Protecting the forest economy


Michael T. Goergen Jr. with the Society of American Foresters had a nice op-ed in the Seattle Times over the weekend. He makes the point that the U.S. Green Building Council, for its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards, should allow wood certified by other groups besides the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) because it would support all the products that come from well-managed forests in Washington.

From the op-ed:

There are important economic reasons for LEED to open the standard. Forest Stewardship Council-certified lumber is not as prevalent in the U.S. as it is overseas. The American Tree Farm System and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative are standards designed with American forests in mind.

Green builders trying to gain LEED certification may be forced to buy from the limited amount of Forest Stewardship Council-certified forest products here or make their purchases from Stewardship Council sources located overseas, which are often certified to lower standards.

With our nation suffering from a recession and high unemployment, the last thing we want to do is hurt Americans who make their livelihood from our forests. Opening LEED to the other standards will be good for our economy.

Goergeon also makes another point that doesn’t always get as much attention:

Expanding demand for forest products certified to other standards will also benefit forests. As green building grows, demand for forest products from certified forests will also increase. That will provide an incentive to owners of forestlands to get certified, bringing even more acres under broader environmental requirements.

Fact is, many forests need to be economically viable to survive. But if FSC is the only standard allowed under LEED, then many forest landowners will be cut out of the green building boom and will be forced to sell their land to developers. Then those forests will be gone forever, a fate that even the most diehard supporter of an FSC monopoly would have a hard time stomaching.