Figures released by the US National Space Research Institute confirm what environmental and human rights organizations have long held to be true: the Amazon is being destroyed at record levels. Studies show that 6,500 square miles of forest – an area larger than Connecticut – were destroyed by commercial logging and other human activities in 1998, up from 5,100 square miles in 1997. The institute did not count areas destroyed by forest fires, including a massive prairie fire in the northern state of Roraima last year that burned more than 4,200 square miles.
Americans purchase old growth wood products from Brazil such as mahogany and some types of plywood. Pulped old growth rainforests go into toilet paper and cellulose products, including rayon, camera film and cigarette filters.
Around the world, old growth forests are falling at an alarming rate. Reports indicate that burning in the Brazilian Amazon has increased 28 percent since 1996. In the ancient temperate rainforests of British Columbia, a timber industry spokesman recently indicated that more than 85 percent of the trees cut down are old growth. Only 22 percent of the world's old growth forests remain intact; in the United States, less than 4 percent of the old growth forests are still standing.
Use of wood from so-called old-growth or virgin forests should be barred. In Europe those forests typically account for less than 5 percent of the total. In many parts of the world though, where forestry is relatively new, practically all of the forests are old growth.