Submitted: The Two Sides Team September 16, 2013
The only way to continue to see the valuable impact that Georgia forests provide to our communities is to ensure healthy markets for forest products. That is why I commend Gov. Nathan Deal for promoting the use of products from Georgias responsibly managed forests in state construction and calling for equal recognition of all credible forest certification standards, a tool to ensure forest products come from responsibly managed forests.
Mother Nature Network – 12 September 2013
Anyone driving down Georgias highways knows its like a painting
brought to life tall, vibrant, strong pine trees line the road,
setting the backdrop for a pleasant journey. But forests are more than a
pretty view covering two-thirds of our state, Georgias forests serve
as critical infrastructure, the backbone to our way of life. They keep
the air clean, provide clean water, and aid in the building of our
homes, churches, businesses and schools.
As a $23.6 billion dollar-a-year generator to the states economy,
timber is among our most highly valued resources. For over a century,
this plentiful, renewable and natural resource has sustained jobs. In
fact, forest-related business employs over 108,000 Georgians, making it the second largest industry in the state.
The only way to continue to see the valuable impact that Georgia
forests provide to our communities is to ensure healthy markets for
forest products. That is why I commend Gov. Nathan Deal for promoting
the use of products from Georgias responsibly managed forests in state
construction and calling for equal recognition of all credible forest
certification standards, a tool to ensure forest products come from
responsibly managed forests. Specifically, his recent executive order
states that, any new or expanded state building shall incorporate
Green Building standards that give certification credits equally to
forest products grown, manufactured and certified under the Sustainable
Forestry Initiative (SFI), American Tree Farm System (ATFS), and Forest
Stewardship Council (FSC).
In a time when we are fighting to preserve and create employment in
the United States, this order protects and develops jobs in Georgias
forest industry. Green building represents an important market for
Georgias forests. Woods inherent properties as a sustainable,
natural and renewable resource make it an excellent environmental
choice for any new construction or renovation, provided it comes from a
responsible source. Such responsible sources include the 25 million
acres of Georgia forests that are sustainably managed every day, largely
by private landowners and family forest owners like my wife and me.
Together, we own and manage Charlane Plantation near Macon, Ga. With our
lands ATFS certified, I know first-hand the passion that Georgias
forest landowners have for the land, as well as the responsible forest
management practices we are committed to in order to ensure healthy,
vibrant and productive forests for generations to come. Likewise, the
SFI standard is integral to supporting responsible forestry at home and
brings wood from ATFS-certified forests to markets.
Its time that SFI- and ATFS-certified lands get the recognition
they deserve, as in this executive order. But theres more to be done.
While a number of green building programs available in North America
promote the environmental benefits of wood with an inclusive approach to
forest certification, the U.S. Green Building Councils (USGBC) LEED
standard recognizes only the FSC forest certification standard. As a
result, under the current LEED standard, three-quarters of certified
forests in North America and almost 99 percent of Georgias certified
forests are ineligible for LEEDs wood certification credit. Yet
almost 90 percent of FSC-certified forests are outside the U.S. Georgia
builders should be able to build with ATFS- and SFI-certified wood and
get credit for it in LEED.
Gov. Deal is not alone with his leadership. Maine Gov. Paul LePage
issued a similar executive order calling for equal recognition of all
credible forest certification standards in state construction. In
addition to their leadership and that of 14 other governors, 89 members
of Congress representing districts with significant rural or forestry
interests have sent letters to the USGBC urging changes to the treatment
of forest products under LEED, including recognition of SFI and other
credible certification standards.
The future is decided now. Georgias private forest landowners need
an incentive to nurture our forests, but promoting only one forest
certification standard does them injustice because that limits how they
can serve their customers. Although LEED is making improvements that
would allow more consideration and recognition of the environmental
benefits of wood, much more needs to happen before the rest of these
forest certification standards are fully integrated into LEEDs
standards. Recognizing all forest certification standards not only
contributes to the future of our forests, it enables Georgia landowners
to increase their competitive position at home and across the world.
Chuck Leavell is the keyboardist for the Rolling Stones and the
co-founder of the Mother Nature Network. He is also the author of
several books including his most recent, “Growing a Better America: Smart, Strong and Sustainable.“