VEGA News Item

Overseeing the Good From the Trees - 11/08/2005
Timber and derived products are harvests and resources colonization of areas of socioeconomic instability, lawlessness, and neglect or damage to wildlife, habitats, and the environment. We enter into a consultation with DEFRA on Euro-plans to monitor, police, and accept imports from the world's forests.

Re: Consultation on FLEGT (Forest Law-Enforcement, Governance, and Trade) Licensing Regulation.

1. This response comes from a modest residence in Woodland Rise, which runs into Woodland Approach, Oakwood Crescent, Ashdown Gardens, Cross Gate and Orchard Gate, where the connexions and clues to developments in the recent past (i.e. ‘Homes for Heroes’, post WW1) and the opening of Metroland lead to the local tube station. Another street nearby, actually leading into Horesendon Wood ( which has some diversity, but is mainly of oak), is named Whitton Drive, on one side of which runs an undisturbed stand of venerable oaks, on the other some later replacements of lime trees.

2. The once-vigorous population of common sparrow has been elliminated from Greenford. The surgically engineered domestic cat, relieved of the territorial and reproductive feline sports involving other species, is probably responsible for much of this demise. A fox has forsaken the opportunities in raiding all those hapless free-ranged descendants of jungle fowl or the farm for a residence at the local Tube station, her den being convenient to an air-raid shelter left open for use for the 50 or more years and a small memorial to hostilities among civilized Christian soldiers reduced to savagery that plumbed depths of depravity-as well as honour. The vixen parades this year’s litter of 4 lusty cubs along platforms thronged a little later by commuters embarking on their journey to the great metropolis and the terrors that may greet them there (this is the Piccadilly Line). The joyful night-workers on the system bring the vixen the remains of their supermarket chicken sandwich. Our wellbeing depends heavily on the “ghost” acres we have colonized and appropriated in other way (or deserted or abandoned) in the comforts won by relentless exploitation of resources of food, fuel, land, labour, and amenity.

3. We must therefore humbly admit sympathy with denizens of the forests in countries of lower latitudes than this and presumably, with aspirations to trample on the planet to attain the bounties we have won, thanks to depredations by our late forebears, who were constraints of low-latitude, tropical countries where trees perform specially valuable functions of shade, shelter, and habitat.

4. Laws obtaining in tropical areas may allow practices illegal in the UK or within the EU. Health and Safety at work and application of pesticides may not accord with regulations in northern Europe. Precedents in the food industry and the imperatives of free trade suggest that inconsistencies in regulation and policing will not inhibit imports if the goods conform to the exporter’s laws. Imports of poultry meat from, say, Vietnam into the UK cannot, it seems, be halted even if outbreaks of pathogens such as bird flu are rife in production in Vietnam. British farmers want to impose a ban on pig-meat legally reared and killed in the Netherlands and Denmark but illegal in the UK. In this instance home-producers resort to advertising to underline the discrimination, but reservations within the trade try to hide such dog-bite-dog tactics from the public.

5. Timber is not the only output from forests. By-products and value-added co-products may introduce some questionable commodities on the world market, such as bushmeat and other products from animal species and wildlife. Policing on these matters can run in parallel with Oxfam and Fair Trade in importations of tree nuts, notably brazils. Exhibits in the Eden Project demonstrate the feasibility of 3-tier cultivation of crops within forests from the understory through the lower branches to the timber itself utilising biosynthesis and compatibility at all levels-and even higher if walkways and airship flights attract scientific exploration and tourists. Licensing should extend to the acceptability to local populations and contentment by importers that the practices and licensing represent fair practice and serve common good, (for example as criteria set out by the FSC Forest Stewardship Council certification scheme when sourcing and labelling wood from sustainable sources; see Appendix).

6. A balance must be struck between food crops and products of pharmaceutical significance attract foreign currency, such as coffee. Arts and crafts developed on local skills should be included in licensing schemes, which should control the potentially lucrative tourist industry to respect local customs, habitats, and wildlife, as well as management and replacement within the forest.

7. Sustainable developments in forestry are likely to develop local light industry, with wood by – products as potential fuels. Local craftsmanship and relatively cheap labor would hold populations in wooded areas and prevent drifts into towns, cities, and slums. Furniture miles might be added to food miles as a source of political debate and control (as is arising with cotton goods and textiles). These developments would have to be assessed in considerations of alternatives to wood in building and construction. It seems feasible that the items measured up for a British fitted kitchen could be manufactured in central Africa, just as a suit designed and measured in northern Europe can be made in China.

8. Agricultural economics in African countries have been associated with manufacturing companies seeking opportunities for markets and investments linked with provision of machinery, tractors and vehicles of all types (including the president’s limousine and cars for his retinue). We suggest that such associations are scrutinized more closely in their management of resources and monitoring of expenditure. A subsidized slaughterhouse to provide “black beef” for meat markets in Europe entails disruptions in agriculture such as clearances for feed crops (e.g. maize) that are more profitable than tree-crops. Disturbances of habitats, migration of wild animals, and of water supplies ensue. The European citizen /customer/consumer/investor with ethical pretensions mat be an unwary accomplice in the practices that FLEGT is set to oust.

Dr Alan Long
Hon. Research Advisor

The FSC standards conform to agreements such as the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and the Birds and Habitat directive signed by participating EU members, for example: under the FSC standard, dead trees are protected for their conservation value, bird-nesting trees and trees of over 200 years old are also protected. Under the FFC certification scheme, bird-nesting trees and trees of any age can be logged.
All decisions made under the FSC standard are made equally between three interest groups represented by economic, social and environmental groups. The FFCS governed by the working group, the Finnish Forest Council (FFC), does not satisfy the same standards as the Forest Stewardship Certification scheme (FSC) which only approves of wood from sustainable sources, not from endangered habitats. The FSC is an ecologically sustainable and socially ethical scheme supported by the Finnish Association for Nature Conservation, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace and World Wildlife Fund.

In comparison Finland have their own forestry certification for sourcing wood but the Finnish Forestry Certification Standard (FFCS), does not adhere to provisions of binding by international agreements or the Finnish Forest and Nature Conservation Act. Under the present Finish Forestry Certification Scheme, old growth forests, (which provide habitat to rare and endangered Red List Species such as the Flying Squirrel) can be logged without limitation. The Sámi (indigenous people inhabiting the ancient forests of Finland), have no power to vote against existing forest management practices in Finland and therefore have no rights to protect their livelihood or habitat within the ancient forest. In November 2004, the UN Committee on Human Rights requested the Finnish government to promptly reconcile contention over the function and management of the state-owned lands vital for preserving the Sámi peoples’ culture.

The current deforestation crisis in Borneo has become so desperate that scientists predict two thirds of Borneo’s tropical forest will disappear within the next fifteen years. Trees are being felled for palm plantations and the wood is destined for the USA and EU. This habitat needs to be urgently protected if we are to see the survival of viable populations of the Oran-utan and pygmy elephants endemic to the area. The rate of logging is 850,000 hectares a year, this rate of logging should not be allowed when governments are in agreement and legally binding to the international wildlife conservation agreements such as the Biodiversity, CITES, Birds and Habitat conventions. This kind of intense logging activity is one example the FLEGT needs to review when wildlife species listed in the IUCN (The International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources) Red List. The FLEGT regulations must use more stringent methods for controlling the rate of logging to protect species such as the Oran-utan which are seriously endangered. This species requires substantial un-fragmented forest to sustain a viable gene pool and these requirements have to be incorporated into international forestry management schemes to protect forests and wildlife species from this level of exploitation.

Carla Shaw BSc (Hons)
Research Officer


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