Working to Protect Chile's Forests

March 31, 2000

Chíle is home to one-third of the world's remaining temperate rainforests. As U.S. timber companies deplete North American forests, they are turning their attention to Chíle.

Lawyers with Chíle's Fiscalía del Medio Ambiente (FIMA) are working to protect Chile's forests. ELAW is helping FIMA challenge U.S. timber companies to avoid the disastrous practices that devastated U.S. forests and put species in peril.

U.S. timber giant Boise Cascade has been pursuing a project, known as Cascada Chíle, to build an oriented strand board facility, wood chip plant and deep water port facility near Puerto Montt in southern Chíle. Cascada Chíle submitted an environmental impact assessment for the project, but only assessed impacts of the facilities themselves, ignoring the associated impacts on the forests resulting from cutting timber to supply the facilities. FIMA estimates that more than 1,200 acres of forests would be cut every year to supply the factories.

Representing a coalition of Chilean environmental organizations and more than 100 citizens, FIMA went to court to challenge Boise Cascade's project and the environmental impact assessment. Lawyers in the ELAW network supplied court decisions from other countries ruling that an environmental impact assessment must assess the inevitable broader impact of a project.

Unfortunately, the trial court and Chíle's Supreme Court accepted Cascada's argument that Cascada did not have to assess the impacts of cutting local forests to supply the facilities.

Though FIMA lost in court, FIMA's case helped generate widespread opposition to the project. Soon after the Supreme Court decision, Boise Cascade announced that it was suspending the project indefinitely. For now, Chíle's forests are spared. FIMA vows to continue its work to enforce Chíle's laws and protect Chíle's forests.

For more information about this ELAW Impact, please contact: Fiscalía del Medio Ambiente, Calle Rosal 352, Santiago, Chíle.