The Santiago Times
Forestry companies bend to environmental
Native forests continue to be endangered
April 5, 2004
Chile's two most important forestry companies
- Arauco and CMPC - appear to be making serious efforts to honor
an agreement signed in November 2003 to assure better conservation
methods. The agreement was signed with Forest Ethics, U.S. company
Home Depot, five Chilean environmental organizations and four other
U.S.-based non-governmental organizations (NGOs). It committed the
two Chilean companies to take
positive steps to protect their native forest properties, to implement
land buying procedures that discourage the devastating practice
of replacing native forests with tree farms, and to develop eco-system
based planning for the native forests now in their possession.
"Both companies have made progress,"
confirmed Forest Ethics attorney Aaron Sanger at a press conference
Friday. "Chile's native forests are safer today than before
November 2003 as a result of the agreement we negotiated with the
two companies. Still, there is much to be done and Chile's native
forests continue to face significant danger."
Sanger was in Chile the last two weeks of
March to monitor compliance with the agreement and traveled part
of the time with Jim Carlton, a senior writer for The Wall Street
Journal, who is writing on forestry industry developments in Chile.
Carlton was also at Friday's press conference.
The November 2003 agreement the two companies
signed with Forest Ethics was a major advance in reconciling the
interests of Chile's burgeoning multi-billion dollar forestry sector
with the native forest conservation concerns of Chilean and international
NGOs. It came after Forest Ethics and other NGOs mounted a serious
consumer awareness campaign with U.S. retail chains that threatened
Chilean wood product sales in the United States. The campaign climaxed
with the publication of a full page ad in The New York Times lambasting
the devastation of Chile's native forests by Chile's forestry industry.
The Forest Ethics tactics were vigorously
denounced by Chile's forestry industry. Still, in November 2003,
Chile's two leading forestry companies committed to developing policies
to protect native forests and agreed to forgo buying timber or engage
in tree plantation farming on any properties that had been covered
in native forest from 1994 onward.
The preservation of Chile's native forests
has been an issue in Chile for decades, with Chilean NGOs such as
Defensores del Bosque (Defenders of the Forest) and the Institute
for Political Ecology vociferously opposing the clear cutting and
native forest substitution practices of the forestry industry. But
neither the companies nor the government had responded in any significant
way until the local NGOs aligned themselves in a tough-fisted
consumer awareness campaign with their U.S.-based counterparts.
Chile's forestry sector will be exporting
an estimated US$2.9 billion in products in 2004, and Arauco and
CMPC account for about 80 percent of these exports. One third of
Chilean forestry exports are bound for the U.S. market.
Arauco, the larger of the two forestry firms,
is owned by the Angelini group, while CMPC is owned by the Matte
group. The two family groups are among about a half dozen economic
cartels that dominate Chile's business landscape.
At Friday's press conference, Sanger strongly
praised the environment-friendly advances made at CMPC. "We
see a real effort to develop environmental strategies at CMPC, and
we think real changes are occurring at the company," he said.
His praise of Arauco's compliance with the agreement was more modest.
Jim Carlton, a Wall Street Journal reporter,
said he was writing about Chilean forestry issues because the collaborative
effort between Chile's forestry sector and the NGOs could serve
as an example for the forestry industries of other countries. Carlton
noted that environmental concerns "are a very important issue
in the United States for retail wood products firms."
Malu Sierra, spokesperson for Defensores
del Bosque, sharply criticized Chile's government for its failure
to lead in native forest issues. Sierra noted that new forestry
legislation proposed by the government does not include restraints
on native forest substitution, restraints that have already been
accepted by Arauco and CMPC in their agreement with Forest Ethics
and the other organizations in the continuing Chile Native Forest
By Steve Anderson (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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