Environmental groups are saying that the recently reopened High Line Park has gone too far in bringing nature to the heart of the city's meatpacking district, claiming that wood used for the park's bleachers, benches and decking is coming directly from the rainforests. We had heard similar complaints about wood at the nearby Standard, but now Rainforest Relief and New York Climate Action Group have unveiled a banner blocking the view of 10th Avenue from the bleachers calling out the raw state of the park. The groups say that that Forest Stewardship Council, the organization accrediting wood used by Friends of the High Line, is violating their own principles in approving wood from "ancient primary forests, including the Amazon" for use at the High Line. The entire press release from Rainforests of New York is after the jump.

September 24th, New York: This morning, environmental activists unfurled a 35-foot banner blocking the iconic view of 10th Avenue from the High Line park to protest the Amazon wood used in the park for bleachers, benches and decking. The banner read, “High Crime on the High Line! FSC Lies: Amazon Wood Is Not Sustainable!”

Two New York City-based groups, Rainforest Relief and New York Climate
Action Group, coordinated the banner action to confront the “First
International FSC Friday,” an event held on September 25th by the
Forest Stewardship Council to promote their certification scheme.

According to Friends of the High Line’s website, the tropical hardwood
used throughout the High Line was certified by FSC-accredited
agencies. The wood, called ipê, originates from primary Amazon
forests in Brazil and Peru. Ipê trees are typically 250 to 1,000 years
old and grow an average of one or two trees per acre.

“We targeted the High Line because it’s one of the highest profile
parks in the world,” said Tim Doody, a spokesperson for Rainforest
Relief. “We think there are well-intentioned designers and architects
who have no idea that the FSC certifies wood from ancient primary
forests, including the Amazon. That kind of logging destroys vital
carbon sinks and opens the forest to land speculators, cattle ranchers
and plantation farmers.”

Formed in 1993, the FSC accredits agencies that in turn certify
logging operations according to a set of principles that the FSC
claims will protect forests and local people. However, a growing
number of environmental groups, including Friends of the Earth UK,
Rainforest Foundation, Ecological Internet and World Rainforest
Movement, are accusing the FSC of violating their own principles.

“Instead of launching vacuous marketing ploys such as ‘FSC Friday,’
the FSC would be better off trying to address some of their underlying
issues,” said Simon Counsell. Counsell, a founding member of the FSC,
now monitors the agency on FSC-Watch.org.

Citing a study reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of
Sciences of the United States, Counsell stated, "Research in the
Amazon has shown that, over a period of years, commercial logging
greatly increases the overall propensity of the forest to dry out,
burn and disappear. This happens regardless of whether the logged
areas are certified or not."

On July 12, 2009, the Brazilian government announced that federal
police had broken up a timber-laundering ring in the Amazon involving
3,000 "eco-certified" companies that had been receiving illegal wood
for years. FSC-certified companies are among the implicated.

Dr. Glen Barry, founder of Ecological Internet, said "It has become
evident to environmentalists in the know that FSC has become an
obstacle to ending ancient-forest destruction and addressing climate
change and biodiversity loss.” EI is demanding that FSC stop
certifying wood from ancient primary forests around the world.

The government of Norway has turned criticism of “eco-certification”
schemes into policy. In 2007, officials there banned the use of all
tropical timber in public buildings. "The government wants to stop all
trade with unsustainably or illegally logged tropical forest
products,” stated Norway’s Directorate of Public Construction and
Property (Statsbyyg). “Today, there is no international or national
certification that can guarantee in a reliable manner that imported
wood is legally and sustainably logged."

“What’s missing in the certification debate is the broader issue of
simply reducing the consumption of wood products,” said Tim Keating,
Executive Director of Rainforest Relief. “All the world’s forests
cannot be industrially logged, and there are so many alternatives—like
post-consumer plastics—that should be considered first.”