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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, Chile’s two largest logging companies—CMPC and Arauco, both known for their role in driving the destruction of the country’s forests—made a public commitment with a group of national and international environmental organizations to preserve Chile’s 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 Chile’s 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 Chile’s 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 Chile’s 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 Chile’s 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 planet’s ecosystems.

Geoaustral Org. Forest & Community
Geoaustral FM 101.5
Casilla Postal 876 Puerto Montt - Chile
Tel./ Fax (56-65) 258145

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