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IHPA welcomes this opportunity to correct a number of distortions and mistruths put forth by the Rainforest Action Network (RAN).

RAN's arguments are as predictable as was the outcome of this year's Super Bowl. As anticipated, RAN dragged out the same old, tired and discredited numbers and arguments that they, and their anti-timber industry colleagues, have been using for years. While others have moved on to more productive endeavors and debates, RAN appears to have a death-grip on these legendary numbers and refuses and accept that "it just ain't so"! We strongly suggest to readers (and to RAN) an interesting article in U.S. News and World Report (Dec. 13, 1993) that not only explains the incredulous origins of these false deforestation and species-loss claims, but also definitely refutes any connection to a scientific basis for making them. These distortions and mistruths may have seemed believable at one time, to some people, but, fortunately good science, common sense and reason usually have a way of winning-out in the end. We are totally disgusted by the irresponsible attempt to introduce new scare tactics like microbes looking for hosts and "...causing new and unexplained diseases."

We continue to he perplexed as to why it is that RAN simply refuses to accept reality. For example, no reputable study has ever disputed the fact that conversion of forest lands to agricultural uses, usually by poor farmers, is by far, the leading contributor to tropical forest loss, and that commercial logging is a relatively minor contributor (their "statistics" regarding Indonesia and Malaysia are outlandish - we're curious as to the source). What does RAN gain by disputing this? Why don't they just get over it before they lose their last sliver of credibility? Why won't they work with those of us who are trying to address the real situation? Is it because pointing a finger at poor people doesn't make for successful fundraising and bashing industry does?

RAN's points regarding harvesting parameters again reveal the group's true agenda: they just don't want any activity at all in the forests. They continue to distort the statement of Duncan Poore, who has personally expressed displeasure at his work being misrepresented. What he really said in his 1989 study was that in 1985, less than one million hectares of the world's estimated 828 million hectares of productive tropical forest were demonstrably under sustained-yield management. This is significantly different than RAN's twisted interpretation. And, the last 10 years have seen significant progress in sustainable forest management, all over the world. But RAN can't admit this progress. As the old fundraising adage goes, if you want people to send you more money, you tell them the problem's getting worse, not better.

RAN would like to use CITES to abolish the timber trade. They are the ones who published that an Appendix II listing is "the first step towards a ban." This is both an incorrect interpretation and an inappropriate use of this treaty. CITES' purpose is to protect biologically endangered or threatened species, not to abolish trade. By the way, the margin on the mahogany vote was six, not three, as RAN claims, and African mahogany is still plentiful and a major commercial species. RAN plays very fast and loose with "facts" and allegations. American importers take claims of illegal logging very seriously and are very careful to adhere to all applicable laws in producing countries. RAN should be very careful when they use words like "complicity." Although some legal issues in Brazil are very fuzzy and ever-changing, and must be definitely addressed, every shipment is accompanied by the required documentation.

When RAN proposes alternatives to tropical wood use, they display their ignorance of the trade, and of the true situation in the tropics, once again. 1) The U.S. tropical timber market is so small, the international trade such a minor factor, and commercial forestry such an insignificant contributor to deforestation, that claims of the U.S. being a major driver of tropical forest destruction are ludicrous. 2) The U.S. construction industry already re-uses plywood concrete forms, and recycles construction materials more and more every day. 3) To propose domestic hardwoods as an alternative is an extremely irresponsible notion aimed at trying to set two segments of the industry against each other. What will happen to these domestic species? 3) Although industry plays a minor role in the loss of tropical forests, we can, and are, playing a major role in finding a solution. What about the tens of millions of people in developing countries who depend on the forest products industry for their livelihoods? 4) The consumption of wood in developing countries, primarily for fuel, is a far greater contributor to tropical forest loss and really should be more of the focus of attention. This can be, and is being, addressed by providing alternative fuel sources or fast-growing tree species primarily for this use. 5) RAN refers back to their distortion of Dr. Poore's remarks as if their interpretation were fact. It's not and their requirements for sustainable forest management (like those of the so-called "certification" movement) are so rigid and self-serving that they cannot be met (almost by definition) by any commercial/industrial activity. RAN would like to be appointed prosecutor, judge and jury, but wants industry to pay for the whole process.

We recognize that these are tough times for groups like RAN. We understand that memberships and contributions are down for almost all of these groups. People are tired of exaggerations, distortions, outright lies, the endless fundraising and corresponding reports of little, if any progress on the problems these groups are supposed to be addressing. Might we suggest a liberal dose of truth, an admission of progress and an extended hand of cooperation? IHPA looks forward to working with any group who sincerely shares our goal of abundant forest-resources for our children to enjoy and utilize, and their children, and so on, into the future.
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Title Annotation:Point Counterpoint; response to article by Atossa Soltani in this journal, p. 86
Author:Waffle, Robert
Publication:Wood & Wood Products
Date:Mar 1, 1995
Previous Article:Timber logging aids indigenous people, placing value on wood.
Next Article:Rebuttal.

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