Paper Industry Responsible for 5 Million Acres of Forests Cut Per Year in South, USFS Data Concludes International Paper Leads the Pack Despite “Sustainable Forestry Scheme.”
ATLANTA, GA, Nov. 26 (E-Wire)
Forest lands across the Southern United States are being severely over-logged to make paper, putting the environment and local economies at risk according to a new report released today by the Dogwood Alliance.
The report was timed to be released just as the results of a two-year multi-agency federal study assessing southern forest sustainability are announced.
While the federal study points to “sprawl” as a contributing factor to the forest loss, environmentalists assert that many of the same timber companies, specifically International Paper, responsible for cutting southern forests for paper are also some of the largest developers in the South.
Based on official US Forest Service data, the report documents accelerated paper production, unsustainable logging rates, weak environmental standards and poor forest management practices.
Intact Southern forests, considered by the World Wildlife Fund to be some of the most biologiclly diverse in the world, are necessary for clean air, clean water, and wildlife habitat critical for hunting and fishing.
The South produces approximately 77% of the nation’s pulp wood, although it contains only 40% of the nation’s forests, according to the US Forest Service.
Based on US Forest Service data, 5 million acres are cut per year on both public and priate land in the region, while 400,000 acres are cut on all National Forests, nationwide.
According to the report, 85% percent of the paper market is controlled by companies who claim to be practicing sustainable forestry under the “Sustainable Forestry Initiative” – a timber industry certification program.
Yet, removals of pines currently exceed growth throughout the South and experts predict a similar fate for hardwoods within the decade due to their expanded use in the manufacture of paper.
International Paper is the largest paper producer in the region.
“The timber industry’s ‘Sustainable Forestry Initiative’ fails to address one of the biggest threats to the sustainability of Southern forests”, stated Danna Smith of the Dogwood Alliance.
“How can companies like International Paper claim to be practicing sustainable forestry when they fail to ensure they are not cutting more forests than are growing back?”
The report finds that the SFI standards fail to provide meaningful definitions and performance standards to ensure member companies are not cutting forests beyond their ability to regenerate. Access the report at dogwoodalliance.org. The report is in PDF format.
The South is now the leading paper producing region in the United States, thanks to explosive growth of the regions paper industry. But the reports says over-cutting could kill off the very forests that keep the industry alive.
An increasing number of traditional saw mill owners are now calling for protections. Last year, Michael Dombeck, then Chief of the US Forest Service, warned the industry about overharvesting their land.
“…many chip mills are accelerating the harvest of hardwood timber on private forestlands in the Southeast…I understand that more trees are harvested today in the Southeast than are growing. Sooner or later, that is certain to draw public criticism and public demands for a more sustainable forest management…”
To address the issue, a unique coalition of environmentalists and churches are calling on Staples, as the world’s largest and fastest growing retailer of copy paper, to help take pressure off Southern forests by demanding higher post-consumer content recycled paper from their biggest supplier, International Paper.
Just last year, a similar campaign effectively convinced Lowe’s Do-It-Yourself Home Improvement Center to refrain from selling off endangered southern forests, as well as old growth forests.
“This is our home and our heritage being taken away from us by companies like International Paper“, reflected Danna Smith, co-author of the report, from Ashville, NC.
“As Americans, and specifically as southerners, we want to see the land and our quality of life, be passed down to our children.”