Bummer of a summer for FSC


It’s been a tough summer for the Forest Stewardship Council. George Mason University released a study showing that an FSC monopoly would cost tens of thousands of people their jobs, and several states are working to ban the LEED green building standard (which gives credit for only FSC-certified wood) from any public buildings.

Now the editorial board at The Oregonian, which is based in one of the country’s most liberal cities, has come out in favor of the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) and LEED’s unfair tactics in trying to perpetuate an FSC monopoly in timber certification.

Instead, (Eric Geyer from Roseburg Forest Products) argues, LEED should recognize multiple credible certification standards.

Others in the forest products industry share this view, including Weyerhaeuser, which uses SFI for all of its land in North America. Cassie Phillips, Weyerhaeuser’s vice president of sustainable forestry, calls the USGBC’s exlusive use of FSC “confounding.” As opposed to SFI, which is used only in North America, FSC is a global certification system whose requirements vary from country to country. For that reason, Phillips points out, a LEED project could earn credit for FSC-certified wood grown and processed under less stringent standards than wood grown and processed in Oregon under SFI certification. This essentially locks Oregon arbitrarily out of important markets and is the basis of dissatisfaction expressed formally by many in the forest products industry, from the Oregon Small Woodlands Association to Weyerhaeuser. The controversy has even found its way into an executive order signed by Gov. John Kitzhaber.

What all of this means for cities, schools and other public entities in Oregon is that saying “yes” to LEED certification is akin to saying “no” to Oregon’s forest products industry and the jobs and revenue it provides. For that reason, they ought to forget about LEED until the USGBC decides to stop playing favorites. If they’re worried about branding, they should point out that generic construction is both cheaper and a lot more Oregon-friendly.

The Oregonian’s stand comes on the heels of an opinion piece in the Tacoma News-Tribune by Washington forest owner David Overton. American timber landowners have multiple certification systems to choose from and FSC-linked groups like Bellingham’s ForestEthics should stop their anti-SFI, pro-monopoly posturing, Overton writes.

The three leading green-forest certification systems in the U.S. are SFI, FSC and the American Tree Farm System (ATFS), under which my family’s timberland is certified. We have owned and managed tracts of timberland in Mason and Kitsap counties since 1922. We understand what it takes to sustainably manage working forests to keep them economically viable and protected from development.

All three forest certification systems do the same admirable thing in a slightly different way. Under SFI, 240 million acres certified in the U.S. and Canada meet rigorous requirements to ensure they are managed sustainably and promote socially sound practices, that the wood comes from known and legal sources, and that biological diversity is conserved...

…Trying to tear down one forest certification standard in the country for a bigger piece of the pie is counterproductive and distracts from everyone’s shared goal: sustainable forestry.