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Dealers under pressure as ancient forests dwindle

Greenpeace has long warned that ancient forests are falling under the logger's axe Keystone Archive

The parlous state of the world's ancient forests is increasing pressure on Swiss wood importers on International Day of Forests.

This content was published on March 21, 2002 - 08:07

Greenpeace Switzerland is observing the day by calling on importers to stop trading in the destruction of ancient forests.

In two campaigns this month, the environmental organisation has targeted Switzerland's biggest parquet or wooden floor manufacturer, Bauwerk, as well as the door producer, Brunegg.

It has also published a list of companies which import wood from regions where, it says, ancient forests are being destroyed in an irresponsible way.

The protests are part of the organisation's efforts to end illegal logging practices and protect the world's last remaining ancient forests.

Forests in "bad state"

"The ancient forests are in a very bad state and loggers are the main cause of destruction," Christoph Wiedmer, who handles the forest campaign for Greenpeace Switzerland, told swissinfo.

It is estimated that ten million hectares of ancient rainforest are logged each year - that's ten times the total forested area of Switzerland.

Greenpeace wants companies to only use wood carrying the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) label - a guarantee of responsible forest management.

On Wednesday, Greenpeace staged a protest at the factory of Swiss door producer, Brunegg, accusing it of buying wood from companies, involved in illegal logging in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Brunegg told swissinfo that its lawyers would issue a statement shortly about the claims.

Illegal logging

Meanwhile, Swiss television recently documented how Switzerland's biggest parquet manufacturer, Bauwerk, uses wood from companies operating illegally in Cameroon.

Bauwerk has since said that it will not buy from illegal sources anymore. In a written statement, the company defended industry labels of certification as guarantors of good forest management.

However, Greenpeace Switzerland dismissed the industry labels as insufficient, saying FSC was the only credible system of forest certification as it is agreed on by environmentalists, social activists and industry.

Switzerland imports about 20,000 tons of tropical wood annually, up from 11,000 tons in 1997.

Negligible quantity

A Bauwerk spokesman told swissinfo that the quantities of tropical wood used by company, which were not FSC-certified, were negligible.

Greenpeace admits that the Swiss figures are not high compared to other countries. Portugal, for example, imports about 500,000 tons of tropical wood a year.

"Switzerland's role is not that big," said Wiedmer. "But together with other countries we have the possibility to change the pattern of consumption so that the entire import of tropical wood turns to FSC certification."

The Greenpeace report is not all condemnation. It praises the activities of the Swiss company, Precious Woods, which owns about 1,500 square kilometres of forests in Brazil's Amazon region, all managed according to strict FSC criteria.

by Vincent Landon

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