Return to WRR37 Contents Page

In Defence of Chile's Forests

DEFENSORES DEL BOSQUE CHILENO Antonia Lopez del Bello 024 Providencia Santiago, Chile tel. (56-2) 737-4280, fax 777-5065


May 20, 1997

Dear Friend,

We would like to introduce ourselves and ask for your participation.

Defensores del Bosque Chileno (Defenders of the Chilean Forests, DBCh) is a non-governmental organization working to preserve Chile´s remaining primary old-growth forests, and to catalyze national forest policies that conserve and restore our secondary forests.

Chile´s native forests are one of the world´s natural treasures. They include one of the world´s last two extensive temperate rainforests. Because Chile is a biogeographical island, more than 90 percent of animal and plant life in Chile´s forests are endemic. Chile´s forests also contain the highest species diversity among the world´s temperate forests. Vast tracts of pristine ancient forest remain, some including the native alerce - a giant tree, and the second-oldest living species on Earth ranging up to 4,000 years old.

The native forest patrimony of Chile though is rapidly disappearing. According to a Central Bank of Chile report in late 1995, with current methods of exploitation all of Chile´s native forests will be deforested in twenty years. One of the main causes of native deforestation is the export of wood chips to almost entirely Japan´s paper and pulp industry. Chile has become the only country in the world that makes low value wood chips its primary product from native forests. The other principal causes of deforestation are intensive use of firewood and the conversion of native forests into exotic-species tree plantations. Tree plantations receive exorbitant government subsidies while no incentives exist for native reforestation and sustainable forestry. Instead the government of Chile is attempting to weaken national forest law, while also entering international trade agreements to expand exports which are 90 percent based on Chile´s shrinking natural resources.

Through education, research and activism, Defensores del Bosque Chileno has established itself as the leading advocate for Chile´s forests. Our media campaign has received fantastic attention in the print and broadcast media. We raised funds to create the Alto Huemul Nature Sanctuary, a rare 35,000 hectare roble forest in central Chile. We have a legal team researching and lobbying for a new native forest law. Our ¨Voice of the Forest¨ seasonal newspaper is distributed to more than 5,000 members and decision-makers. Last year we began our BOSQUEDUCA education program with the support of the Fund of the Americas in seven communities of southern Chile and it was judged a complete success by the Ministry of Education.

In Chile, we regularly collaborate on our campaigns with other groups through the Alliance for the Forests, a Chilean federation of more than 30 organizations. Defensores del Bosque has also developed a network of Native Forest Action Groups in all 12 regions of Chile. However we believe with the lengthy and continous gridlock among Chile´s political leaders concerning forest protection policies coupled with the exponential growth in deforestation, it is past time for an S.O.F. (Save Our Forests) to the global community. In addition to trying to create ecologically-sustainable forest policies and institutions in Chile, our international campaign has two main projects.

1) End Export of Wood Chips to Japan

Wood chips are the primary product from Chilean native forests, and a principal cause of our native forest destruction. Japan´s paper and pulp industry is essentially the only buyer of Chile´s wood chips. They are also the leading destroyer of native forests globally.

An international effort is needed to help them switch to alternative sources for their paper products, such as increasing the use of waste paper, eucalyptus plantations, or kenaf. We would like to ask for your help with our campaign in Chile to start moving them in this direction. We are currently discussing with Japanese environmentalists the formation of a public education project for both Chile and Japan. In a few weeks we will send out an action alert to generate letters to Chile´s government. We are calling for forest policies that end wood chips as the primary product, and that instead support sustainable management and incentives for value-added products.

2) Southern Hemisphere Gondwana Forest Sanctuary

We have begun working with the Rainforest Information Centre of Australia, Project Lemu of Argentina, Native Forest Action of New Zealand, and the Native Forest Network of the United States, on a unique effort in international conservation.

We are proposing that by inter-governmental treaty, the temperate rainforests 40 degrees south in Tasmania, New Zealand, Chile and Argentina be protected through a ¨Southern Hemisphere Gonwana Forests Reserve System.¨ Gondwana comes from the name of the ancient supercontinent that originally joined these forested territories during the Eocene era millions of years ago. Even today the forests of these territories are very similar.

The proposed Gondwana Reserve would preserve all the primary forests and permit only sustainable uses of secondary forests. It would join the international whale sanctuary set up in this same region by inter-governmental treaty some years ago. It would be similar in its practical application to the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve System.

At the moment we need endorsement of this proposal from you and your organization or institution. We will also need your help with publicity and with generating letters of support. Look for more details on that later.

We would like to stay in touch with you, preferably through the cost-effective and efficient email, and periodically send you alerts and updates about our work to save Chile´s native forests. We also want to invite your collaboration in our international projects and perhaps in any ideas that you may suggest for us.

Attached is an information request sheet, and a brief fact sheet about Chile´s native forest crisis. We appreciate your help.

For the Forests,

Adriana Hoffmann National Coordinator Defensores del Bosque Chileno


DBCh International Network Info-Request Sheet

If you agree with our goals, please give us the following information so we can keep you involved in our international campaign.

Name or contact person



Phone, fax and email

Can we list your organization as a supporter of Defensores del Bosque Chileno?

Of the Southern Hemisphere Gondwana Forests Sanctuary proposal?

Any suggestions on sources of funds?




* A report from the Central Bank of Chile states that all native forests will be gone in 20 years with current conditions of exploitation

* This same report estimates that 120 thousand hectares are destroyed each year, of which 60 to 90 thousand hectares are replaced with tree plantations

* Chile has one of the world´s last two extensive temperate rainforests

* Chile´s alerce tree is the world´s second-oldest living species, ranging from 3 to 4 thousand years old

* 90 percent of the species in native forests are endemic to Chile

* Chile´s National Wildlands System protects only 1.4 million hectares of native forest, the rest, estimated at 6.3 million hectares, is entirely on private land

* 88.2 percent of Chile´s exports are based on the production of four natural resources - mining, forestry, fishing and agriculture

* Forest products are Chile´s third-largest export and have grown at a rate of 22 percent a year in the last decade

* Tree plantations now supply more than 90 percent of all wood exported, yet only less than one-third of their potential capacity is being used

* Currently there are two million hectares of exotic-species tree plantations, this is projected to double in size in 20 years

* The native forest sector is only .056 percent of Chile´s Gross Domestic Product, while the forestry sector is just 3 percent

* The forestry sector is just 2.05 percent of national employment, while the native forest sector is 0.1 percent

* The average rate of profit after costs over the last ten years by the forestry sector is 58.02 percent

* Japan is responsible for 70 percent of the global demand for wood chips and buys almost all of the wood chips exported from Chile

* Chile is the only country in the world that produces wood chips as the primary product of its native forests, and is the world´s third-largest producer of wood chips after Canada and the United States

* Wood chips are 17 percent of Chile´s forest exports, almost all from native forests, the leading cause of native forest destruction in Chile