FSC Certifies Clearcuts?
Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) to certify more than 270,000 acres of climate destroying clearcuts in the Redwood Temperate Rainforest
On February 11, 2013, Green Diamond Resource Company (formerly Simpson Timber Company), SCS Global Services (SCS), and the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) issued a joint press release declaring a major milestone in the progression of forest management on California’s North Coast. Unfortunately, the only major milestone here is that a once respected forest certification standard, FSC, is now squarely in danger of losing a significant measure of credibility.
SCS Global Services, an international corporation that provides certification contracting services to a number of industries, conducted, on behalf of the FSC, the evaluation, or audit, of Green Diamond Resource Company’s logging practices. SCS then published the partial results of the audit in the form of a public report, failing to disclose a significant amount of information about the process, information which at this juncture remains secret. EPIC’s review of the public report reveals a number of serious weaknesses, enough so that EPIC now questions the decision making process that led to FSC certification for Green Diamond. It is imperative that the public be given full and open access to the whole certification record in a timely manner.
By certifying over 270,000 acres of clearcutting in the redwoods, FSC has knowingly risked the credibility of its brand. As a consumer reference, FSC has had a reputation for legitimately identifying forest products that are produced in a manner to reduce social, economic, and environmental impacts. The general weakening of FSC standards, and the deterioration of meaningful access and participation for local communities in the FSC certification process, are widespread criticisms of FSC at a regional and global scale. What is particularly troubling is that such a mistake could have been made in the Redwood Temperate Rainforest of northern California.
“The spin doctors have once again succeeded in performing life-saving surgery on Green Diamond Resource Company, formerly Simpson Timber” remarked Andrew Orahoske, Conservation Director at the Environmental Protection Information Center. “With the ongoing climate crisis, the restoration of the great redwood forests is absolutely essential to mitigating the negative impacts of global warming. It is deeply disappointing that a forest products marketing firm like FSC is blind to these realities.”
Early indications leading to the recent decision to put an FSC stamp on Green Diamond clearcuts were evident long before the logging giant’s press release. In the fall of 2011, EPIC submitted comments in opposition to a proposal to change FSC standards allowing for even-aged management (clearcutting) in Pacific Coast region, including the Redwood Temperate Rainforest. EPIC sounded the alarm over where this train wreck was headed; however, FSC ignored our comments and quietly changed the standard to allow for more large industrial landowners on the Pacific Coast to take advantage of the FSC brand and access to markets. During the Green Diamond audit in June 2012, EPIC again warned of the potential hazards of FSC lowering certification standards to accommodate Green Diamond. There is little evidence that EPIC’s and other stakeholders’ comments were provided any substantial weight in the decision making processes, heightening concerns that affected local communities are being ignored globally.
EPIC is in the process of conducting a more thorough investigation of the decision to grant FSC certification to Green Diamond Resource Company. Our initial review is summarized below:
Climate Ignorance In the year 2013 FSC still fails to take the climate crisis and the essential role of the world’s forests in sequestering atmospheric carbon into account. This is particularly egregious when considering the Redwood Temperate Rainforest Ecosystem enormous potential for capturing carbon and sequestering for thousands of years is unparalleled. By certifying clearcuts in the redwood forests, FSC is squandering an opportunity to encourage forest management that will assist our society in responding to the present climate crisis.
Endangered Species By Green Diamond’s own admission, the so- called Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) for the Northern Spotted Owl has clearly failed the species. The HCP has allowed the company to continue to destroy owl habitat, resulting in an undeniable decline in the number of owl nesting sites on Green Diamond property. Nevertheless, FSC relies on this failed Green Diamond HCP as evidence of the company’s responsible forest management.
Toxic Legacy Green Diamond has made a commitment to eliminate the use of atrazine, the pesticide likely to be banned nationally in the near future due to well-documented public health hazards. However, in addition to thousands of pounds of atrazine used by Green Diamond on their property in the past, the company will continue to use many thousands of pounds of other harmful pesticides, such as 2, 4-D, imazpyr, and triclopyr. These substances threaten aquatic species and domestic water supplies, including the Mad River which provides municipal drinking water to tens of thousands of people. In a 2011 Biological Opinion, the National Marine Fisheries Services has concluded that the use of 2,4-D jeopardizes the continued existence of Pacific Coast salmonids.
Community Conflicts The award of FSC certification comes at a time of heightened local community conflicts over Green Diamond logging. This includes the controversial plans to clearcut at Strawberry Rock near the town of Trinidad, and their proposal to clearcut in the immediate vicinity of the Headwaters Forest Reserve, further exacerbating conflicts with local residents threatened with flooding downstream from Green Diamond holdings on the Elk River.
Transparency and Accountability In reviewing the public report questions have been raised as to how community concerns and comments were integrated and weighted in the audit process. EPIC will demand access to the full record on deliberations that led to FSC certification for Green Diamond. Guaranteeing full and open access to information is a key tenant of environmental democracy and EPIC will continue to defend this fundamental right.
EPIC encourages affected community members and stakeholders to ask questions about the process that led to FSC certifying Green Diamond clearcuts in the redwoods. In the meantime, we will continue to oppose damaging logging and watchdog forest certification schemes in northern California. Exposing greenwash and public relations spin campaigns that are designed to hide the true environmental and social costs of logging and other industrial activities in Northwest California is an increasingly important job for the organization. The award of FSC certification to Green Diamond has very serious implications for the future of the Redwood Temperate Rainforest, and suggests an unraveling of credible forest management certification processes. EPIC is committed to exposing the weaknesses of these certification schemes, while advancing policies based on the best available science.
Local North Coast residents who may have feedback to share with Green Diamond should be sure to come out this Wednesday night, February 13, from 6:30 – 8:30 for a public meeting at the Bayside Grange on Jacoby Creek Road outside of Arcata.