World's Forests Being Ravaged
By Dennis Bueckert
The Canadian Press

OTTAWA (CP) - From Thailand to Canada, the world's forests are being exploited beyond their ability to reproduce, says a report by a commission set up by former world leaders.
The World Commission on Forests and Sustainable Development calls in a report released Monday for preservation of the world's remaining primary-growth forests -- those that have never been logged.
After hearings on five continents, the commission concludes that drastic policy changes are needed if forests are to be managed on a sustainable basis.
"We have reached the limit," Ola Ullsten, co-chairman of the commission and former prime minister of Sweden, said in an interview.
"We are turning forests to other uses, not just logging, at a rate of about 10 (million) to 15 million hectares a year.
"That is the size of Portugal. It's an enormous area of forest land disappearing in front of our eyes every day and there's no sign that it's slowing down."
Ullsten said there is no need to over-harvest forests because global demand for wood and wood-fibre can be met without depletion.
Among the findings of the report:
Forests have virtually disappeared in 25 countries; 18 have lost more than 95 per cent of their forests and 11 have lost 90 per cent.
About 24 million hectares of tropical forest have been lost annually since 1980.
About 75 per cent of the world's mammals are threatened by forest decline.
One quarter of Europe's trees show signs of significant leaf loss due to air pollution.
"The decline is relentless," says the report. "We suspect it could change the very character of the planet and of the human enterprise within a few years unless we make some choices."
The World Commission on Forests was founded following Earth Summit in 1992 by 30 former heads of government and state, including former prime minister Pierre Trudeau.
Ullsten said there are signs of improvement in Canada's forest record and he praised forest company MacMillan Bloedel for agreeing to end clearcutting.
The report calls for creation of an international Forest Management Council and Forest Ombudsman to monitor corruption and mismanagement, set forestry standards and acknowledge excellence.
"Innovation is desperately needed if the world is to prevent the deepening of the forest crisis," says the report titled Our Forests ... Our Future.
"New ways must be found to slow and ultimately reverse forest decline."
Ullsten said Canada has a special responsibility because it still has 20 to 25 per cent of its primary forest. In comparison, Sweden retains about seven per cent of its original forest.
He conceded no one can predict what would happen if the forests are lost, but it's well known they play a vital role protecting watersheds, providing wildlife habitat and maintaining the climate.
"If we don't know exactly what's happening, but we have reason to believe what's happening will be disastrous for us, then we'd better not try to experiment with it."