FSC-Watch

An independent observer of the Forest Stewartship Council

Certification of Forestal Venao, Peru: another FSC credibility disaster, courtesy of SmartWood and WWFTags: Peru, Legality, Rainforest Alliance SmartWood

Earlier this year, we reported that Rainforest Alliance SmartWood was in the process of consulting about whether it should start a new 'Legality Verification' scheme for timber. Our opinion was that the Rainforest Alliance's previous track-record of detecting illegality had been so dismal that there is no reason to believe that they are capable of identifying even gross breaches of the law. Now we have received information of yet another case where SmartWood appears to have 'turned a blind eye' to serious illegalities in one of the logging companies it has certified under the FSC scheme.

In early July, flying over the western reaches of the Brazilian state of Acre, Ashaninka indigenous leaders and officials from the Brazilian Federal Environmental Agency (IBAMA) confirmed what had been suspected for some months: workers from the Peruvian company Venao Forestal had illegally crossed into Brazil, and were now felling CITES-listed mahogany there. The company's illegal activities were captured in numerous photographs and through GPS plots, and reported on Brazilian TV. Local indigenous associations, including the Indigenous People Organization of the Juruá River (OPIRJ) and the Ashaninka Society of the Rio Amônia (Apiwtxa), reported that "Huge quantities of timber have been cut down, stacked on the margins of the road, ready to be transported". The groups denounced these illegalities, and called on IBAMA to "take immediate action to stop the advance of this exploitation". The groups say they intend to "appeal to international courts to protect Brazilian sovereignty, their territory, the preservation area, and the still existent biodiversity of the region."

On the road to Brazil: logging activities on Venao's illegal road. More pictures of the logging road are available here

Illegal logging in this part of the Peru-Brazil frontier area is widespread and almost completely out of control. What makes this case notable, however, is that the company concerned has been FSC certified by SmartWood, which awarded the certificate in April 2007 after an evaluation in September-October 2006.

Whilst FSC-Watchers are no longer surprised at such glaring failures in SmartWood's assessments, the certification of Venao has come as a major shock and disappointment both to local indigenous communities and to respected international experts.

At the time of SmartWood's assessment, Dr David Salisbury of the Amazon Frontiers Research Center had been researching frontier logging in region for nearly a year. He informed SmartWood of Venao's existing extensive illegal activities, including the construction, over a period of several years, of more than 100 kilometres of illegal road, which passes through the lands of several indigenous communities. These roads had been identified through satellite images, and plotted on maps. A report in the Peruvian newspaper El Commercio confirmed that the road had been opened by Venao, and included the map below.

Venao's illegal road through indigenous territories towards the Brazilian border was well documented

Dr David Salisbury mapped Venao's illegal roads

Dr Salisbury informed SmartWood before the certificate was issued that "Forestal Venao is infamous in Ucayali, Peru for their indifference to laws, indigenous people, and the rainforest environment. They have built an illegal, non-state sanctioned logging road from the banks of the Ucayali to the Juruá basin on the Brazilian border. This is no small skid trail, but a network of roads whose main trunk extends over 120 kilometers." Dr Salisbury told SmartWood that Venao "is exactly the kind of company that Smartwood and the Forest Stewardship Council should be blacklisting, NOT certifying".

SmartWood's astonishingly complacent response to this was merely to issue a Minor Corrective Action Request (10/07) calling on Venao to "improve the planning and construction of roads".

The involvement of Venao in illegal logging was also well known. A study published in May 2007 by The National Association of Amazon Indians in Peru (AIDESEP) reported that Venao's road "is being used to illegally extract mahogany trees from the interior of the Territorial Reserve Murunahua and surrounding areas (timber concessions and permits), using the laundering of the wood to get it into the formal business circuit. The magnitude of the illegal logging of mahogany in this area is alarming, occurring from Atalaya and the Yurua River all the way to the border with Brazil, with the use of heavy machinery and specialized equipment to harvest and transport this resource. Likewise, numerous secondary roads have been built, which go into untouchable regions like the Territorial Reserve Murunahua granted to indigenous people in voluntary isolation."

Illegal loggers in the Territorial Reserve Murunahua

The revelations about Venao's certification will, once again, come as a major embarrassment to WWF. Under the guise of the so-called Sustainable Forest Products Global Alliance, which is funded by USAID, WWF has been working with Forestal Venao to provide "technical assistance to improve their forest management as part of the stepwise approach to certification".

