Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Eagle Ridge Paper: US and Canadian Conservationists Send a Message to the Marketplace

A group of some of the largest and most respected environmental groups in North America will distribute a letter to the printing industry and other paper buyers today, in a united effort to bring greater environmental scrutiny to the climate and deforestation crisis in Indonesia's carbon-rich peatlands and rainforests. The letter draws attention to the fact that a new paper merchant, craftily named Eagle Ridge Paper, that has recently appeared in North America drumming up business for its discount paper rolls, is actually a thinly disguised division of Asia Pulp and Paper (APP), an ambitious multinational forest and paper company with a long track record to date of environmental devastation.

The letter begins,

"We are writing to you today to provide important information about environmentally responsible paper. A new paper distribution company, named Eagle Ridge Paper, is obtaining pulp and paper products from operations having adverse climate, human rights and biodiversity impacts in Indonesia. Indonesia's rainforests are scientifically documented to have outstanding and rare ecological value. We believe that this paper's true costs are more than our planet can afford."
The letter is signed by NRDC, the Sierra Club, Greenpeace, Rainforest Action Network, Green America, Green Press Initiative, Canopy, Environmental Investigation Agency, Dogwood Alliance and ForestEthics. It goes on to say,
"In October 2009, Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) set up a new marketing & distribution arm - named Eagle Ridge Paper - in North America. This move came after APP lost hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts with large customers such as Unisource, Office Depot, Staples, Corporate Express and others because of its poor environmental and social record and its reported links to illegally obtained wood.

Indonesia's rainforests comprise some of the most biologically diverse forests on the planet and provide habitat for endangered orangutans, Sumatran tigers, Sumatran elephants, and many other endangered species. Indonesia's rainforests are also home to millions of Indigenous people whose cultures and livelihoods are directly dependent on natural forests. They also store and capture billions of tons of CO2, and in so doing help maintain our atmosphere's biochemical equilibrium."
Recently, a string of companies in the fashion industry including, Tiffany's, Gucci, and H&M, have chosen to take their business elsewhere as well in an effort to align their paper purchasing supply chain with their stated corporate responsibility values. The letter goes on to say,
"Unfortunately, Indonesia suffers from among the fastest rates of deforestation in the tropics. According to reports from the Indonesian Pulp and Paper Association, World Wide Fund for Nature and others, APP and its fiber suppliers are the leaders in clearing and converting vast areas of rainforests in Sumatra and Borneo for pulp and paper."
Scientists say the extinction bomb is ticking for some iconic species, including one of our closest relatives. Orangutans, whose name means "man of the forest" - share about 97 per cent of our DNA. Researchers predict that if current conditions continue, they will be extinct in the wild in ten to twenty years.

The Sumatran tiger faces its own race against time, as its habitat shrinks to make way for paper and palm oil production. There are as few as 400 Sumatran tigers left in Indonesia and they are under relentless pressure from poaching and clearing of their habitat. After five years of studying tigers using wildlife-activated still camera traps, these are the first images of a tiger with offspring and were recorded after WWF-Indonesia’s Sumatran tiger research team set up new video camera traps along a wildlife “corridor” known to be used by tigers.

“We are very concerned because the territory of this tiger and its cubs is being rapidly cleared by two global paper companies, palm oil plantations, encroachers and illegal loggers. Will the cubs survive to adulthood in this environment?” said Karmila Parakkasi, the leader of WWF-Indonesia’s tiger team.

For its part, APP has been out there painting itself green, with commercials on CNN International, claiming, "APP Cares." And doing interviews for the North American market in trade publications, skillfully talking in circles, and playing the victim but rarely talking about the direct issues at hand.

