Certifying logging – should we ever endorse native forest logging?

The logging industry is desperately grabbing for a lifeline as they slowly sink on the global wood market The price of the Aussie dollar and a global glut of plantation woodchips are both undermining the profits of Australia’s native forest logging industry.

Most buyers want some sort of eco-certification to keep their customers assured. So the Australian logging industry and its servants (governments) are belatedly trying to gain some sort of accreditation. They tried their own brand of self-certification in a cheap label called Australian Forest Standard (AFS), which didn’t wash with the more savvy consumers. Now they are trying to gain the globally recognised label of Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). FSC’s credibility recently plummeted after they were exposed endorsing the logging of Sumatran rainforest!

PaperlinX, the company that makes Reflex writing paper, recently gained a very dodgy FSC interim certification label. This allowed them to plaster their reams of paper with a nice tree logo. Yet they are still taking logs from extremely contentious areas like Melbourne’s water catchments, forests supporting threatened wildlife and old growth areas.

VicForests is now keen on getting FSC certification by the middle of 2008. The process normally must get the approval of all members who sit on the FSC board, including conservation groups. However, the official auditor is none other than one Hamish Crawford, who has a rather unsavoury environmental background. Technically, the auditor can OK a logging regime without the approval of the board members. But the board members have to develop the auditor’s assessment standards. This could be difficult when there are mega industry combatants on the board as well.

EEG believes that the current board members representing the forest campaign (TWS, ACF and a couple of individuals) should be extremely careful not to be part of a system that just uses them to gain less than ideal certification. We are still in desperate need of securing more reserves for old growth, more water catchments and habitat for our rare wildlife. There is no indication yet that anything will change out there on the killing fields. Any compromises that help to give the logging brotherhood a foot in the door for a green tick or a will be a terrible mistake.

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