One of the major concerns with Venao is the nature of it's relationship with the local indigenous communities, some of which have not had previous contact with western society. WWF Peru is involved in a programme Certification and Development of the Forest Sector (CEDEFOR) which aims to "promote efficiency and sustainability of...permanent production forest and community forest in the Peruvian Amazon by the application of responsible forest management practices... This way, the project will directly contribute to national economic growth, the conservation of forest resources, as well as to the Government of Peru's Alternative Development Program." Under CEDEFOR (which is also USAID funded), WWF claimed to have "facilitated the consolidation of the commercial agreement between five forest communities from Yurua and a manufacturer in primary processing industry (Forestal Venao)."

However, other international experts had described a much more worrying situation: Venao had actually signed agreements with the leaders of two particular indigenous communities (who had probably benefited personally from this deal) but the communities as a whole had not benefited. In their report for the Roundriver Conservation Studies group, Chris Fagan and Diego Shoobridge found that "there are no indications that the community is benefiting, let alone prospering, from the sale of their trees. In fact, in an interview, the vice president of Nueva Victoria complained that the town lacked a health post with medicines or adequate schools, saying, "we have nothing here."

The researchers also found that Venao was carefully manipulating local tribespeople to their own advantage. They found in the village of Neuva Shauaya - which had an 'logging agreement' with Venao - that "Forestal Venao is helping groups of newcomers from the central Amazon gain title to lands in exchange for rights to the mahogany in those lands". They described the company's actions as "a shrewd scheme to gain timber rights to virgin forest" and concluded that "Venao is entirely unworthy for certification". (Further information on this aspect of Venao's activities is available here.)

For what it is worth, SmartWood have responded to some of the above concerns by saying that they are carrying out a surveillance visit to Venao next month. Hopefully, they will be a little more rigorous than they were when they first audited Venao for the certificate. However, FSC-Watch believes that, with this certificate, SmartWood have conclusively shown that they are unfit to remain as an FSC accredited certifier, and should be removed forthwith. We call on the FSC Secretariat to cancel Venao's certificate, and to de-accredit SmartWood.

USAID might also like to look a little closer at the WWF activities it is funding in Peru's Amazon frontier forests; 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 illegally operating) companies through the FSC certification process, or is in the process of doing so.

Comments

I am deeply saddened that the panda has prostituted itself to ancient forest loggers.

TO: Whom it may concern
FROM: Richard Z. Donovan, Chief of Forestry, Rainforest Alliance, Gerben Stegeman & Freddy Pena, RA/SmartWood South America and Wolfram Pinker, SmartWood Managing Director, Rainforest Alliance
RE: Status of FSC certification of Forestal Venao
DATE: August 1, 2007

Following are facts on the current situation as documented by RA/SW auditors, and based on a combination of existing documents, interviews, field evidence and ongoing dialogue.

A full FSC public summary plus the two following documents are available in Spanish on the certification of Forestal Venao SRL at www.smartwood.org. We are currently translating all documents to English due to public interest – the normal FSC requirement is that such documents be published at least in the local language (in this case Spanish), which was previously done.

1. Nota Aclaratoria – Certificacion de Forestal Venao SRL, May 31 2007.
2. Forestal Venao – Extracts from the Public Summary, July 27, 2007.

As soon as these documents are translated to the English language, we will make them available to any stakeholder requesting information or providing comment. Individuals or organizations having evidence, and/or wishing to participate as observers during the audit process described below, or needed more information, should contact Freddy Pena and Gerben Stegeman (fpena@ra.org and gstegeman@ra.org).

At the time of RA/SW approval of the Venao certification earlier this year, Lead Auditor Freddy Pena and Chief of Forestry Richard Z. Donovan visited stakeholders in Lima, Peru. During this visit in March, we clarified the following to various stakeholders.

1. RA/SW had received various reports on Forestal Venao since the assessment process started in mid-2006. We had been in contact with the authors and other relevant stakeholders, and have sought to corroborate the information in their reports with other credible sources, in particular allegations of illegal logging and road-building by Forestal Venao with Peruvian government authorities. Unfortunately conclusive evidence of illegal activity provided in these reports, and occurring prior to certification, was not confirmed by government officials or field auditing. During the assessment process we received information on previous interventions in the forest areas in question, including petroleum exploration companies. All roads constructed or maintained by Forestal Venao were declared in the management plans presented by the enterprise and were legally approved by the Peruvian Forest Authority INRENA.

