Monday, 13 July 2009

Environmental groups increasingly powerful, says researcher

Environmental groups increasingly powerful, says researcher
July 12, 2009

With deforestation increasingly driven by industrial actors, rather than subsistence farmers, tropical timber managers should be aware of the growing clout of environmental groups in swaying public opinion, says a forest expert from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, writing in the International Tropical Timber Organization's July Tropical Forest Update.

"The tropical timber industry can expect an increasingly hard line from environmental groups and consumers, as part of a broader effort to combat the growing impacts on forests of industrialization and globalization," writes William F. Laurance.

"Although many in the tropical timber industry believe a 'use it or lose it' approach is the best way to promote natural forest maintenance, the industry is one of the most conspicuous—and therefore vulnerable—exploiters of forests.

In recent years, members of the industry have teamed with environmental groups on initiatives like the Forest Stewardship Council, a certification scheme that aims to improve the sustainability of logging operations. But activists have been increasingly questioning the credibility of FSC follow a series of scandals suggesting that in some cases it has failed to ensure responsible timber harvesting. Laurance says that the industry needs to make a serious commitment to sustainability if it wants to avoid criticism.

"Unless it moves aggressively toward effective self-policing, it will increasingly find itself the target of adverse actions and publicity. The smart tack under such circumstances is to take environmental sustainability very seriously. It is simply good business."

Laurance's paper is available in PDF form at Changing realities for tropical forest managers