The Paper Planet encourages you to look into these issues yourself, to make your own conclusions. When using paper, please reduce unnecessary paper use, and consider your paper purchases carefully. We all use paper. But low carbon, environmentally responsible options are now available, so there's no excuses. The letter sent today suggests to printers that they learn more and find recommendations of responsible paper choices to meet their business needs and offer their customers at http://www.whatsinyourpaper.com.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Under Pressure USDA Forced to Re-examine GE Eucalyptus Permitting in the Southern US

Groups Force USDA to Re-release Draft Environmental Assessment on Genetically Engineered Eucalyptus Trees for Southern U.S. Forests: Original Assessment Lacked Key U.S. Forest Service Hydrological Studies

The U.S. Department of Agriculture re-released their draft environmental assessment [1] regarding a request by ArborGen, a subsidiary of timber giants International Paper and MeadWestvaco, to plant over a quarter of a million genetically engineered eucalyptus trees in so-called "test plots" across seven southern U.S. states. [2]

"If these invasive GE eucalyptus are planted across the South on this large of a scale, it is highly likely that fertile seeds will escape into surrounding forests," said Dr. Neil Carman, a plant scientist with the Sierra Club. "This is a major problem since eucalyptus is already known for its invasiveness. Once they escape into the forests, there is no way to call them back. It would be an ecological nightmare for southern forests."

The environmental assessment was re-released by the USDA after groups concerned about the environmental impacts of transgenic eucalyptus trees pointed out that the assessment was missing key hydrological studies conducted by the U.S. Forest Service that directly refute the conclusions of the USDA's draft environmental assessment which recommend approving ArborGen's request. The USFS studies point out that eucalyptus trees have heavy water requirements and can seriously impact ground and surface water reserves. [3]

The USDA is seeking public comments on their draft environmental assessment through February 18th, 2010. [4]

"In countries that are already suffering the impacts of large-scale eucalyptus plantations--like Brazil, Chile and South Africa--people have organized massive campaigns against them," stated Anne Petermann, Executive Director of Global Justice Ecology Project and North American representative of the Global Forest Coalition. "This is because eucalyptus plantations have devastated forests and communities. In Brazil, the Mata Atlantica forest has been all but wiped out by eucalyptus plantations. In Chile, communities living near eucalyptus plantations have lost their access to fresh water."

Other new information in the assessment reveals that some of the supposedly infertile engineered eucalyptus trees in existing field trials produced fertile seeds. Eucalyptus is a non-native tree and numerous species of eucalyptus are already considered invasive. This new transgenic (or GMO) eucalyptus has been engineered to tolerate colder temperatures giving it the potential for invading forest ecosystems throughout the South.

"I had hoped that the disaster of kudzu would have taught us the consequences of releasing invasive species into the environment," agreed Scot Quaranda, Campaign Director for the Dogwood Alliance. "Instead, ArborGen wants to release invasive GE eucalyptus trees. Unlike kudzu, however, these trees are not only invasive, they are also highly flammable and use huge quantities of fresh water. California is already spending millions to eradicate invasive and flammable eucalyptus trees. We do not want these invasive trees to be mass-planted in the South."

The STOP GE Trees Campaign [5] is working with the Center for Food Safety on plans to stop ArborGen's proposal to release hundreds of thousands of genetically engineered eucalyptus trees across the U.S. South. "This is a very slippery slope," warns George Kimbrell, an attorney for the Center for Food Safety. "Allowing the release of these GE eucalyptus trees will set a legal precedent that could allow the release of genetically engineered poplars or pines--which have wild relatives across the continent. The commercial release of engineered versions of native trees would lead to the contamination of forests with engineered pollen. Once this occurs there is absolutely nothing that can be done to stop the further contamination of more forests. We have to stop the release of GE trees before this contamination occurs."

The public is encouraged to submit comments to the USDA regarding the ArborGen proposal to release 260,000 genetically engineered cold tolerant eucalyptus trees across seven southern states. For details on this, please visit: http://www.globaljusticeecology.org/stopgetrees.php?tabs=0

[1] To download the USDA's December 17, 2009 revised draft environmental assessment, go to: http://www.aphis.usda.gov/brs/aphisdocs/08_014101rm_ea2.pdf

[2] The seven states targeted for ArborGen's GE eucalyptus deployment are South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas.

