The Gea Org.

UK Government gives green light to extinction and human rights conflict

By Greenpeace International

Edited by Federico Ferrero

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London, 23 August 2005

Greenpeace today said that the UK Government's freshly watered down timber buying guidelines will give the green light to destroy old-growth Finnish forests, where social conflict continues and logging is threatening to wipe out a number of internationally recognised rare and threatened species.

In June of this year, Metsähallitus, the Finnish state-owned logging company terminated negotiations with the Sámi indigenous peoples, signalling a return to the logging of these ancient forests.

The indigenous Sámi reindeer herders do not accept logging of old-growth forests in areas that are crucial for their reindeer-herding livelihood. The Sámi Council and Sámi reindeer herders' organisations have denounced logging by Metsähallitus as threatening their livelihood, culture and human rights.

In addition, a recent Greenpeace survey found hundreds of endangered fungi in areas of ancient forests in Finland that are earmarked for logging by Metsähallitus. The majority of timber would end up being turned into paper for magazine publishers. The threatened fungi are known as polypores, and most often appear on trees, rather than growing from the ground. An increasing number of fungi and other species, such as beetles, have become rare and extinct due to destructive logging practises in Finland. Natural old-growth forests (ancient forests) are the last remaining habitats for such threatened species.

The UK Government recently approved two controversial timber certification schemes, including the PEFC, which endorses the Finnish Forest Certification Scheme. Greenpeace severely criticised the scheme for certifying large-scale unsustainable logging in ancient forest areas as well as the abuse of indigenous people's rights and the destruction of endangered species habitat.

"This shows the shocking truth behind the Government's woeful decision to approve this certification scheme as part of its guidance on sustainable timber. They are guilty of rubber stamping the destruction of ancient forests and sanctioning the extinction of rare species," said Phil Aikman, Greenpeace International Forests campaigner. "We urge both the public and private sector to clearly specify FSC on all contracts in order to guarantee that the timber they are using is from legal and sustainable sources."

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