U.S. Logging Company Yields to Activist Pressure
Published on Thursday, September 4, 2003 by OneWorld.net
U.S. Logging Company Yields to Activist Pressure
by Jeffrey Allen
WASHINGTON -- In a move that environmentalists hope will lead industry toward greater forest stewardship and heightened environmental standards, a major U.S. wood and paper products company committed Wednesday to protecting endangered forests and preventing illegal logging.

The Idaho-based company, Boise Cascade, agreed to completely eliminate the purchase of wood products from endangered areas, to end the practice of harvesting timber from old-growth forests in the United States, and to "responsibly source" wood from key tree species in endangered areas around the world.

Boise also pledged to give preference to suppliers who provide wood products from certified, well-managed forests "whenever feasible," and to reinforce efforts to thwart illegal logging, including cutting in parks, reserves, or other areas where logging is prohibited by law.

The new standards were announced in a statement entitled "Boise and the Environment," developed with input from conservation groups including Rainforest Action Network (RAN), the American Lands Alliance, and the National Forest Protection Alliance.

"Logging, distributing or selling endangered forests is a barbaric, outdated practice that has entered its endgame in the American marketplace," said Michael Brune, Executive Director of RAN. "Any company that is still engaged in this practice is on the wrong side of history."

RAN, a San Francisco-based activist organization dedicated to protecting the earth's forests and the rights of their inhabitants, has been campaigning to save remaining old growth forests since 1992, receiving support and publicity from such popular music figures as R.E.M., the Indigo Girls, and the Dave Matthews Band.

The group began a full-scale public campaign targeting Boise in October, 2000, when it floated a 12-story dinosaur balloon over the company's headquarters with a banner that read, "Boise: I Love Logging Old Growth."

According to RAN, nearly 80 percent of the earth's virgin, old growth forests have already been destroyed or degraded, and 96 percent of original forests in the U.S. are gone forever. Tropical rainforests contain at least half of all life on earth, and global deforestation is causing a mass extinction of life, unparalleled since the disappearance of the dinosaurs.

With Wednesday's announcement, Boise became the first major U.S. forest products company to adopt a comprehensive environmental statement for its operations.

In August 1999, Home Depot, the single largest retailer of lumber in the world, agreed to phase out its sales of old growth wood. Following the Home Depot announcement, six of the world's top ten lumber retailers and three of America's largest homebuilders followed suit.

Activists hope that Boise's commitment, which was called "one of the most important corporate advances in forest protection" since the Home Depot announcement four years ago, will convince other forest products companies to make similar pledges.

On the heels of the Boise statement, RAN sent letters to 12 of the company's competitors challenging them to meet or beat Boise's commitment.

The conservation group accused these companies, which they call the "Dirty Dozen," of being the largest importers and distributors of endangered, old growth forest products, the worst converters of native forests to monocultural plantations, and the leading manufacturers of non-recycled, virgin tree paper.

"Polls have shown that Americans care where their two-by-fours and toilet paper come from. While the Bush administration is selling out the American people by allowing even more commercial logging on taxpayer-owned land, Boise has shown what a real initiative for healthy forests looks like," said Jennifer Krill, Old Growth Campaign Director for RAN. "Boise's commitment demonstrates that industrial evolution is possible. It should serve as a wake up call to loggers: evolve or go extinct."

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