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Top Paper Company Misinforming Customers about Source of Wood

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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

TOKYO – A report released today by U.S. environmental group Rainforest Action Network (RAN) contains evidence that Nippon Paper is purchasing wood from old growth forests in Tasmania, Australia, despite the company’s assurances to the contrary. RAN’s report, The Truth behind Tasmanian Forest Destruction and the Japanese Paper Industry, details how Japanese paper companies are supporting the rapid destruction of Tasmania’s biologically unique forests by purchasing huge volumes of woodchips from controversial Australian lumber giant Gunns Limited.

RAN’s report found that forests containing old growth provide 71 percent of the pulpwood produced in Tasmania’s state forests. Most of the wood is purchased by three companies – Nippon, Oji Paper and Chu-etsu Pulp – which combined comprise 70 percent of Gunns’ woodchip market in Japan. Approximately 80 percent of Gunns’ woodchips are exported to Japan and made into paper products. The report identifies the Japanese paper companies that purchase woodchips from Tasmania and its customer companies and ranks them by their efforts to address the problem.

“Companies such as Canon and Sharp are working to improve conditions for Tasmania’s ancient forests,” said RAN’s Toyo Kawakami, a co-author of the report. “Nippon, Oji and others are doing the opposite. If these paper companies would simply check their facts and ensure that Gunns really does stop including old growth and high conservation value wood in their supply, it would be huge step toward resolving this tragic problem.”

Two Japanese paper companies, Mitsubishi and Daio, have already made such requests to Gunns and now only purchase plantation wood from Tasmania. Other companies, including Asia Pulp & Paper, have severed all business ties with Gunns due to its controversial logging practices.

In early June, RAN hosted three well-attended forums in Tokyo to raise public awareness about the relationship between Tasmanian forest destruction and the purchasing decisions of Japanese paper companies. A panel of experts, including top ecological scientist Peter McQuillan, Australian NGO leaders and Tasmanian Green Party leader Peg Putt, refuted Nippon’s claims that all old growth forests in Tasmania are protected from logging and that Gunns’ logging meets FSC-controlled wood standards. Nippon’s false assurances to customers about the origin of its woodchips are reportedly based on private correspondence from Australian government officials and Gunns Limited.

“The Australian government has publicly stated that at least 2,500 hectares of old growth forests are logged annually in Tasmania,” said Senator Bob Brown, leader of the Australian Green Party. “Any claims that Tasmania’s old growth forests are protected are patently untrue.”

In another recent example of misinformation by the Australian government, Forestry Tasmania – Gunns’ state supplier – told the Japan Forest Products Journal (JFPJ) in May that “native forests that Forestry Tasmania manages are essentially all re-growth forests.” This caused JFPJ to publish misleading data classifying state forests as only consisting of plantation and re-growth forests.

Despite global outcry to save Tasmania’s forests, Gunns continues to clear-cut nearly 15,000 hectares of Tasmania’s unique and ancient temperate rainforests annually. The company then firebombs the cleared land and exterminates hundreds of thousands of native wildlife with 1080 poison. In December 2006, Gunns’ logging operations in southeast Tasmania’s Wielangta Forest were found to be harming endangered species and were deemed illegal by Australia’s Federal Court, a ruling which applies to nearly all of Gunns’ logging operations in Tasmania, according to the island’s Premier Paul Lennon. This week, the United Nations announced that it is sending a high level delegation to Tasmania to assess logging threats to World Heritage forest areas.

RAN’s report recommends that Japanese paper companies adopt the following three principles to stop supporting the destruction of Tasmania’s old growth forests:

Establish and enforce paper procurement policies to not purchase raw materials that originate from high conservation value forest or old growth forest.

Request the cooperation of company’s suppliers in implementing such paper procurement policies.

Prioritize FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) as the preferred forestry scheme for third party certification.

To download the full report and photos of Tasmania’s forests, visit www.treesnotgunns.org.

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Rainforest Action Network runs hard-hitting campaigns to break North America’s fossil fuels addiction, protect endangered forests and Indigenous rights, and stop destructive investments around the world through education, grassroots organizing, and non-violent direct action. For more information, please visit: www.ran.org

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