Community Response to Pact Between Big Timber
and Environmental Groups in Chile
Puerto Montt, Chile. 16 April, 2004
For the communities that live in and strive
to defend the native forests of southern Chile, November 11, 2003
will be remembered as a day of naivete and shame. On this day, Chiles
two largest logging companiesCMPC and Arauco, both known for
their role in driving the destruction of the countrys forestsmade
a public commitment with a group of national and international environmental
organizations to preserve Chiles remaining forests and end
the harmful practice of substituting tree plantations for native
forest. That logging companies with a proven record of corruption
signed a commitment that has no legally binding consequences for
either Chilean forest conservation or society in general is shameful.
Rather than carrying any weight in practice or by law, the pact
provides the participating companies with a quick and easy green
stamp of approval that protects their valuable U.S. market, which
until the signing of the pact had been besieged by an environmental
campaign that had seriously questioned their Chilean operations.
This has all come at the expense of several environmental organizations
who have proven to be more naive than pragmatic.
As we approach the six-month anniversary
of the signing of the agreement, it is worth reviewing the impact
of the companies operations on local communities in Chile.
For decades, CMPC and Arauco have gained notoriety for destructive
logging operations, displacement of farmers from lands, and violent
repression against Chiles indigenous Mapuche peoples who have
sought to recover ancestral land rights. Furthermore, the companies
have exerted undue influence on the Chilean government in order
to obtain tax benefits, develop highly lucrative and polluting logging
projects, and accelerate the process of substitution of native species
throughout Chile and Latin America.
The naivete and presumption on the part of
environmental organizations that live far from Chiles southern
forests has led to the assumption that a simplistic pact can have
an impact on decades of destructive logging policies and that in
a very short turnaround time the Chilean forestry industry is capable
of changing from a profit-driven business model prioritizing shareholder
interests to a model of forest conservation, equity and social and
environmental benefit for logging companies and local communities
alike. Unfortunately, such agreements reflect the lack of knowledge
on the part of environmental organizations as to the daily reality
faced by southern Chiles forest communities. These agreements
also testify to an ignorance regarding the limits of the Chilean
political context, in which there is a lack of political will on
the part of the authorities to ensure that companies go beyond mere
protection of their financial interests and logging operations and
fully comply with environmental laws.
The communities and environmental groups
that live in Chiles southern forests appeal to the international
environmental community to get to know us and involve our issues
more fully in their campaigns, no matter how small the community.
We appeal to the environmental community to fully include indigenous
peoples in their campaigns and respect their legitimate right to
recover their ancestral territories. Successful survival and protection
of the forests must supercede personal and institutional interests.
As we are all part of the natural world, let us strive towards the
utmost sincerity and integrity in our actions on behalf of the planets
Geoaustral Org. Forest & Community
Geoaustral FM 101.5
Casilla Postal 876 Puerto Montt - Chile
Tel./ Fax (56-65) 258145
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