World Forest Loss Alarming as Deforestation Remains at High Rate

Today the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation's (FAO) Global Forest Resources Assessment was released, finding that some 13 million hectares of mostly natural forests are destroyed each year. FAO set the net loss of forest area between 2000-2005 at some 7.3 million hectares a year, compared to 8.9 million hectares in the 1990-2000 period. As in the past, the FAO falsely indicates that this continued massive devastation of the world's forests is somehow good news. They downplay the loss or modification of six million hectares of primary forests each year, failing to grasp the ecological value of these ancient and sacred ancient forest landscapes. Global forest loss remains by at least an order of magnitude too severe to sustain global forests and the Earth's biosphere.

Once again FAO's heavily industry orientated perspective has resulted in fatally flawed figures, skewed by poor methodology which equates trees with forests, and plantations with primary forests. concurs with the Rainforest Foundation's assessment that FAO's “new deforestation figures are misleading, inaccurate and understate the real extent of deforestation and damage to forests globally”. The UN figure for 'net' deforestation is grossly misleading, as it conceals the fact that most deforestation is taking place in the world's tropical rainforests, whereas most of the reforestation and natural re-growth of forests is taking place in the northern hemisphere, and much of this consists of plantations rather than forests.
The degree to which the United Nations and the world's governments are letting down the world's last large primary forests is shocking. We pay for this research with our taxes, and we must demand more than we are getting; notably, a course of action to stop and reverse primary forest loss. Plantations are not forests, and they and secondary regrowth certainly are not equal to ancient forests. Why do most people other than the timber industry and United Nations get this? The FAO report can be found at and a critical critique by the Rainforest Foundation to which contributed at:
Source: Rainforest Foundation
Date: November 14, 2005
14th November 2005: FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
The Rainforest Foundation today claimed that new figures released today by the United Nations on the 'state of the world's forests' are misleading, inaccurate and understate the real extent of deforestation and damage to forests globally. [1]
The new UN figures purport to show that the rate of “net forest loss is slowing down, thanks to new planting and natural expansion of existing forests”. [2]
However, analysis by the Rainforest Foundation indicates that there are major methodological flaws in the UN's report, especially that:
* the UN figure for 'net' deforestation is grossly misleading, as it conceals the fact that most deforestation is taking place in the world's tropical rainforests, whereas most of the reforestation and natural re-growth of forests is taking place in the northern hemisphere, and much of this consists of plantations rather than forests.
* the UN figure is based on a definition of forest as being an area with as little as 10% actual tree cover, which would therefore include areas that are actually savannah-like ecosystems and badly damaged forests;
* areas of land that presently have no trees on them at all, but that are 'expected' to regenerate, are also counted as forests;
* the UN includes in its data for existing areas of forest those that are covered by industrial tree plantations, which are actually lacking some of the key functions of true forests;
These flaws are analysed in detail in a new Rainforest Foundation report, entitled 'Irrational Numbers: Why the FAO's Forest Assessments are Misleading”, which is published today to coincide with the release of the new UN figures [3].
Simon Counsell, of the Rainforest Foundation, said: “It is a global disgrace that, after decades of concern about the world's declining forests, the United Nations still can't even produce an accurate assessment of how much forest is actually left. The new Forest Resources Assessment repeats the bad science of previous assessments, which have been widely criticised, and obscures the real extent of deforestation. The United Nations should scrap this latest report, should make a firm commitment to revising the methods by which it assesses and reports on the state of the world's forests, and should then set out an urgent plan as to how global deforestation can be halted.”
For further information:
Simon Counsell, Rainforest Foundation
T (office): +44 (0) 207 251 6345
T (Cell): +44 (0)7941 899 579
Notes to editors:
[1] The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation – the agency which has lead responsibility for forests within the UN system – today launched its 'Global Forest Resource Assessment' for 2005. Similar reports have been produced since 1948.
[2] The press release issued by the FAO today claims that “The annual net loss of forest area between 2000 and 2005 was 7.3 million hectares/year… down from an estimated 8.9 million hectares/year between 1990 and 2000” (
[3] A copy of 'Irrational Numbers' is available for download free from:

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3 Responses

  1. Sammy says:

    Man, you are on the ball. Keep it up. Plantations are NOT forests.

