News Release

Portugal Wildfires: Result of Timber Industry?

newsrelease18The New York Times reports: “The head of Portugal’s firefighters’ association said on Wednesday that he believed arsonists had most likely started the fire that killed 64 people last weekend, contradicting a police assessment that attributed the cause to lightning.”

The Los Angeles Times reports: “Reeling from its deadliest forest fire, Portugal finds a villain: eucalyptus trees.”

ANNE PETERMANN, anne at globaljusticeecology.org, skype: annepetermann, also via tess at globaljusticeecology.org, @STOPGETREES
Petermann is executive director of the Global Justice Ecology Project; and international coordinator, of the Campaign to STOP Genetically Engineered Trees. She said today: “The main force driving these deadly fires is the widespread proliferation of highly flammable eucalyptus plantations. At the same time, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is reviewing a proposal by industry to develop extensive plantations of eucalyptus trees across the U.S. South. They are accepting comments on this proposal until July 5th.”

OLIVER MUNNION, oli at biofuelwatch.org.uk, Skype: olivermunnion [English, Portuguese]

Co-director of Biofuelwatch, Munnion lives in Portugal’s wildfire zone. He said: “We spent last night in a local school after some 30 villages were evacuated in our area. News reports say that a quarter of the municipality has burned. We’ve been lucky so far and still have our home, but many others have lost so much.

“It’s time to face up to the reality that Portugal’s vast eucalyptus and pine plantations, and the corruption and profiteering that comes with them, are the main reason that the country burns, every year. Coupled with the impacts of climate change, bringing hotter temperatures and drought, our area stands little chance. And the summer has only just begun.

“Just like wildfires that devastated parts of Chile in January — the worst in their history — the fires in Portugal were the result of a reckless and poorly regulated timber industry that emphasizes eucalyptus plantations over human well-being. And now the same thing is being considered in the U.S. I hope they learn the lesson from the tragedies in Portugal and Chile.”