Congress tells USGBC to acknowledge forest certifications

Washington, D.C. – July 19, 2010 – A bipartisan effort lead by Reps. Kurt Schrader (D-OR) and Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and 79 representatives from 35 states is calling on the United States Green Building Council to change its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design rating system to give credit to all of the major third-party forest certification systems in the United States.

The letter, signed by representatives from states that have millions of acres of private forestland, noted that the LEED rating system excludes two of the largest third-party wood certification programs in the U.S. from its “certified wood credit.” More than 84 million acres of forests in the U.S. are certified by the American Tree Farm System and the Sustainable Forest Initiative – nearly three times the amount of forests that are certified through the Forest Stewardship Council, the only certification program granted a “certified wood credit” in the LEED system. Additionally, the LEED rating system does not give preference to wood over other building materials such as concrete and steel despite the fact that wood is a much more environmentally-friendly product and a renewable resource.

As Schrader noted, “There is nothing greener than the production of sustainably harvested wood from our small woodlots and American forests. Wood can store carbon for hundreds of years and uses less energy to produce than many other building products.”

“America's forests and forest products industry are the backbone of many rural communities across the country, providing family-wage jobs and economic development, while also providing clean air and water and wildlife habitat. The approach that USGBC is taking discourages the creation of American jobs and recovery from our economic crisis,” said Goodlatte.

“USGBC should be encouraging the use of wood from America's family forest owners and all credible certification systems. FSC wasn't designed with rural America in mind. FSC was established to address issues largely in tropical forests where the legal framework isn't as robust as in the U.S. and it shows as 60 percent of the FSC certified land is overseas. Let's support home grown sustainable forests, family landowners, and American workers,” said Michael Goergen, executive vice president and CEO of Society of American Foresters.

“Most of America’s forests are privately owned. Down the road from where you live, in every corner of the country, family forest owners are doing their best to keep forests as forests. But they need healthy markets to keep their forests healthy. They need resources to support sustainable management practices. Without healthy markets, it becomes more difficult for landowners to invest back into their forests to keep them productive for wildlife, clean water, and good jobs. It makes it more difficult to keep the developers at bay,” said Tom Martin, president and CEO of the American Forest Foundation.

“America’s family forest owners who are certified through our sustainable forest management program, the American Tree Farm System, should be at the top of the list when it comes to choosing wood for U.S. buildings,” Martin said. “When architects and builders are deciding on what materials to use, they should get more credit for using the most environmentally sustainable material – and that’s wood,” Martin added.

“It’s time to give credit where credit is due – and that’s to family forest owners doing the right thing by sustainably managing their forests and who deserve more markets for their wood,” said Martin.

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