  2. Forrest Gump says:

    While I see the point in raising the attention about forest loss, I must say that your claims on misleading FAO reporting is a bit farfetched. The facts that you claim are missing are actually in their report. Does this kind of alienation really do conservation good?

  3. William Thomas says:

    Great article!!!! Have you heard about what is going oin the Great Bear Rainforest? The following two articles are recent editorials that describe what is currently going on up here in Canada. The first article comes from environmental groups, the other from the coastal First Nations.
    The Great Bear Rainforest ? a decisive moment
    The environmental community is collectively facing a decisive moment in
    the history of the Great Bear Rainforest.
    Please read the following and fax the Premier at:
    The scale of agreements in the Great Bear Rainforest go beyond
    protecting one single valley or establishing of one sustainable business
    venture – victories which alone are often celebrated by the
    environmental movement as success. The campaign goals we all embarked
    on were large and visionary covering 21 million acres, the traditional
    territory of 17 First Nations, and a region of economic importance to
    many, including 5 major multinational logging companies. To be
    successful and sustainable in this complicated political, economic and
    environmental landscape, conservation in the Great Bear Rainforest must
    not only protect the ecosystem, but also leverage change in
    multinational economic forces, respect indigenous cultures, and
    strengthen local stewardship efforts and economies.
    The Government of British Columbia is currently confronted with a choice
    to support agreements based on the outcomes of government-to-government
    negotiations that include:
    – A quadrupling of existing protected areas that would see 1/3 of the
    region off limits to logging. This protected areas network is the
    largest coastal temperate rainforest protection package in Canadian
    history and represents an area 5 times the size of Prince Edward Island.
    – The percentage of protection (33% of the Great Bear Rainforest) being
    considered is globally significant. If we compare this to existing
    protected areas in the Great Bear Rainforest at 7%, B.C. where only
    12.5% is protected, Canada where only 6.3% is protected or globally
    where 10.8% is protected, the gains are clear. For reference, other
    regions that are renowned for their protected areas are Costa Rica at
    25% and the Great Barrier Reef at 33%.
    – Analysis shows that over 55% of estuaries and 54% of wetlands,
    approximately 30% of all habitat for Northern Goshawk, grizzly bear,
    Marbled Murrelet, black-tailed deer and tailed-frog, 34% of all
    remaining old-growth forest, and 39% of mature forest are found in the
    protected areas network. Fully, 40% of all documented salmon-bearing
    stream reaches are entirely included within the proposed protected area
    – To our collective credit the protected areas network under-represents
    ?rock and ice? and captures much more high value low elevation forests
    than are represented currently in BC’s park system. Alpine tundra
    represented in BC’s current park system sits at 29%, while in the Great
    Bear Rainforest proposed protection would see only 15% in alpine tundra
    (note: 20% of the Great Bear Rainforest overall is classified as alpine
    – A commitment to take a small step and create a pathway and structure
    to see implementation of Ecosystem-based Management by 2009. If
    collectively, we are able to force government and industry to abide by
    the adopted Ecosystem-based Management (EBM) Handbook this would result
    in a full 70% of the GBR’s ecosystems and species in some form of
    protection at any one time.
    – $60 million in private and philanthropic funds matched by $60 from the
    province and feds to flow to First Nations based on the ecological
    results of their land use plans. Up to an additional $80 million in
    socially responsible investments for native and non-native communities
    with ties to the current economy of the Great Bear Rainforest. These
    funds include a conservation endowment fund (which generates income in
    perpetuity) dedicated solely to science and stewardship activities
    including restoration projects and conservation management, such as
    Forest Watchman jobs and stream restoration. An economic development
    fund and socially responsible investments will be dedicated to
    ecologically sustainable business ventures such as tourism, alternative
    energy production, non-timber forest products and shellfish aquaculture.
    The goal is to enable communities in the region to transition to a new
    economy, rather than rely on multinational corporations that choose to
    enter the region (such as aquaculture and logging companies).
    As we all work in our varying capacities, from community development to
    scientific research to negotiations to public engagement to markets work
    and blockades, it is clear that the results of our collective work have
    created a fork in the road for this region.
    Decisions are being made right now that will determine the future of the
    Great Bear Rainforest and one party ? the Government of British Columbia
    ? represents the final hold out. The majority of First Nations have
    clearly defined their land use plans. The power to decide the fate of
    the Great Bear Rainforest is now concentrated in one place.