2. In July 2007, new information has come forth, alleging that Forestal Venao and 1 indigenous community are involved in illegal logging on Brazilian territory. The information so far on this case is conflicting; with the Brazilian and Peruvian governments having different perspectives, though it is our understanding that they are currently taking measures to jointly clarify the issues. We are now trying to get accurate, up-to-date information through channels in both Peru and Brazil. IF it is found that Forestal Venao SRL is involved in illegal timber trade, their FSC certification will immediately be suspended by RA/SW.

3. During our assessment process we found out that there are organizational crises and problems with leadership among various indigenous communities and organizations operating in the region that makes this situation challenging. The relationships are complex, between different communities, indigenous organizations and forest products companies. According to the conditions of the Venao certification, no new indigenous communities can be added to the Venao certificate unless field audits had been conducted by RA/SW to ensure compliance with FSC requirements.

4. Forestal Venao has accepted the responsibility of implementing FSC Controlled Wood auditing and verification for ALL wood supply coming to its mills – Venao was the first company in Peru to accept this responsibility. Given RA/SW and stakeholders concerns regarding the past activities of Venao, this commitment was required by RA/SW for approval of the Forestal Venao certification. This requirement goes beyond current FSC requirements. The 5 Controlled Wood categories – which Forestal Venao will no longer accept wood from – are illegal harvests, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), harvests where human rights violations have occurred, large-scale forest conversions, and from high conservation value (HCV) forests where HCVs are clearly threatened.

5. In April we committed to implementing an audit related to Forestal Venao, and the associated indigenous communities, in the period between September and December 2007. As per our “nota aclaratoria”, we are inviting observers and FSC International and/or ASI (Accreditation Services International) to this audit. Due to the issues being raised now, that audit is now being moved up to the week of August 24, 2007, and we are now implementing research on both sides of the Peru/Brazil border. Any and all new evidence of transgressions is welcome. (All observers will have to comply with requirements for observers as approved by FSC and ASI. The requirements will be made available to all applicant observers. )

After the upcoming audit is completed, RA/SW will publish, within 30 days of completion of the field work, a summary of the audit findings in English, Spanish and Portuguese (FSC normal requirement is just Spanish in this case).

In addition, in late September or early October, RA/SW will make senior RA/SW staff available to the public for further discussion on the audit results using Webex software and technology over the Internet. This will allow stakeholders with concerns to interact directly with senior RA/SW staff in separate Spanish and English language sessions, and Portuguese if there is interest. These sessions will occur AFTER audit summaries have been produced and made available to stakeholders in English, Spanish & Portuguese. Stakeholders will be expected to have read the audit summary prior to the Webex sessions.

Thank you.

FSC accreditation program asks SmartWood to investigate situation at Forestal Venao - August 3rd, 2007

Following stakeholder concerns about compliance with FSC requirements of the Peruvian company Forestal Venao S. R. L., Accreditation Services International (ASI) – managing the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) accreditation program, has asked SmartWood to investigate and clarify the situation. SmartWood is the FSC accredited certification body that evaluated and certified the company.

SmartWood has scheduled a field audit to Forestal Venao in the week of 24th of August 2007 - less than six months after the issuance of the FSC certificate on 3rd April 2007. An ASI representative will also participate in the audit.

To maintain FSC certification, each FSC certified company has to demonstrate continued and full compliance with FSC requirements during field surveillance audits. These audits are scheduled at least every 12 months. FSC accredited certification bodies can schedule surveillance audits at any time in complex contexts or if concerns over compliance with FSC certification requirements arise.

SmartWood has issued a public statement at the end of which it asks concerned parties to submit documented evidence to be considered during the upcoming field surveillance audit. It also offers the possibility to participate at the audit as an observer. The SmartWood statement is available at: http://www.rainforest-alliance.org/programs/forestry/smartwood/documents/venao_statement_070801.pdf

For further information, please contact:

• Nina Haase, Communications Manager, FSC International Center, Bonn, Germany: Tel. +49 228 367 66 29, n.haase@fsc.org

FOR: To whom it may concern
FROM: Richard Z. Donovan, Chief of Forestry Rainforest Alliance
Gerben Stegeman & Freddy Peña, RA/SmartWood South America
Wolfram Pinker, Managing Director RA/SmartWood
RE: Results and preliminary conclusions from SmartWood investigation into complaints against Forestal Venao S.R.L.
DATE: September 27, 2007

