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Georgia-Pacific, Environmental Groups Partner to Protect Southern Forests

Georgia-Pacific (GP) has implemented a new forest policy that will save millions of acres of Southern Forests.  The company says it will not purchase trees from Endangered Forests and Special Areas, or from new pine plantations established at the expense of natural hardwood forests. The policy statement was developed in consultation with environmental groups Dogwood Alliance, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Rainforest Action Network. 

As a first step, GP worked with the environmental groups and scientists to identify 11 Endangered Forests and Special Areas totaling 600,000 acres in the Mid-Atlantic Coastal Eco-Region, as well as 90 million acres of natural hardwood forests in the Southern region. Endangered Forests and Special Areas in other regions will be mapped in a similar process over the coming years, says the Dogwood Alliance.

In 2007, forty market-selected corrugated box manufacturing operations in Georgia-Pacific’s packaging business earned Sustainable Forestry Initiative certification and were authorized to use the SFI Certified Sourcing product label.

The environmental groups say the South’s natural forests are home to more plant and animal species than anywhere else in North America. Less than two percent of the region’s forests are protected, and the South produces more wood and paper than any other place in the world, according to the groups.

The 11 designated Endangered Forests and Special Areas span North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and Georgia and include forests in the Alligator River Region, Camp Lejeune Area, Congaree River Area, Croatan National Forest Region, Fort Jackson, Francis Marion National Forest, Holly Shelter Region, Great Dismal Swamp Area Green Swamp Region (account for two distinct areas), and Savannah River Site.

GP also is helping to protect the South’s natural hardwood forests from being converted to plantations in the future by not buying pine fiber from natural hardwood forests that have been converted to pine as of July 1, 2008.

According to the Dogwood Alliance, the wood and paper production in the region over the past several decades has resulted in the conversion of millions of acres of natural hardwood forests to pine plantations, which are more intensively managed than natural hardwood forests. This often translates into spraying of chemical herbicides and fertilizers.

Dogwood Alliance and ForestEthics recently released their fourth annual report card on companies’ paper practices to protect the environment and the world’s forests. The report found that eco-label “greenwashing” was still rampant throughout the office supply sector.

To help companies lower their risk of purchasing paper with illegal fiber in it, World Resources Institute (WRI) provides several buyer recommendations centered on the idea of “due care.” WRI recently sent 32 imported paper product samples, all purchased in the U.S., to an independent fiber analysis laboratory and discovered 3 of the 32 products had suspicious fibers and could be in violation of the amended U.S. Lacey Act.

WRI says that businesses need to exercise “due care,” which is at the core of the amended Lacey Act that prohibits trade into and within U.S. borders of any product made from trees or other plants that were logged or traded in violation of a law in the country of harvest. Products include paper, lumber, and furniture. It also require importers of plant products to declare the country of harvest, the genus and species of the plant, as well as the product’s volume and value, says WRI.

WRI says you should ask your paper supplier questions such as: What is your supply chain? Can you trace the paper all the way back to the forest? What is the degree of illegal activity in that forest or region? What processes do you have in place to prevent illegally harvested fiber from entering your supply?

Other WRI recommendations include:

–Assess risk and respond accordingly. Determine the relative risks associated with the forest of origin and if the responses from your supplier do not meet your risk tolerance levels, consider sourcing paper from a different supplier or region.

–Adopt a comprehensive forest products purchasing policy.

–Purchase certified paper. WRI’s caveat: certification does not necessarily mean that the paper is legal, especially if the verification systems of the certification program are not robust and in countries with weak governance.

— Conduct periodic fiber analysis tests.

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