    At this moment in time, this is the agreement that will be moved forward
    or rejected. Those who remain silent now, may be inadvertently choosing
    to become one in a chorus of many objecting when the government fails to
    The protected areas network alone is not the only part of this package
    that addresses the future of the ecology of the Great Bear Rainforest.
    While it is the largest coastal rainforest protection package in
    Canadian history, what is on the table for consideration by the
    Government of British Columbia is about much more.
    If approved the stage will be set for further conservation gains through
    Ecosystem-based Management and resources will be available for economic
    diversification of regional economies. If agreements are passed
    protected areas will be legislated and secure (unlike the status of
    pristine valleys in Clayoquot Sound), and although the groundwork will
    be laid, our collective work will need to continue to leverage industry
    and government to take additional steps to secure the ecology of the
    Great Bear Rainforest. A new EBM Working Group, with additional
    technical and science expertise, will be put in place to support ongoing
    decision making in the region. The EBM Working Group will report to a
    First Nations? and Provincial government body who will make management
    decisions. This is a new model, far superior to traditional
    under-funded monitoring and implementation teams
    To be clear, however, Government has not even taken this first step and
    all that remains certain in the Great Bear Rainforest is 7% in existing
    All remains at risk and so all are being called upon to bring our
    collective strength to bear in a final push, instead of simply waiting
    for failure to unite us once again.
    Lisa Matthaus ? Sierra Club of Canada, BC-Chapter
    Merran Smith ? ForestEthics
    Amanda Carr – Greenpeace
    STAND TALL for the Great Bear Rainforest
    Vancouver Sun — Best Chance for Coastal Rainforest
    by Art Sterritt and Guujaaw
    October 27th, 2005
    Some continue to claim the proposed land use agreements to protect
    B.C.'s Central and North Coast — also known as the Great Bear
    Rainforest — and the islands of Haida Gwaii don't go far enough. Others
    think it goes too far.
    As 12 first nations who live in these regions, our traditional
    territory, and who have 8,000 years of on-the-ground management
    experience, we believe those who make those claim fail to consider one
    critical question.
    How do we integrate the needs of natural systems with the needs of the
    people who depend upon them for their livelihoods and way of life?
    We live and work on this coast, where the forest and waters are a vital
    natural, cultural and economic resource for first nations, coastal
    communities and B.C. as a whole.
    To be successful, land use agreements must not only preserve the land
    and protect its ecological integrity — they must also respect
    indigenous cultures and strengthen local economies.
    To be successful, conservation must be sustainable, both ecologically
    and economically.
    The coastal land use agreements, currently awaiting cabinet approval, do
    In these agreements, the total size of protected areas would be
    quadrupled to secure many of its most sensitive and intact valleys and
    This will be more than seven million acres of area protected from
    logging on the Central and North Coast and Haida Gwaii.
    When approved, it will be the largest temperate rainforest protection
    package in Canadian history. The agreements also represent the first
    effort to apply ecosystem-based management on all areas outside the
    protected areas.
    This amounts to re-engineering an entire regional economy, tuning it to
    measurable indicators of ecological health and human well-being.
    Through a declaration signed in June 2000, Coastal First Nations
    committed to making decisions that ensure the well-being of our lands
    and waters, and to preserve and renew their territories and cultures
    through tradition, knowledge, and authority.
    Since then, this position has not changed, only strengthened, as we seek
    to find more opportunities for conservation approaches based on
    independent science and local and traditional knowledge.
    As well, we are looking for approaches for our coastal communities where
    unemployment and poverty rates are well above national averages.
    The intricate process that has led to this stage represents a commitment
    to a new relationship between the provincial government and first
    Beyond mere consultation, this government-to-government relationship
    will allow for a more just approach to land use decisions today and in
    the future.
    We believe the application of these land use agreements present the
    world with its best chance yet to integrate conservation, community
    development and first nations self-determination. We are supported by
    Greenpeace, ForestEthics, the Sierra Club of Canada B.C. Chapter, the
    Rainforest Action Network, the Nature Conservancy and others.
    We are proud to support these agreements and are working with the
    British Columbia government to develop legal and legislative tools to
    make them a reality.
    Art Sterritt is executive director of the Coastal First Nations of the
    Turning Point Initiative Society.
    Guujaaw is the president of the Council of Haida Nation.
    *** Send a message to the BC government to protect the Great Bear
    Rainforest at:

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