The Nature Conspiracy

Forests are a natural solution to the crises of climate change, environmental injustice, and species extinction. So why is the United States’ biggest conservation organization helping to cut them down?

Last month, Forest Carbon Coalition Steering Committee members, John Muir Project and Dogwood Alliance, joined forces along with over 150 faith, justice, and environmental groups, including 18 Forest Carbon Coalition members, and their 3.5 million members, to call out America’s largest and richest conservation organization, The Nature Conservancy, for promoting more logging and wood production as a false climate solution. These groups are calling on TNC to stop undermining climate and biodiversity goals.

Surprisingly, The Nature Conservancy can often be found working side by side with corporations to advocate for policies that support the expansion of wood production and logging. “The Nature Conservancy is ignoring science documenting the serious impacts logging is having on climate change, biodiversity and communities,” said Chad Hanson, Ph.D., co-founder of the John Muir Project. “At this point, it’s no longer functioning like an environmental group. It’s acting like an arm of the wood-products industry.”

In 2021, as a member of the Forest Climate Working Group — along with wood-pellet giants Enviva and Drax; the nation’s top lumber producer, Weyerhaeuser; and other logging-related corporations and trade associations — The Nature Conservancy signed onto a platform urging Congress to “stimulate increased use of forest products;” in other words chop down more trees. In addition, TNC is increasingly conducting large scale commercial logging projects on its own nature “preserves.”

“We cannot sit back and remain silent while TNC enables an industry that is doing so much damage to climate, biodiversity, and environmental justice communities,” said Danna Smith, executive director of Dogwood Alliance. “We need swift and courageous action to protect forests and our most vulnerable communities if we are going to meet the grave crises we are facing at this moment.”

forests are climate solutions

Protecting US Forests is a Climate Solution and a Social Justice Issue

A growing body of scientific evidence shows that to avoid the worst consequences of climate change, the ecological integrity of our forests is essential. As the climate crisis intensifies, forests remain the most effective system for removing and accumulating carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and providing essential protections against extreme weather events like flooding and droughts.

Science has proven that logging is the single largest driver of carbon emissions from US forests, 10x greater than from fires, land-use & drought combined. The US is the world’s largest producer and consumer of wood products. This drives massive extraction and degradation of forests at one of the fastest rates in the world.

Low-wealth and communities of color are already disproportionately suffering from the impacts of climate change, forest destruction, and pollution. Communities on the frontlines of forest destruction are bearing the brunt of the health, economic, and social impacts of destructive industrial forestry practices and the air and water pollution, and increased flooding, caused by this industry.

Yet, TNC continually omits these facts and refuses to publicly acknowledge them while they promote logging. They also have a disturbing pattern of omitting scientific research that shows problems with the logging projects they endorse, and they ignore concerns raised by local groups who are actively challenging the detrimental effects of these projects.

An Open Letter to the Nature Conservancy

Forest destruction and degradation needs to stop, and more forests must be protected. We should have an ally in The Nature Conservancy, the world’s largest conservation organization, but they’re too deep in the timber industry’s pocket. In an open letter to TNC, the member groups have asked TNC to:

  1. Publicly acknowledge the climate, biodiversity and environmental justice impacts associated with industrial logging and wood production and end the promotion of logging, wood consumption and the expansion of commercial tree plantations as a climate solution.
  2. Eliminate all conflicts of interest with partners, investors as well as members of TNC’s Board and Advisory Boards that have financial ties with, or who promote, large-scale extractive industries that exacerbate climate change, including specifically the Forest Climate Working Group and Bain & Company.
  3. Reallocate resources and staff time to advance a massive scale up in strict protection for all primary and mature forests (including those recently burned, where fire creates ecologically vital “snag forest” habitat) as well as vast acreages of currently degraded natural forests, such as across the coastal plain of the Southern US and numerous areas in the Northeastern US.
  4. Stop promoting logging as a strategy for fuel reduction for managing wildfire and acknowledge the evidence that logging is exacerbating climate change and often fire intensity, while harming ecosystems that local organizations have identified as priority for protection.
  5. Advocate for a shift in societal behavior away from wasteful consumerism of wood-based products to allow nature and communities to recover from logging and pollution impacts.
  6. Cease support for forest carbon offsets and all forms of forest biomass energy.
  7. Publicly acknowledge the disproportionate impacts of the forestry industry on environmental justice communities, including from pollution and flooding. Align all policy positions with environmental justice principles and the needs of affected environmental justice communities in relation to community health, safety, and resiliency considerations, including pollution caused by wood product facilities.

It is the hope given the gravity of the challenges we all face, that TNC will take these concerns more seriously and avoid further risking their brand and credibility as an organization that is supposed to be focused on protecting nature, not destroying it, and harming environmental justice communities in the process.

The Nature Conspiracy Expose

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