Harvard U company prosecuted & fined for illegal logging in Chile

CIPER, Chile’s top-notch investigative reporting specialist, put out this report three weeks ago and for some reason it has made zero impact in the English press. The only version was a full translation on I Love Chile, a nice enough website, but still. A local holding of Harvard University being prosecuted for environmental crimes in lovely southern Chile? WTF? Do you have any idea how precious southern Chile’s native forests are? And how rare? There is a reason why it is always forbidden to cut native forest in this country. It’s cause during the dictatorship, hundreds of thousands of hectares were turned into tree farms. There is no reason an educational institution should be boosting its endowment at the expense of the little remaining forest we’ve got. Here’s how I Love Chile’s version starts out:

Harvard University Companies Accused of Illegal Logging in Chiloé

Harvard University currently owns 5,475 acres of land in Ancud alone. In Argentina, it owns 208,210 acres.

By Paulette Desormeaux and Josefina Court

Since 2004, Harvard University has created at least eleven companies to exploit the forest industry in Chile. One of these is Agrícola Brinzal, which faces two lawsuits in Ancud. The National Forest Corporation (CONAF) pressed charges against the company for the illegal clearfelling of 189 acres of native forest, and also for breaching the forest management plan – they reforested 181 acres of land with eucalyptus instead of native plant species. The same company received reforestation subsidies from the Chilean government of about CL$114 million between 2007 and 2010.

In December 2011, a small group of farm owners showed up at the Agrupación de Ingenieros Forestales por el Bosque Nativo (AIFBN) in Ancud to share their concerns: a company bought adjoining lands to their properties and was cutting down native forest to plant eucalyptus. Javier Sanzana, one of the forest engineers from AIFBN who works in the tech support program for farming communities, decided to check the lands located in Aguas Buenas, Choroihué and Belben, all in Ancud’s central zone. What he saw left no doubt.

“There were the remains of recently cut trees,” he recalled. Sanzana also confirmed that in some of the zones, there were eucalyptus trees planted less than one meter from streams, and the remnants from the cut trees were blocking some of those streams. (MUCH MORE FOLLOWS.)

Yes, you know what I’m going to say: Click and read the whole thing. And for those of you at Harvard, please ask your admins WTF. The only response they gave to CIPER was “HMC has a policy of not discussing specific investments or investment strategies.” CIPER calls that a “weak” response. I agree.

2 thoughts on “Harvard U company prosecuted & fined for illegal logging in Chile

    1. sapitosetty Post author

      Charles, great catch. I just sent the Harvard Forest folks this note:

      Hi, I wonder if you folks might be able to give me any ideas about this. I’m in Chile, where a US-based investment fund has started up some forestry companies that are engaging in practices that are not considered acceptable under Chilean law. The companies have been investigated and at times fined for logging native forest (universally outlawed since most of the country’s forests were turned in to tree farms in the 70s) and for damaging watercourses and riparian zones. I am curious if you might be able to offer any technical advice to this multinational to help it improve its forestry practices and bring it into line with, at least, Chilean law, if not with best practices at a global scale. The investment fund that started these companies is called Harvard Management Company, which in turn is controlled by the trustees of Harvard College, which should make it convenient for you to offer the company advice and support.

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