News Release Sierra Club
One Pleasant Street
Portland, ME 04101-3936
(207) 761-5616
(207) 773-6690 (fax)

For Immediate Release: November 22, 2002

Contact: Carole Haas - 207-767-1037
Karen Woodsum -207-791-2821
Mitch Lansky - 207-456-7018

The Sierra Club finds "Green" Certification of the Irving Allagash woodlands unacceptable

The Sierra Club has dropped a formal appeal of the "green" certification of J.D. Irving’s Allagash woodland by the Forest Stewardship Council. Instead, the club has made public the results of its own report on Irving’s forestry practices, conducted by Mitch Lansky, an authority on forest practices in Maine and author of Beyond the Beauty Strip and Low-Impact Forestry: Forestry as if the Future Mattered.

The forty-page report contains considerable evidence that the certification process of Maine forests owned by Irving is seriously flawed.  In 2000, Irving's lands received certification using the standards developed by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) as a well-managed natural forest. According to Lansky, there appears to be a trend of "grade inflation" where standards were not met, but Irving was given high marks anyway.  Lansky points out that the high marks appear to be based more on promises or process than on actual activities on the ground. 

"The Sierra Club believes that the integrity of independent third-party certification processes is critical in the absence of meaningful forestry legislation at the state level," said Carole Haas, Chair of the Maine Chapter of the Sierra Club.  

"It is critical to ensure that the Forest Stewardship Council exercise the rigor that is necessary if it is to be a truly credible global forest certification system", add Haas. "In this particular instance we are deeply disappointed."

Lansky's report documents many forestry practices that do not meet FSC standards.  They include:

"Awarding ‘green’ certification to Irving for its forestry practices rewards Irving for the very practices the public does not want to encourage," said Haas. "In the end, certification must meet the public’s expectations or it is worthless". "That is why we choose to make Mitch’s findings publicly known."

Nearly all of Maine's forests are privately owned.  The owners include corporations such as Irving, and institutional investors.  Less than 2% of Maine's North Woods is protected as wilderness. 

"The North Woods are cherished and beloved by Mainers everywhere.  The failure of the FSC certification process in the Irving case simply highlights the need to find ways to fully protect more of the Maine's forests as untouched wilderness -- diverse and clean habitats that are the source of joy and inspiration to Mainer's now and in the future," said Karen Woodsum, the director of the Maine Woods Campaign of the Sierra Club.

The Maine Chapter of the Sierra Club is a grassroots environmental organization with over 4500 members in the state of Maine.