A Million Acres of Clearcuts and Pesticide Use "Certified" in Canada and MaineTags: USA, Canada, Complaints procedures, SCS
This article was submitted by Mary Pjerrou, Greenwood Earth Alliance, .com
The Forest Stewardship Council certification of nearly one million acres of the J.D. Irving company's forest holdings, its clear-cutting practices and widespread use of pesticides, in Canada and in the state of Maine, both by Scientific Certification Systems, (SCS) of Oakland, California, exemplify the abuses and failures of the FSC certification process that have made the FSC label an unreliable guide for consumers who want to purchase wood from well-managed forests.
Consumers should be able to expect from such a label that strong environmental principles are enforced, that the concerns of local environmental groups and communities have been seriously addressed, and that the review of the timber corporation's plans and certifications have been subject to adequate oversight and accountability, especially considering the financial relationship between timber corporation and the certifier. However, many of the main principles in the FSC's "Principles and Criteria" for certification and use of its label were violated in the case of these J.D. Irving Co.'s certifications, as they have been in many others.
The Canadian certification involved close to 500,000 acres of forestland in the Black Brook district of northwest New Brunswick. The Maine certification involved around half a million additional acres, in the Allagash woodlands in northern Maine.
The objections of local environmental groups - in this case, the Sierra Club of Canada and the Sierra Club of Maine - were ignored. The Sierra Club of Canada lists their concerns about the Black Brook certification in their September 21, 1998 press release as follows:
1. The preponderance of clear cutting as a harvesting system in Black Brook.
2. The intended conversion of 27% of the mixed hardwood forest and up to 56% of the entire area into plantations. 3. Lack of an adequate proportion of permanent protected areas or reserves for long-term scientific study. 4. Secrecy by the certifier with respect to specific criteria and the scoring system used in the evaluation of Black Brook. 5. Loose and vague interpretation by the certifier of the FSC principles and criteria.
6. Excessive use of biocides by J.D. Irving, Ltd.
7. Minimal consideration of proposed regional "Standards for Best Forestry Practices in the Maritime Forest Region.
8. JDI's on-going dispute with the Nova Nada monastery and JDI relations with their neighbours.
These are very serious concerns that go to the heart of the FSC "Principles and Criteria", upon which the FSC label and consumer confidence is based.
In the case of the Sierra Club of Canada, the extraordinary difficulty of the FSC appeal process for public interest groups was also illustrated. The appeal process is expensive, time-consuming, and fraught with legalistic and bureaucratic hurdles including draconian deadlines. As stated by the Sierra Club of Canada's press release of January 21, 2000, "The Sierra Club had challenged the certification when it was announced in September 1998. This past November the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) dismissed a formal Sierra Club appeal of the certification claiming it had missed a deadline for filing documents."
The Sierra Club of Canada goes on to chronicle the consequences of certifications that are secretive and hostile to local concerns. Charles Restino, a Technical Advisor for the Sierra Club, who compiled pesticide information on JD Irving, Ltd., states that, "The Irving Company's certification should never have been granted. The quality of the review of forest practices in the Scientific Certification System Black Brook (SCS) certification process is now even more in question."
The press release continues: "The FSC report confirmed that SCS, of Oakland, California, gave a 'green' certification to the Black Brook District even though J. D. Irving, Ltd. was operationally using six different chemical pesticides which are clearly prohibited under FSC guidelines. ... J. D. Irving, Ltd. claims it was 'only' using one of the chemicals, the herbicide Garlon, 'on an experimental basis'. However, New Brunswick government records obtained by the Sierra Club show J. D. Irving Ltd.'s use of Garlon had increased 500% since 1996. Garlon was being used to kill Sugar Maple and other hardwood tree species in plantations in Black Brook."
Reports obtained from the New Brunswick Department of Environment show that the J. D. Irving, Ltd., which claimed that it had reduced herbicide spraying over the previous three years, in truth had increased it. The company's spraying in 1999 "was actually twelve percent higher than in either 1995 or 1996."
These endemic problems of FSC certification of large industrial operations also occurred in the SCS certification of J.D. Irving's Maine Allagash, USA, woodlands.
The Sierra Club of Maine's press release of November 22, 2002, lists the problems, which were documented in a report by Mitch Lansky:
1. Replacing Maine's natural forests with unnatural concentrations of boreal softwood species. 2. Mismanaged sensitive stream-side zones.
3. A clear-cutting rate among the highest for large landowners in the state.
4. One of the highest rates of herbicide use in the state.
5. An over reliance on high impact logging equipment.
6. Poor labor practices involving truckers (overloaded trucks, day and night shifts) and loggers/contractors (poor wages).
Lansky also documents in detail how J.D. Irving's grades in the certification process were inflated. The high marks were "based more on promises or process than on actual activities on the ground."
Carole Haas, Chair of the Maine Chapter of the Sierra Club, states that, "Awarding 'green' certification to Irving for its forestry practices rewards Irving for the very practices the public does not want to encourage. In the end, certification must meet the public's expectations or it is worthless".
And, once again, the Sierra Club was forced out of the FSC appeal process, this time due to the laxity of FSC auditors. Martin von Mirbach, a representative of Sierra Club from Canada, stated that Sierra Club dropped its appeal, not because the appeal lacked merit, but, rather, "based on the [FSC] report prepared in June we lack confidence that the FSC appeals process will be rigorous enough."
As revealed in J.D. Irving press releases from 1998 and 2000 , the FSC certification permits the timber corporation to tout itself and its products as having a "green" stamp of approval from a supposedly reputable organization, all described in "green" sounding language, and with the names of forestry experts and their credentials listed as part of the process. However, two major public interest watchdog groups strongly disagreed with these certifications and objected to the process. The FSC label goes on the product. That's what the consumer sees. And the strong objections are marginalized and buried on the internet or in obscure reports.
The JD Irving certificates mysteriously disappeared from the FSC's lists of certfied 'forest managers' some time after the end of 2002: local stakeholders were not informed when, or why this happened.