[3] The summary findings of the USFS with regard to the impacts of eucalyptus plantations on water resources can be found on page 57 of the new USDA draft environmental assessment. These findings include the fact that the water usage by eucalyptus plantations is at least double the water usage by other forest types, and that afforestation to eucalyptus plantations will reduce stream flow, lower the water table and affect groundwater recharge.

[4] Comments to the USDA can be submitted at: http://www.regulations.gov/search/Regs/home.html#submitComment?R=09000064809c344a

[5] Global Justice Ecology Project coordinates the STOP Genetically Engineered Trees Campaign. The Sierra Club and Dogwood Alliance are part of the Steering Committee for the Campaign. For more information on the campaign, go to: http://www.nogetrees.org.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Huge New Protected Areas in Canada's Carbon Rich Boreal Forest

The Paper Planet would like to join the Canadian Boreal Initiative (CBI) and other organizations in congratulating the Governments of Canada and Newfoundland and Labrador on their intent to establish two new protected areas in Canada’s Boreal Forest.

On February 5th the Government of Canada announced it would move ahead with the establishment of the Mealy Mountains National Park, encompassing 10,700 km2 (2.65 million acres), and by the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador to designate 3,000 km2 (700,000 acres) of the adjacent lower Eagle River watershed for inclusion in a new provincial water park, will create a total protected area of nearly 14,000 km2 (3.3 million acres) in central Labrador.

“This is an outstanding boreal landscape with a rich and diverse ecological and cultural history. These parks represent an exceptional legacy for present and future generations,” said Larry Innes, executive director of Canadian Boreal Initiative. “We are very pleased to recognize the achievement of the governments, the Aboriginal peoples and local organizations who came together to advance a common vision for the protection of this important region.”

Together, the federal Mealy Mountains National Park and the provincial Eagle River waterway park will be one of the largest protected areas in Eastern North America, about equal in size to the protected lands in New York’s Adirondack State Park. It is an area bigger than Yellowstone NP and Yosemite NP in the United States, combined!

For a slideshow of the incredible beauty of this area, CLICK HERE.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Moscow Illegally Raids Enviro Group Opposing Reopening of Lake Baikal Pulp Mill

Suspiciously coinciding with their criticism of the reopening of the pulp mill on Siberia's Lake Baikal, police raided the office of Russian environmental watchdog group Baikal Environmental Wave without a warrant authorizing a search, and detained staff who were in the office on claims they were using pirated software and violating fire safety regulations. (Note: The website link to Baikal Wave may not work, because the Russian government has shut their website down.)

The raid came just as Baikalsk mayor Valery Pintaev and several workers from the Baikalsk Pulp and Paper Mill spoke at a press conference in Moscow thanking Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin for granting permission to reopen the polluting plant. The Baikalsk Pulp and Paper Mill discharged toxic waste water directly into the decades, but of widespread public outcry finally resulted in the October 2008 decision forcing the plant to shut its doors – until this month.

The organization is well-known for efforts to protect Lake Baikal – the deepest lake in the world and home to 20% of the world’s fresh water. Lake Baikal contains more fresh water than all of America's Great Lakes combined and provides habitat to more than 1,500 species of plants and animals found nowhere else in the world, including Lake Baikal's freshwater seal known locally as the nerpa.

In addition to negotiations with local officials and public outreach campaigns, Baikal Environmental Wave organizes large public rallies to protest threats to the lake.

“It is clear that the stated reason for investigating Baikal Environmental Wave was just an excuse,” Marina Rikhvanova, a 2008 Goldman Environmental Prize winner, said by phone. “The real reason for taking our computers is to paralyze our organization and keep us from protesting the January 18 decision to reopen the Baikalsk Pulp and Paper Mill.”

Employees of the Baikalsk Municipal Sewage Treatment Plant discovered two weeks ago that effluent from the Baikalsk mill, which has been testing its equipment since last month, is contaminating the town’s aquifers.

The organization is planning a February 13th demonstration to highlight community health concerns about pollution from the mill. Unfortunately for the Russian authorities, thanks to their illegal raid, there will be international attention on the pulp mill, the protest and the safety of the community and Baikal Environmental Wave. Heckuva job, Moscow!

