- South Africa: FSC Certification of Industrial Timber Plantations

World Rainforest Movement Bulletin July 2004 - South Africa: FSC Certification of Industrial Timber Plantations The environment pressure network Geasphere has charged the international Forest Stewardship Council with acting irresponsibly in certifying the massive spread of Industrial Timber Plantations (ITPs) in South Africa. ITPs come at a massive cost to the natural and social environment, and these costs have not been quantified, says Philip Owen of Geasphere, in an open letter to the chair of the Forest Stewardship Council, David Nahwegabouw. "Certifying South African Industrial Timber Plantations with a 'green label' is irresponsible and undermines your credibility," Owen charged, in an earlier letter to FSC board members. He asks the FSC chair why FSC board members, after visiting South Africa and seeing the ITPs for themselves, did not even respond to Geasphere's letter in April, which proposed a series of steps the FSC could take. "...Please tell us if you don't agree that we have legitimate cause for concern; and if FSC could be the vehicle to instigate the drastic changes needed to move towards sustainably managed plantations." The open letter outlines the way timber plantations have damaged the environment in general, and in specific cases. It points out that timber plantations are established in the rare high rainfall areas, primarily grassland. These are some of the most floristically diverse areas of this country. In South Africa, millions of hectares of primary grassland, savannah grassland and pockets of indigenous forests have disappeared beneath this sea of alien monoculture. South Africa's most threatened bird species, Rudd's Lark, has been most severely affected by destruction of its high rainfall grassland habitat while South Africa's most threatened antelope species, the Oribi, can also trace its demise to loss of the same grassland habitat. Industrial Timber Plantations are of fast growing, high yielding, evergreen species, and consume vast quantities of the scarce water resources. Many springs have become bone dry since whole catchments were planted over with high impact ITPs. There are reports that with ready access to water, a mature eucalyptus tree can use upwards of 500 litres of water daily. There are also reports that in some areas where ITPs have been established, the water table has dropped as much as 36 metres. Philip Owen adds: "It is sad to see how we people lose touch with the reality of our relationship with mother earth. We substitute her bounty with row upon row of monotony, smothering the life-force in the soils. As we steal from this soil, we must remember that in truth, money does not make the world go round."

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