National Resouces Defence Council & The Eischer/Gap Connection with Green Forestry Self-Certification


The connection between Bob Fisher and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has been a source of internal conflict at the NRDC and has prompted demonstrations at NRDC fundraisers and angry letters demanding that NRDC dump Bob Fisher from the Board of Trustees. The NRDC has shaken its finger at the Fishers' logging company, Mendocino Redwood Company (I can show you the email they sent me last fall), but the NRDC is apparently too enamored of Fisher money to take any real action. (I don't know how they rationalize this: sacrifice 230,000 acres of redwood forest to promote other environmental causes elsewhere?! You tell me.)

This connection is further compromised by the NRDC's and the Fishers' connection to the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), an organization that defines guidelines by which timber companies are privately certified as sustainable and given a "green" label. The NRDC, with Bob Fisher on its Board, helped to establish the FSC, and now the Fishers (with Bob being one of the investors in the logging company) are seeking "certification" through two FSC certifiers (the Institute for Sustainable Forestry/Smartwood and Scientific Certification Systems), despite this outrageous conflict of interest and the threat this poses to the credibility of the certification process.

The Fishers and Home Depot (another big supporter of "certification" while selling old-growth and MRC forest products hand over fist--HD is the biggest retailer of old-growth products on the face of the earth) obviously SMELL A BUCK to be made off the public's growing awareness of deforestation and an imminent boom in the certified wood industry. Hence their promotion of certification.


Sami Yassa, a scientist at the NRDC, reportedly spoke against certifying MRC, as did most people (including government agencies and licensed timber operators!) who attended the private meetings that the would-be certifiers held in Mendocino County last Thursday and Friday. (Yassa attended the meeting in Willits - I attended the coast meeting.) However, the NRDC's official position paper on the Mendocino Redwood Company is a weak and misleading tract (see attached) that fosters public complacency with statements such as "We are encouraged by the MRC's recent public announcement that they are moving toward FSC certification," as if that implies they are doing something to deserve it.

For months MRC has been getting a lot of P.R. mileage out of their "pursuit" of certification, conning the public into believing that this "pursuit" in some way makes their forest practices deserving of "certification." It does not. MRC IS DESTROYING THE LAST VESTIGES OF BIODIVERSITY ON THEIR HOLDINGS as I write this--with over 140 logging plans, 50% of which contain clearcutting; high-grading, taking the last old growth, applying herbicides, and so on--and the NRDC is either deliberately or inadvertently supporting this crime against the public and against the earth with their irresponsible rhetoric.

The NRDC letter attempts to minimize the scope of public concern by stating, "forest activists and community groups in Mendocino County have expressed concerns..." when these concerns have been expressed by people and organizations far and wide, including Rainforest Action Network, the Foundation for Deep Ecology, Forests Forever, the Sierra Club, the Christian Environmental Council, and many others. People demonstrated in 30 cities across the nation the day we launched the Gap Boycott, November 27, 1998, and there have been many demonstrations across the country since, including a recent lockdown in NYC. Our network includes nearly 1000 people and organizations across the country--representing over 60 cities in 30 states, and 15,000 people have signed our petition--96% of whom reside outside of Mendocino County and 46% of whom reside outside of California. (This marginalizing of the opposition is lock-step with Gap, Inc.'s official position letter, by the way--maybe Bob helped draft both--no doubt he reviewed them both.)

While the NRDC letter recommends alternative logging methods, it does not address the central issue of overlogging: Given the state of these vastly depleted forests--reduced to an average of 8,000 boardfeet per acre, when a healthy "production" forest contains an average of 40,000 bf/acre and an ancient forest contains 100,000 bf/acre--should these forests be cut at all? RAN recommends no cut. Foundation for Deep Ecology recommends no cut. Hans Burkhardt, environmental analyst for the County of Mendocino, recommends no cut. 15,000 petition signers said no cut. Yet MRC is cutting 40 MILLION boardfeet per year - twice what even the most conservative independent observers feel is feasible on these lands.

They are proceeding with this liquidation logging program with no okay from anybody. Even the California Department of Forestry (CDF) has not okayed this overall management plan, although they keep rubber-stamping individual logging plans that implement the program. This program is entirely profit-driven, and is going forward at the expense - indeed at the imminent risk of extinction - of the Marbled Murrelet, the Northern Spotted Owl and the coho salmon.

This is the logging program that the NRDC has chosen to give a "soft" response to, as you can read below.

The NRDC letter recommends that MRC pursue FSC certification, without mentioning the relationship between the NRDC, Bob Fisher, and the FSC.