Background: Forestal Venao S.R.L. is a Peruvian company that currently implements forest management and harvesting activities on indigenous lands in Peru (Yurua District, Atalaya Province, Department of Ucayali) through participation agreements with communities that have ownership over these forests. In April 2006 Forestal Venao contacted SmartWood Program of Rainforest Alliance indicating their interest in initiating a process to achieve FSC forest certification The FSC certification process was implemented in two phases, a pre-assessment (July 2006) and a main assessment (September 2006). Based on the final results of this process, in April 2007 SmartWood issued a group FSC forest management-certificate to Forestal Venao S.R.L. as a Group Manager in charge of managing the forests of two native communities (Sawawo Hito 40 and Nueva Shahuaya). A public summary of the assessment of Forestal Venao SRL can be found on SmartWood’s website (link: http://www.rainforest-alliance.org/programs/forestry/smartwood/public_documents_country.cfm?country=45)

In July 2007 SmartWood received complaints alleging:
1) That Forestal Venao S.R.L. and one of the native communities (Nueva Shahuaya) carried out illegal logging in Brazilian territory;
2) That Forestal Venao constructed an illegal road between Puerto Italia and the communal territory of Yurua;
3) That Forestal Venao is carrying out illegal logging in the upper watershed or headwaters of the Yurua River, inside the Murunahua Territorial Reserve; and,
4) That Forestal Venao forest operations in communal territory in the Yurua area, are causing damage to the natural resources and environment, of the native communities that live on the Brazilian side of the border

Following our FSC-approved internal complaints procedures, SmartWood organized and carried out an audit of Forestal Venao which included field verification and consultation with a wide range of stakeholders during the week of August 24, preceded by also gathering information from investigations conducted by Brazilian and Peruvian private and public agencies. New information from stakeholders has been welcomed throughout the process, and used for further investigation of these issues.

The following sections outlines SmartWood’s verification and information gathering activities as well as preliminary results and conclusions based on the information obtained and processed up to now in relation to specific complaints.

SmartWood verification activities and methods
Consultation with official governmental entities responsible for forest regulation and control, and other authorities: Instituto Brasilero de Medio Ambiente (IBAMA), Federal Police of Brazil, Brazilian Military Police of the Interior, Brazilian Forest Services Office, Peruvian National Institute of Natural Resources - INRENA, Peruvian Transport Office, Municipal Authorities of the Yurua and Tahuanía districts, Peru. Note: information gathering on the Brazilian side was conducted by IMAFLORA, SmartWood’s certification partner for Brazil.

Consultation of communities and local indigenous leaders: leaders of indigenous communities at the Brazilian border, national and regional indigenous organizations in Peru, community leaders of the Yurua area.

Revision of documented information: (reports of independent investigators, technical documentation related to the evaluated forest operations, complaint documents presented to SmartWood, past certification audit reports and other information related to the forest operations of Forestal Venao and the native communities).

Field Inspections: inspection of forest areas where Forestal Venao is currently executing forest harvesting operations (logging, road construction, extraction of logs, etc) including inspection and gathering of geographical coordinates along the entire northern border of the Forestal Venao Annual Harvest Area – PCA where reported roads and/or forest roads start, inspection of entire length of road that connects Puerto Italia and the Yurua communities, inspection of forest roads built by Forest Venao in all the work areas. Due to access difficulties and recommendations made to us by the Brazilian government agency IBAMA, no field inspection has been carried out on the Brazilian side. SmartWood and IMAFLORA consider this inspection of fundamental importance to the investigation of this complaint and it will be executed as soon as possible, i.e. during the month of October.

Complaint Issues and findings

1) Forestal Venao and one of the native communities with whom they work (Nueva Shahuaya), have carried out illegal logging in Brazilian territory.

Findings: The Forest Intendancy INRENA (Lima office) executed verification inspections in relation to this claim in situ. In its report, INRENA concludes that the Forestal Venao forest activities have been implemented within the authorized area (the annual harvest area-PCA) and that the interventions (opening of roads, logging, etc.) were carried out up to a distance of between 150 and 200 meters from the Brazilian border.

SmartWood received a letter signed by the Director of Environmental Protection of IBAMA including an attached field inspection report, which ratifies the previously denounced facts (indicating that Forestal Venao had carried out illegal logging in Brazilian territory). This report referenced specific geographic coordinates amongst them a harvest area (and log landing) allegedly in Brazil. The IBAMA report also indicates that the Forestal Venao PCA is located inside Peruvian territory, but stating that roads have been observed (opened with machinery), starting in Peruvian territory and going into Brazilian territory. Pictures of these roads were included but no geographical coordinates were provided for the specific sites where these interventions were supposedly carried out by Forestal Venao in Brazilian territory.

