Monday, 21 April 2014

Activists campaign against "massive sale" of state forests

18 March 2011

Prague, March 17 (CTK) - The environmentalist group Friends of the Earth Thursday launched a campaign against what it calls the government's policy leading to a massive sale of state forests, and called on people to sign its protest letter addressed to the government parties' leaders.

Apart from the group head Petr Machalek, the letter has been signed by Bedrich Moldan, director of he Charles University's centre for the environment and former environment minister, and other personalities.

The signatories mainly mind the planned transformation of the Lesy Ceske republiky (Forests of the Czech Republic, LCR) state company into a joint-stock company, planned by the Agriculture Ministry.

Agriculture Minister Ivan Fuksa (Civic Democrats, ODS) has repeatedly refused proposals for LCR's privatisation, but, on the other hand, he wants to let some 5 percent of the future joint-stock company's shares traded at the stock-exchange.

"The company, which manages public forests now, would turn into a half-state commercial company for timber cultivation and sale. Of course, the rules of state business and private property do not take the care for nature into account," Friends of the Earth write in the letter.

"We don't want a 'forestry CEZ' to decide on Czech landscape," it writes, alluding to what many call controversial practices of the state co-owned giant energy utility CEZ.

Friends of the Earth also stand up to the big tenders for logging in state forests that are to be put up by the end of March.

It says the tenders have been tailored for a few big companies, as a result of which small timber-processing firms would fold and thousands of people would lose their jobs.

The activists also criticise the plan of Jan Strasky, new director of the Sumava National Park, to allow logging in what have been the park's strictly no-interference zones so far.

"I've joined the appeal because I believe that forests have a special value that is not designed for commercial exploitation only," said Moldan, a former senator.

Although as a conservative he does not believe that the state can manage property better than a private owner, the situation is different in the case of forests, which are not only a significant piece of property but also a public value. That is why they cannot be approached merely as a source of profit, Moldan said.

The planned system of tenders has also been criticised by private forests' owners and timber processors. Six such firms have asked Fuksa to postpone the launch of the tender until June and to open discussion on the impact of the ministry's Wooden Paper, or the long-term outlook for the LCR.


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