New Forests Company announces suspension of tree planting in Uganda

Mubende in August 2007

Mubende in 2007. (Image via Wikipedia)

British New Forests Company (NFC) has announced that it has suspended tree planting in Uganda for 2012. The company says that will “result in 560 job losses in the Mubende, Kiboga, Kyankwanzi and Bugiri districts.”

The decision to suspend planting and lay off workers follows the outcry caused by an Oxfam report released September 2011 attacking the eviction of “illegal squatters” by the Ugandan government from NFC’s plantations.

The UK based New Forests Company is the biggest forestry company in Uganda and one of the biggest foreign investors in Uganda’s agri-business sector. The company has planted 27,000 acres (42 square miles) of pine and eucalyptus trees in Mubende, Kiboga and Bugiri districts and has invested more than $23m in Uganda since 2005.

Julian Ozanne, chief executive of NFC said in a media release, “Having planted millions of trees every year for the past six years and led the creation of a modern Ugandan forestry industry, we are very sad to have to suspend planting and lay off workers, forcing people back into poverty. Job creation is critical to poverty alleviation in Uganda and losing jobs is a negative development for Uganda economic growth. We very much regret this but have been put in a position where we had no alternative.”

For its part, Oxfam is calling on NFC and its investors to investigate the events in Kiboga and Mubende, make its findings public, and pay compensation and damages to the affected villagers.

NFC hopes to resume planting next year if they receive a favorable outcome in the International Finance Corporation mediation process.

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Preserving California’s old growth

On Wednesday you read that private landowners conduct the majority of timber harvesting in California. This is due to the de facto moratorium placed on timber harvesting within national forests (state and national parks do not allow harvesting except for reasons of public safety). And, perhaps you wondered if old-growth timber could be removed. Well, fear not. National and State governments own, and have placed 99.5 percent of California’s 2.56 million acres of old-growth timber in California off-limits to any harvesting.

Nat'l and state govts hold 99.5% of old-growth. Source: USDA Forest Service, "Area of old-growth forests in California, Oregon, and Washington" by Bolsinger and Waddell

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If California’s timber industry falls, will anyone hear it?

Lands owned by state and federal government now contribute little to California’s wood supply (see the graphic below). Private landowners (the green area) now carry nearly all the burden for California’s timber harvesting and its wood demand. (Source: California Forestry Association CA Timber Harvest Statistics 1978-2009.)

As previously noted on this site:

Our California forests have the capacity to produce all the wood we need and export some as well, yet we import 75% of our wood. You can bet the wood we import wasn’t harvested under restrictions as comprehensive as those within California’s Forest Practices Act. Did any of the harvests have a Timber Harvesting Plan that took water and wildlife into consideration?

And just how much wood do we Californians consume? According to a paper published by the University of California at Berkeley, Californians used somewhere around 8.5-9 billion board-feet in 1999. Given that CA’s consumption grew by ~3 to 4 BBF from 1990 to 1999, we may currently consume 11-12 BBF. How much do we harvest in California? According to data from the California Forestry Association, about 1.6 BBF, i.e., about 15 percent of what we use, leaving 85 percent to come from other places.

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