Forestry expert Janette Bulkan has backed the United Kingdom’s decision to ban the importation of greenheart from Guyana for government projects since it was not from a sustainable source, although the Guyana Manufacturing and Services Association (GMSA) said that the forests are well managed and the timber is from legal sources.
In May last year, a technical note released by the UK to contractors for government-funded projects, among others, stated that they will apply the timber agreement policy rigorously and they will only buy timber from legal and sustainable sources, which currently prohibits purchase of new greenheart from Guyana.
“The Environment Agency in the UK is subject to central government procurement rules. For several years, the rules have required timber used on government-funded projects to come from legal sources and from forests managed for sustainable production, Bulkan said in a letter, published in the October 6 edition of Stabroek News.
She pointed out that in May, 2015, Guyana was reminded to provide from forests being managed sustainably, and again in December, 2015. “Yet there have been no changes in policy and no evidence of the non-selective implementation of policy to demonstrate that Guyana is other than a pariah,” Bulkan said, while pointing out that a study from Neil Bird in 2000 had indicated that the slow-growing trees were not given time to recover for the next crop.
She cited a Tropenbos conclusion in 2002 that repeated logging of greenheart in the Bartica Triangle resulted in low long-term sustainability: “Short-term recovery of greenheart is not to be expected due to low population growth and small numbers of seed trees,” she quoted the finding.
Bulkan explained that while the market allows for the purchase of trees at a certain length (30-55cm), they were being sold just above the limit. “Trees not felled are being damaged by careless logging (broken branches, allowing pipe rot to enter) as shown by Winrock International in 2011-2. The [Guyana Forestry Commission] has failed to implement the section of the Forests Act 2009 which would make compulsory the use of reduced-impact logging,” she added.
She concluded by saying that the ban by the Environmental Agency in the UK on greenheart for government projects was “entirely” correct and it is up to the exporter/importer to show that the management of the source concession and the logging blocks from which the greenheart logs were derived is from a sustainable source, rather than a generalized claim about the whole country. “A sustainability test is not about the number of trees standing in the forests of Guyana,” she added.
However, a statement from the GMSA said that while Bulkan pronounces on the sustainability of greenheart forest harvesting by referring to the studies carried out in the Bartica Triangle, the UK Environment Agency’s Technical Note refers to the sustainable forest management of the “Forests of Origin” and NOT only Greenheart.”
It further said that the Central Point for Expertise on Timber (CPET), which advised the UK government agencies on timber procurement policies, had clarified in December, 2015, that the submissions by the Guyanese industry did not meet the requirements for Category B certifications as it pertained to issues such as “adequate multi stakeholder consultation locally” in the development of the Codes of Practice, forest policy and plans and regulation.
The statement said that they never got to the point of reviewing actual harvesting rates and practices on the ground and, therefore, Bulkan’s reference to the Bartica Triangle study as the reason for the Technical note is incorrect “in more ways than one.”
The statement condemned Bulkan’s labeling of Guyana as a pariah in tropical forestry, while saying there is independently verified evidence by internationally credible third parties that the forests are well managed and follow sustainable management practices.
It pointed out that the International Tropical Timber Organisation (ITTO) stated that Guyana was one of only six Tropical Forest producing countries in the world practising sustainable management at the forest management unit (forest concession) level and the Global Forest Watch deforestation ranking put Guyana’s periodic deforestation rate at 0.568%, making it the lowest ranked tropical or largely forested country in the world.
The Yale University Environmental Performance Index in 2016 also ranked Guyana the fourth worldwide in tree cover loss, it added.
It also said that the forest management system is subject to regular independent forest monitoring and Guyana would not have received nay funding for avoided deforestation from Norway under the Low Carbon Development Strategy if the regulatory environment was considered a “pariah.”It was also noted that Guyana has the third lowest deforestation rate in the world, according to data released in 2015.
Referencing the accusations of over harvesting and unsustainable practices in the forests, based on the Bartica Triangle Report, the statement pointed out that the study referred to a cutting cycle of only 20 years with no limits on the allowable cut, which is no longer allowed and which was the main cause of the decline in greenheart volumes. The statement added that while the country has a cutting limit for every 60-year cycle, the actual cutting rate is far lower than is allowed.
The statement added that the facts and figures highlight the efforts that both the industry and the government have made to ensure that there is a sustainable forest management of the forests for the future generations.
“Given that markets for tropical forest products are declining and challenging, incorrect labelling of our forest management practices in this negative way can only be detrimental to the future lives and livelihoods of the 25,000 people directly employed in this industry directly,” the statement said, while adding that the forest sector is appealing for persons to ensure that their analysis and conclusions are based on facts since doing otherwise is unfair to the sector, rural communities and to the country itself.