11 July, 2012

Odd voyage for Planet Ark

Leslie White
The Weekly Times, July 11, 2012

WHEN is an environment group no longer an environment group?

Seems an odd question to ask in a rural paper, but stick with me.

Planet Ark, famous for encouraging us to recycle greetings cards to save trees, is set to endorse clearfell logging of native forest.

The Australian Forestry Standard - an alternative logging certification system pushed by logging operations who do not have more community-based Forestry Stewardship Certification - needs an "environment" group to give it a tick.

And Planet Ark, which recently did a deal with the Forest and Wood Products Association to help Planet Ark out of financial dire straits, is set to provide it.

Just last week AFS certified Forestry Tasmania's controversial operations.

Environment groups working on a transition to plantation logging are fuming.

Planet Ark's position is also at odds with Liberal leader Tony Abbott, who said recently most people were "revolted" by clearfell native forest logging - a statement aimed at winning votes from Labor MP Rob Mitchell in McEwen, where the issue is hot.

One wonders whether a group could gain a seat on, say, a government committee or panel, by saying it represents a certain cause when there is evidence to the contrary.

What if PETA began funding an existing farm group, or set up its own, perhaps called the Australian Farm Lobby, and appeared on stakeholder committees as if it were an advocate for farmers?

What if it got a say in formulating industry standards, with a charity status?

The extraordinarily well-funded PETA has done much trickier things.

One wonders what Environment Minister Tony Burke thinks about Planet Ark's environmental charity group status, given it takes money from a vested interest which has been at war with the movement it claims to represent for decades.

And what Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig would do if a similar issue arose in farming.

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