By now, we’re all familiar with the habit among environmental extremists and activist groups to engage in hyperbole and spread utter disinformation. Less familiar, but equally destructive, is their tactic of filing frivolous lawsuits and administrative complaints to advance their agenda through vexatious litigation. Not only does excessive environmental litigation waste even more resources of already-congested courts and regulatory commissions, it also advances their destructive strategy of slowing commerce and disrupting private markets.
We’re currently witnessing a perfect example in the domestic timber industry, where the extremist groups ForestEthics and Greenpeace recently filed a frivolous complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) alleging that a forest certification program, Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), engages “unfair and deceptive acts and practices.”
By way of background, SFI is the preferred program in the domestic certification market, utilized by family farmers and small and large businesses. In contrast, the favored program of ForestEthics and Greenpeace, the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), is international in scope. Among other flaws, FSC demands that domestic landowners meet stringent standards to obtain certification, whereas foresters in Indonesia, China and Russia are held to much lower benchmarks. In fact, FSC doesn’t even attempt to deny that. As a consequence, resulting government regulations and environmental activist pressures in favor of FSC and at the expense of SFI reduce commerce in domestic timber markets, and increase the amount of wood harvested in environmentally-unfriendly nations for use in domestic projects.
In the present case, the ForestEthics and Greenpeace complaint does not withstand even cursory scrutiny. Experts on land management, tree farmers, academics and silviculturists, who all know a lot more about forestry than the litigious activists, vouch for SFI’s contributions to sustainable forestry.
Any remaining question as to the merit of the instant ForestEthics and Greenpeace FTC complaint can be answered by looking to Greenpeace’s recent actions in Canada.
Late last year, Greenpeace inaccurately accused Resolute Forest Products of building logging roads in banned areas. Greenpeace claimed it possessed photo and video evidence of these actions, and pulled out of the widely-heralded Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement, where businesses had already bent over backwards to address environmental concerns. Fortunately, in an all-too-rare response, Resolute actually fought back against the accusations. Ultimately, Greenpeace was forced into an even rarer response: an apology and admission that it used “inaccurate maps” as the basis for its attacks. Undeterred, Greenpeace stubbornly still opposes both Resolute and the Boreal Agreement.
What this demonstrates is that environmental groups are rarely interested in facts or science, but rather extremist partisan agendas and disregard of any concept of restraint in pursuing them.
Returning to the complaint against SFI here in the U.S., the activist parties obviously give little thought to the economic and environmental consequences to the domestic timber industry of making the FSC certification program a monopoly by blackballing SFI for landowners across the country.
ForestEthics filed a previous FTC complaint against SFI in 2009, but the Commission dismissed it. Now they’re attempting to go back to that well.
Taken together, activist organizations like Greenpeace and ForestEthics have demonstrated a consistent habit of distorting the truth in shameless pursuit of their extremist agenda. The American public should keep that in mind, and the FTC should take the same approach this time around and dismiss this complaint as nothing more than an attempt to make the FTC part of a the complaining parties’ destructive and deceptive smear campaign.