And you can bet The Paper Planet will certainly be covering it.

Read more on the raid in the Moscow Times and from Pacific Environment.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Growth in Eco-papers Offers a Lifeline for the Industry

The number of leading environmental printing and writing grade papers produced in North America has more than doubled from 97 to 228 in the past 18 months according to information released today by Canopy, a Vancouver based non-profit organization that works to improve the environmental performance of paper and wood companies, and a Steering Committee member of Environmental Paper Network. The sharp increase in eco-paper options is the result of large paper buyers demanding more papers with ecological attributes, a growing trend despite recent troubles in the North American paper industry and global economy.

“We’re witnessing a phenomenal shift in the paper industry where sustained and growing green demand is steering paper production towards ecofriendly options, giving a life line to mills and a future for our endangered forests and species ” said Nicole Rycroft, Executive Director of Canopy.

Growth of demand for eco-papers benefits both the economy and the environment, something Canopy had been advocating for the past ten years. By using less virgin tree fiber for paper production, producers are reducing the carbon footprint of their papers and alleviating some of the pressure on carbon rich forests such as North America’s Boreal Forest and the endangered species that call it home such as the woodland caribou.

Visit the database at: http://canopyplanet.org/EPD/index.php

Papers in the database have been designated if they qualify as Ancient Forest Friendly, developed by Canopy. They are also designated according to the criteria of the Paper Steps, a comprehensible, yet multidimensional and rigorous standard for environmental leadership in printing and writing paper product development. The Paper Steps were developed through the collaboration of the diverse expertise on the Environmental Paper Network Steering Committee, and inspired by the innovative work of its member organization Canopy.

What's in your paper?

Biomass Energy Boom: What Price Habitat and Heritage?

Will your forests end up as pellets?

With catastrophic biomass energy carbon accounting errors integrated into the policies of corporations and governments, especially in European countries, there is strong demand and plenty of free money flowing to drive a rapidly growing industry in biomass-to-energy. Concern among conservationists and communities in the target forest conversion and extraction regions and around the world is also growing, because science is increasingly revealing that large scale biomass burning have major impacts on air quality, endangered species habitat, and our climate.

Recently, there seems to be an especially strong buzz and flurry of announcements. investor confidence is bolstered by the current subsidies from the US federal government to biomass burning facilities. See a list of these facilities.

Last week, the company RWE announced a massive wood pellet making facility for export to the European market. The company press release states, “Through this investment, RWE has taken a strategically important step towards safeguarding the supply basis for the constantly growing biomass market in Europe. This is because we will be unable to achieve the targets for reducing CO2 emissions in Germany and Europe without biomass. But the European wood market will not be able to satisfy the demand in this fast growing sector on its own." There is also word that the company NexGen Biofuels will convert a former Georgia Pacific sawmill in Arkansas to manufacture wood pellets for European export. And the announcements keep coming, and coming and coming....but who is looking at the collective impact? Well, you could buy a full list of projects here if you have the money. In the meantime the communities in Massachusetts threatened by biomass energy development are doing a pretty good job raising key issues in their neck of the woods.

Paper companies are aggressively pursuing conversion of some of their assets and expertise to invest in the market. Mitsubishi Corporation and Weyerhaeuser Company announced that the two companies signed a Strategic Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to explore the possibilities of collaborating in the biomass-to-energy business.

International Paper and MeadWestVaco are jointly investing in Arborgen, a Genetically Engineered trees project, seeking fast growing species for pulp and biomass-to-energy. They are currently applying to the USDA to be able to plant 260,000 frankentrees in the US South, and there's a public comment period reopened right now until the 18th of February to look at critical science that was not considered yet.

There are so many questions and red flags and issues of moral responsibility pending and that must be addressed. For example, have we really analyzed all the impacts of this massive growth in the demand for our forests. What are the full costs?

The Paper Planet will be following the science, policy, and environmental leadership on biomass-to-energy issues over the course of the year and looks forward to your comments.