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Note: this comes from our friend Wally Menne at Timberwatch Coalition in South Africa.  Much of the timber industry’s future focus for industrial timber plantation expansion is to use GE trees–especially GE eucalyptus, GE poplar and GE pine.  Any of these will have devastating impacts on local peoples and native ecosystems.  Here in the US, GE tree company ArborGen is hoping to get permission from the USDA to sell half a billion GE eucalytpus trees per year for planting across millions of acres from South Carolina to Texas–mainly for use as biofuels.  These super-flammable, drought-inducing non-native and invasive trees will wreak havoc and could easily ignite massive firestorms.  Maybe the below lawsuit will make ArborGen, their owners, or their investors think twice. (Not that giving land to the US Forest Service is necessarily a great idea, given their own sordid history of rampant logging and irresponsible fire suppression).  – Anne Petermann

From Wally Menne:

This settlement [“Logger reaches record $122.5 million settlement for California wildfire” by Mary Slosson, July 18, 2012, Reuters] is a welcome sign of growing environmental awareness, and also points to the often ignored culpability of timber companies in the numerous cases where plantation or forest fires around the world have destroyed biodiversity and harmed rural communities in recent years.

Timber plantation companies in South Africa are usually quick to blame wildfires on honey-gatherers and “natural events”, but in reality these fires are often caused by reason of the plantations themselves being established in fire-dependent grassland ecosystems. The risk is made much worse by the appallingly bad management practices prevalent in the industry, especially the failure to control the proliferation of alien invasive plants including plantation tree species, and the accumulation of highly flammable waste timber, within plantation areas.

There is a global push by Northern governments to convert millions of hectares of often community owned land in developing countries into so-called carbon-sink or biomass fuel tree plantations, with the real risk that these artificially imposed fake ‘forests’ will dehydrate those areas and make them more fire-prone in the future. With increasingly erratic weather patterns and longer droughts, there is a high likelihood that these plantations will also go up in smoke, not only adding to carbon emissions and climate change, but also threatening food and water security in affected local communities.

So hopefully in future, perhaps other governments, especially in countries like Australia, will take a closer look at the actual causes of plantation wildfires in their countries, and make the real culprits pay for the damage.