The SmartWood audit team carried out a field inspection, traversing the entire northern limit of the harvested area (PCA) of the Nueva Shahuaya community. The IBAMA referenced coordinates were located using three GPS and cross referenced by physical Brazil/Peru border markers/monuments. Findings indicate that the forest operations have been carried out inside the INRENA authorized PCA and that they did not affect Brazilian territory. Note: SmartWood auditors also identified evidence on the Peruvian side of the border, within the PCA, of apparent recent presence of the Brazilian army (e.g. plastic food bags, camping articles).

Brazilian authorities, indigenous leaders and independent investigators consulted during this process continue to associate Forestal Venao with illegal logging and cross border activities and reference to Forestal Venao in various official and unofficial documents regarding the frontier, illegal logging and affectation of indigenous territories. However, concrete evidence has not been presented that definitively links Forestal Venao with these illegal activities.

2) Forestal Venao has constructed an illegal road which unites Puerto Italia (established village on the Ucayali river) with the communal territory of Yurua. This road was constructed without an environmental impact study.

Findings: Based on consultation in Peru with a range of stakeholder, the SmartWood audit team determined that the road in question was constructed and used by an oil company in the 1980’s (between 1982 and 1988). The oil company abandoned the exploration of oil, leaving a road of 92 km (from Puerto Italia towards the northeast), and from there a track of a bit more than 30 km towards the north leading to an area known as Pantanal in the Alto Tamaya.

Various local residents of Puerto Italia and the authorities of the Municipality of Tahuania affirm that the road was in disuse from 1989 to 1990, after which a forest company entered (they don't refer to Forest Venao) which carried out forest extraction during 4 years (1990 to 1995). Later in 2002, under the system of forest concessions granted in the framework of new and current forest law, several forest companies entered to the area, among them Forest Venao. During this time, Forest Venao participated in the reopening or repair of this pre-existing 92 km road.

In an interview with the Sub Dirección de Caminos of the Dirección Regional de Transportes y Comunicaciones (decentralized Office of the Ministry of Transport and Communications) it was confirmed that the road in question is currently not officially recognized/registered. The responsibility for this step of “regularization” is held by the local governments, in this case the Municipality of Tahuanía.

During the August audit, SmartWood audit team travelled the entire length of the road (now currently about 160 km). The last portion of the road, approximately 60 km, crosses community territory and was constructed and maintained by Forest Venao in coordination with the native communities involved in forest management and harvesting. This portion of the road is regulated by INRENA under Peruvian forest law. INRENA authorities affirm that native communities can construct roads inside their territories and forest management units allowing them to transport their wood to processing centers. In this case, all the communities who work with Forest Venao and involved in road construction, have a INRENA-approved General Forest Management Plan (PGMFs).

3) Forestal Venao is carrying out illegal logging in the upper watershed or headwaters of the Yurua River, inside the Murunahua Territorial Reserve.

Findings: Based on information gathered by the SmartWood audit team logging activities in the Murunahua Territorial Reserve cannot be attributed to Forest Venao, but rather to other logging companies that work in the area (local people in the communities identify three of them). All the interviewed people agree these logging companies are promoting illegal logging in communities close to the Murunahua reserve. They also indicate that Forestal Venao doesn't work nor maintains relationship with the communities settled down in the upper basin of the Yurua River (Dulce Gloria, San Pablo and others).

Auditors carried out inspections on forest roads constructed by Forestal Venao, but no indications were found that the company has transported wood from areas or sources other than those authorized by the INRENA (i.e. communities situated along the Yurua River (Nueva Victoria, Santa Rosa and El Dorado) with whom Forestal Venao currently works.

4) The claim that Forestal Venao forest operations in communal territory in the Yurua area, are causing serious damage to the natural resources and environment of the native communities that live on the Brazilian side of the border.

Findings: Interviews with indigenous leaders on the Brazilian side establish that the Ashaninka da Tierra Indígena Kampa de Río Amonia tribes view negatively the activities of Forestal Venao. Indigenous leaders assert that their territories and resources are being negatively affected. However due to access difficulties, as mentioned above, SmartWood has not yet been able to undertake field inspections to allow that these communities show evidence of these impacts in the field.

