Home | Front Page | News | Articles | Documents | Environmental | Archive | Discussion Point
Events Calendar
| Links |
About Us

The Santiago Times

Forestry companies bend to environmental pressure

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 Campaign.

By Steve Anderson (santiagotimes@yahoo.com)


Back to top

Home | Front Page | News | Articles | Documents | Environmental | Archive Discussion Point | Events Calendar | Links | About Us

Mapuche International Link. Copyright © 2002.
For all information relevant to the site, including design and
contact info,
click here