The NRDC letter encourages its readers to discuss these issues with MRC, from whom, they are no doubt confident, you will get a straight answer. They direct you to the MRC web site.

The NRDC, supposedly an environmental group, fails to inform the public about the environmental groups' web site where MRC is criticized. Can the NRDC claim to be an environmental group, or are they a floozy for industry? Why are they recommending a logging company's lying web site instead of ours?

Finally, the NRDC letter closes with a tribute to Bob Fisher, the Environmentalist (he was billed as the "Eco-savior" at the NRDC fundraiser we protested in November). The effrontery of this, when his company is raging war against the redwoods, is unbelievable. Nowhere does the letter state that Bob Fisher is an investor in the logging venture, a fact that Fisher himself admits in a letter he sent to concerned citizens last September (you can download this letter from our web site).


Please tell NRDC to dump Fisher from their Board (use email address in cc line), and in the meantime cancel your membership to NRDC and instead join a great organization like Forests Forever--an organization of impeccable integrity, not beholden to Big Money, and working tirelessly for the forests. And/or send donations to the non-profit Redwood Coast Watersheds Alliance, the local group that has been fighting this logging company for a year, in an uphill battle to educate the public and stop a few of the worst logging plans, with the billionaire Fishers and their P.R. machine attacking them every step of the way (Box 90, Elk, CA 95432).


Certification is another topic altogether--far from the panacea most people would like it to be. Not only do FSC certification guidelines allow the cutting of old growth and cutting in stream zones, but the entire process is private--the public is shut out. Further, certifiers have admitted that in order to promote certification they often loosen their already loose guidelines--for example, they allow applicants to be certified if they meet 5 out of the 10 criteria on a wink and a promise that they'll try to meet the others in the future.

Our environmental laws have failed to protect our public trust resources, but at least these laws require that the public have access to information. The California Environmental Quality Act incorporates public scrutiny as a critical check in the process. Unfortunately, at this dark hour in history, instead of upholding the public trust, the Government is allowing corporate interests to usurp it and blatantly destroy our resources and trample our rights--while they treat us, the public, with utmost contempt. The solution, however, is not to privatize a public process, and keep all documents secret (as FSC does). The solution is to re-claim our government.

This struggle against the Fisher empire and their destruction of the redwood forest - and other struggles, such as the fight against Gap sweatshops, and the fight for public control of public radio - are opening many eyes to the need to empower the public both as citizens and consumers, not just as consumers.


Following is the NRDC letter in its entirety:

"NRDC's official position on the Mendocino Redwood Company

"Over the past few months, forest activists and community groups in Mendocino County have expressed concerns over the forestry practices of the Mendocino Redwood Company (MRC). They have raised concerns over the company's use of clearcutting on steep slopes and the logging of old growth.

"NRDC staff has met with the owners and managers of the MRC, reviewed the broad outlines of the MRC's long-term plans, and visited several watersheds on the MRC property. Based upon this review, we recommended that they pursue FSC accredited certification and search for alternatives to clearcutting and herbicides. We also urged them to protect the remaining old growth stands on the property.

"We have recommended alternative practices like selective harvesting and non-chemical brush control. Specifically, as an alternative to Garlon, we have recommended mechanical methods for removing brush and/or removing tanoak stumps. The alternative logging methods that we proposed instead of clearcutting include single tree seletion, group selection, and variable retention methods.

"We believe that environmental certification under the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is the best management approach for these lands. We have urged the MRC to get their operations by an independent third party accredited by the FSC, such as the Institute for Sustainable Forestry/Smartwood in Mendocino County.

"We are encouraged by the MRC's recent public announcement that they are moving toward FSC certification. In addition, we are encouraged by their serious consideration and on the ground trials of the alternative approaches that we have recommended.

"We are continuing to discuss these matters with them, and strongly suggest that interested parties contact the MRC directly to inquire about these issues. Their web site is

Bob Fisher is an NRDC Board member and has been a leader in our efforts to protect the environment. He has a strong commitment to forest conservation, and has been extremely valuable to NRDC in that area."

**We have the power to dump the corporations and their oversized, non-profit support groups, like NRDC. I encourage everyone to do it.**

Mary Bull
Save the Redwoods/Boycott the Gap Campaign, SF

Other Contacts/Information Sources

Mary Pjerrou, Redwood Coast Watersheds Alliance

Norman de Vall, Greenwood Watershed Association

Redwood Mary (Mary Rose Kaczorowski),
Plight of the Redwoods Tour
Mary Bull,
Save the Redwoods/Boycott the Gap Campaign
Also of interest:

Gap Labor Exploitation URLs: /MN19190.DTL /MN49132.DTL /MN49806.DTL

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