On the Peruvian side, SmartWood has verified that all operations (planning and construction of roads, bridges, installation of patios, etc.), are supervised by technically qualified personnel and follow established technical norms.

Forestal Venao’s implemented management system includes specific environmental measures, water courses protection, suspension of harvesting during rainy periods, identification and protection of special sites and/or of high importance for wildlife fauna. These measures are being carried out in the field.

It can also be noted that there are two communities where forest harvest operations are being carried out near to the Brazilian border (i.e. Nueva Shahuaya – certified, and Santa Rosa - in process of evaluation). In both these cases, however, the harvest areas do not include permanent water courses that flow to Brazilian territory.

Smartwood audit found no indications that Forestal Venao personnel have been involved in hunting of wildlife. Forestal Venano has formally (through internal regulation and norms of conduct) prohibited this activity for all their personnel. At community level, hunting regulations have also been approved that regulate the activity for all its members.

Summary of Preliminary Conclusions
Complaint issue 1: The information gathered by the SmartWood audit team in Peru indicate that Forestal Venao forest operations have been carried out inside the INRENA authorized PCA and within Peruvian territory. Field inspection on the Brazilian side are still pending to verify IBAMA evidence and claims that Forestal Venao and the community Nueva Shahuaya have carried out interventions (tree felling and opening of roads) in Brazilian territory. SmartWood with the support of IMAFLORA will carry out a field inspection on the Brazilian side within the coming weeks.

Complaint issue 2: It is clear that the road in question (a track of 90 km.) was built by an oil company, and not by Forestal Venao. This road has been used by a group of forest companies, including Forestal Venao, which operated or are operating in the area.

The final 60 km track (between the Base Camp of Forestal Venao and the community Nueva Victoria), is in compliance with forest law, authorized and controlled by INRENA. This case involves community territories with INRENA approved forest management plans, complying with standards for construction and maintenance and impact assessment and environmental monitoring.

Complaint issue 3: There is no indication of any links between Forest Venao and illegal logging practices in the upper watershed or headwaters of the Yurua River, inside the Murunahua Territorial Reserve.

Complaint issue 4: Environmental impacts of Forestal Venao harvesting activities on indigenous communities have not yet been verified. Inspections of Forestal Venao harvest areas on the Peruvian side have not identified evidence of negative cross-border environmental impacts. . Before final conclusion can be made, it is of utmost importance to complete a field inspection on the Brazilian side in order to verify the impacts documented in the complaint through communications with native communities and other stakeholder and to gather evidence in the field. However, coordination with IBAMA is crucial in this regard.

Next steps
SmartWood will schedule and implement direct consultation with affected Brazilian indigenous communities and field inspections in order to corroborate and to confirm the claims by IBAMA and leaders of indigenous communities regarding territorial invasion and effects that negative environmental impacts have been generated as a consequence of activities carried out by Forestal Venao.

SmartWood is organizing and coordinating with authorities and leaders of indigenous communities on the Brazilian side to carry out a field inspection and to listen to the Brazilian indigenous communities. This inspection is expected to take place during the month of October 2007.

Once this fieldwork is completed SmartWood will issue the results and final conclusions of the complaint investigation. The release of this public report is planned for November 2007. Public summaries of all audits will continue to be posted on www.smartwood.org.

Final Comment
Throughout this complain process, SmartWood has taken advantage of any and all evidence provided by stakeholders and affected parties. The value of the information in the Venao case has been limited to some extent because: a) precise geographic information is either missing or contradictory (e.g. GPS data points not available or in locations that contradict the claims of the allegations), b) numerous of the allegations are based on events a number of years ago and are not recent, c) allegations are based on limited information (e.g. the complete picture on roads development was not provided), and d) information is based on rumors. A lesson learned from SmartWood is that in cross-border situations (which have been rare in the past) we must place careful attention on cross-border evaluation during FSC forest certifications. This is not specifically addressed in the FSC system requirements. However, even in this case (i.e. Forestal Venao), it is important to note that public claims and allegations are just that – claims and allegations – and for a fair and rigorous certification process, the FSC system must have a consistent system for exploring both national and international cross-border allegations and coming to conclusions based without definitive or clear evidence. So far in this process we have not uncovered definitive or substantive evidence supporting the allegations. Thus the Venao SRL FSC certification remains intact. However, should new evidence surface to support the allegations, SmartWood reserves the right, as per FSC system requirements, to take further actions related to certification, and we continue to seek information that will affect this case.

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