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By Rod Taylor
WWF agrees with Tom Picken in “Why we need laws to save what’s left of our forests” that strong laws and protections are needed to ensure the survival of the world’s dwindling forests. But WWF would contend that getting the legislation right is not the only approach, given the probability of slipshod enforcement, poor resourcing and outright corruption in many of the world’s frontier regions.
WWF doesn’t claim to have a silver bullet for saving forests either, but it has long seemed to us that bringing local rights and aspirations, scientific assessment, environmental laws, trade policies and the market for forest products and services into alignment is the best hope of preserving the largest proportion of forests important to biodiversity, people, emissions reductions and environmental services.
When Tom questions whether WWF’s approach to forest conservation “will actually do the job of saving forests”, he takes a very restricted view of that approach, focusing on the Global Forest & Trade Network (GFTN). WWF does indeed work to assist industry move to more responsible practice and to build markets for sustainably produced forest products. But GFTN is not the only arrow in WWF’s quiver and WWF, in fact, pursues a wide array of complementary forest conservation strategies (see here). We are promoting an ambitious international goal of Zero Net Deforestation and Forest Degradation by 2020, supporting the advocacy and science on Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) frameworks at the local, national and international level, and are actively working to reduce deforestation from agricultural expansion – as much of a threat to the world’s forests as timber extraction. WWF also works on the consumption side of the global economy, advocating for less wasteful consumption of paper and other commodities that impact forests.
WWF does, when warranted, directly campaign against products and brands linked to forest destruction (e.g. see Don’t Flush Tiger Forests).
Working with companies to promote responsible logging is one of WWF’s many strategies for saving forests. The majority of the world's forests will remain outside of protected areas, and where companies can be motivated to pursue and achieve credible forest certification, this generates tangible benefits for local communities, workers and the environment.
WWF’s vision is of landscape “mosaics” in which the most biodiverse areas are set aside for conservation, the rights and aspirations of indigenous peoples and local communities are respected and some forested areas are managed and logged to produce wood through practices that maintain forest values. We advocate for expansion of protected area systems so that all forest types are represented and we support better management of existing protected areas so they do not become “paper parks”.
WWF agrees with Global Witness that we need laws to save forests and cannot rely on voluntary measures alone. WWF is an active advocate of improved forestry laws and governance. Through GFTN, we also help companies understand and comply with these laws (e.g. see “Keep it Legal” and “Exporting in a Shifting Legal Landscape”). But the reality is that these steps alone will not be enough to save the world’s most endangered forests, especially in regions with poor governance. Voluntary forest certification, such as the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification system promoted by WWF, offers a transparent and accountable means of motivating and verifying better-than-legal performance, even where enforcement is lax.
WWF works around the globe on different levels to protect the world’s forests, whether it be partnering up with communities to drive sustainable solutions, advocating law reform, engaging with companies to move them toward responsible forestry or increasing consumer awareness. There’s no doubt that there is an urgent need to protect the world’s forests, and we welcome partnership in developing solutions to make this happen.
Rod Taylor is the Director, Forests, at WWF International