global Alliance, which is
funded by USAID, WWF worked early on in the process with Forestal Venao to
provide "technical assistance to improve their forest management as part of the
stepwise approach to certification". Peru is now added to a list of countries
that already includes Guyana, Congo, Russia, and Indonesia, where WWF has helped
massage highly controversial and sometimes illegal companies through the FSC
certification process, as Greenpeace sits mute in charge of FSC's board. SmartWood has conclusively shown that they are unfit to
remain as an FSC accredited certifier.
Meanwhile the Norwegian government has decided that it cannot rely on any
certification system including FSC to help implement its newly announced ethical
procurement policy. The Norwegian authorities instead decided to ban all use of
tropical timber in public buildings, stating that "the government wants to stop
all trade with unsustainably or illegally logged tropical forest products. Today
there is no international or national certification that can guarantee in a
reliable manner that imported wood is legally and sustainably logged". This
announcement acknowledges growing concerns about the FSC system as a whole. It
is likely to increase pressure on other governments to drop FSC from its
procurement policy because of increasingly serious gaps in its credibility. It
has become abundantly clear that commercial ancient forest logging is
irredeemable and must be ended.
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Ancient rainforest logging is certifiably insane
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