Timber groups praise USDA decision on wood

2011-03-31 Ashley Bach

It’s long been known that wood is one of the greenest building materials in the world, and that wood was green before “green building” was even a buzzword. Now the U.S. government officially agrees.

This week U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that the federal government will promote and research the use of wood as a green building material, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Forestry Service will preferentially select wood in new building construction.

According to Vilsack: “Wood has a vital role to play in meeting the growing demand for green building materials… (the) USDA has made a strong commitment to conserving and restoring our forests to protect watersheds, recreation, and rural jobs.”

Vilsack directed all USDA agencies to make domestic wood the preferred choice for new construction, just like the Forest Service already does. And Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell said his agency will increase its use of locally milled timber in new buildings.

“Our country has the resources, the work force and the innovative spirit to reintroduce wood products into all aspects of the next generation of buildings,” Tidwell said.

The announcement was also a boon for the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) because Vilsack said the Forest Service will promote not just the LEED building standard but also Green Globes and the National Green Building Standard, both of which recognize SFI.

Here’s some of the reaction from SFI President Kathy Abusow:

“We thank Secretary Vilsack for his leadership and for sending a message that the Administration is serious about the role wood can play in supporting green building initiatives, rural communities, and the overall sustainability of the forest sector.  The USDA strategy makes it clear that opportunities for wood and choice in green building rating tools are part of the solution.”

Several other groups also commended federal officials for their new stance.

Dave Tenny, CEO of the National Alliance of Forest Owners:

“Secretary (Vilsack) understands that for the past century the increased use of wood to build homes and other buildings has been our nation’s most important forest conservation tool. Thanks to growing markets for wood we have 50% more trees today than we had 50 years ago.

These same markets also provide jobs for 2.5 million Americans and $87 billion in paychecks annually for American families, particularly in rural areas. Wood provides a perfect blend of economic and environmental benefits. As we promote the use of building products from wood we help clean our air of excess carbon, keep rivers and streams pure and maintain wildlife habitat while at the same time providing economic security to rural communities and creating jobs and economic growth throughout the country.”

The Nature Conservancy:

“Managed properly, forests are, literally, a green resource. The use of wood is good for the American economy and, particularly for the economy of rural America. These economic uses are compatible with protection of our environment.”

Mr. Cees de Jager, Executive Director of the Binational Softwood Lumber Council, a nonprofit created by the U.S. and Canadian governments, said the U.S. decision was a “triple win.”

“This will create new jobs in rural communities, reduce energy use in buildings, and lower overall construction costs in buildings. USDA is taking a leadership role in the U.S. to put people back to work in rural communities and help our environment.”