FSC commits "major blunder" by certifying clearcutting in California's redwoodsTags: USA, High Conservation Value Forests, Pesticides, SCS
On 11 February 2013, Green Diamond Resource Company announced that it had received FSC certification. Dr. Robert J. Hrubes, Executive Vice President of SCS announced that,
"Green Diamond Resource Company has undergone a lengthy and rigorous assessment of its forest management practices, broadly defined, and have demonstrated a level of conformance to the FSC Standard that merits award of certification."
EPIC (Environmental Protection Information Center) disagrees with SCS's assessment. "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 writes in a reaction to the certification on its website.
In June 2012, EPIC put out an Action Alert in which they pointed out that many questions arise over the FSC certification. EPIC lists the following problems:
"Green Diamond's aggressive clearcut logging, their legacy of toxic pollution, their decades long history of antagonistic relationships with local communities and civil society organizations, and their corporate culture of greenwash, impunity, and lack of accountability."
The Action Alert came two days after a public meeting about the certification. At the time, EPIC believed that the certification process provided a "real opportunity" to bring about "substantial changes in the manner in which Green Diamond (ex-Simpson Timber) treats public trust resources in our bioregion." However, after taking part in the public meeting, EPIC was concerned that,
"FSC is not registering nor taking seriously the comments of the public," and noted that "there is a very real risk that the Forest Stewardship Council could provide certification to Green Diamond without bringing about the necessary transformation of their operations on the ground."
When SCS published the public report of their audit, EPIC found that they had failed to disclose "a significant amount of information about the process, information which at this juncture remains secret". EPIC is demanding that the full certification record is made public. EPIC comments that,
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.
EPIC is working on an investigation into the certification of Green Diamond. EPIC's initial review is available on their website and below:
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.
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.
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.
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.