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E-M:/ Protect Green Building Stds; Stop Timber Industry Greenwash

Friends:  Early in 2004 environmental and conservation groups worked hard to assure that the third party certification of Michigan’s 4 million acre State Forest system include the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification process because it is the only system that assures public input, requires protection of High Value Conservation Forests, and truly looks at sustaining diverse healthy forests, not just sustaining the timber industry.  Now, in what has become an on-going attempt to weaken the standard to which wood products are considered truly sustainable, there is a proposal to effectively gut these sustainability criteria when it comes to “green building” standards set under the LEED system. 


This fight, coupled with the announcement that the Forest Service is effectively gutting its own regulations to allow the timber industry and other exploitative industries to get those pesky environmental standards and public input out of the way so they can cut and drill almost at will, shows just our bad the US timber industry is compared to the rest of the world. Certification of wood products FSC, which was created largely by environmental groups in an effort to assure that third world forests would not be destroyed, has been exceptionally effective in much of the world, in part because the largest market in the world, the European Union, has demanded that certified woods be used in most or all of the products they deal in.  As efforts to begin to introduce FSC certification to forests in this country came about, the industry’s reaction was to try to create their own system – Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) – which not surprisingly falls far short of the standards of FSC.  Now, the timber industry wants to see its inadequate certification system put on par with that of FSC in the premier program for standards for Green Building


Please take time to comment on this, but even more important is to assure that YOU are a discerning buyer – Look for FSC certified wood and wood products and ask for them when they are not immediately available.


Anne Woiwode



December 22, 2004

Please forward as appropriate




Protect Imperiled Forests and Wildlife—


Don’t Let the Timber Industry Destroy the Nation’s Leading Green Building Standards


Comments Needed by February 1


The construction and renovation of commercial and residential buildings in the U.S. consumes vast quantities of wood—often from endangered forests or forests managed as ecologically impoverished tree plantations.  Fortunately, the US Green Building Council’s LEED standards encourage architects and builders to use wood from more environmentally benign sources, like forests certified by the Forest Stewardship Council.  (LEED stands for “Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design.”) 


Unfortunately, the timber industry’s American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA) is now pressuring the Green Building Council to also promote wood from forests logged under the AF&PA’s weak “Sustainable Forestry Initiative” (SFI) standards.  This change would make LEED misleading and ineffective at reducing environmental impacts, since the SFI allows and certifies destructive, business-as-usual industrial logging, such as large-scale clearcutting and logging of old growth and other endangered forests.  The SFI also doesn’t track most of its wood, and allows non-SFI wood to be marketed as SFI certified.


Please urge the US Green Building Council to:


1.       Not give credit or recognition to wood certified by the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), the Canadian Standards Association, or other weak, industry-dominated logging standards.  The SFI allows and certifies non-renewable practices like:  the logging of old growth, imperiled species’ habitats, and unprotected wilderness/roadless areas; the elimination of biodiversity through the conversion of diverse natural forests to monocultural tree farms; and logging rates that exceed timber growth rates.  The SFI also allows other harmful, business-as-usual logging practices like gigantic clearcuts, excessive use of toxic chemicals, and management for only a few of a forest's native tree and wildlife species.  The SFI also lacks a mandatory “chain of custody” system to verify the sources of SFI “certified” wood.


2.       Only give credit and recognition to wood from forests certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and other systems that provide equal or greater protection to sensitive, non-renewable forest resources and forests’ long-term ecological productivity.

Public comments on the proposed revised LEED standards (LEED NC) are due February 1

To comment, go to:  http://www.usgbc.org/News/usgbcnews_details.asp?ID=1156The standards are at:  http://www.usgbc.org/Docs/LEEDdocs/NCCC%20v2%202%20MASTER_public_1.pdf


More on the AF&PA SFI:


Visit www.dontbuysfi.com for:

·        Photos of SFI certified forest destruction.

·        Factsheets with examples of SFI certified companies that destroy endangered forests.

·        Factsheets and reports explaining problems with the SFI’s standards.

·        Factsheets comparing the SFI and the Forest Stewardship Council.


The SFI is also considering some minor changes to its standards.  For an analysis, contact the American Lands Alliance at 503.978.0511. 


More on the LEED Standards:


The LEED New Construction (NC) standard is the USGBC’s flagship standard, and influences other standards like the new LEED standard for homes.  The proposed changes to LEED NC would still provide credit for FSC certified wood (i.e., MR Credit 7).  However, a new "renewable resource" standard (MR Credit 6) would also provide credit for use of any wood from "sustainable management systems."  These “sustainable management systems” are poorly defined, but explicitly include the AF&PA SFI and other weak forest certification systems.


Standards for renewable materials need to look beyond whether new trees are grown, and examine whether the ecosystems that produced the trees are also renewed.  The FSC is the only forestry system that meets LEED’s goal of transforming building practices by recognizing the most (i.e., top 25%) environmentally responsible practices.  The SFI, by contrast, certifies business-as-usual logging on most industrial forests in the U.S.  The new LEED standard’s distinction between certification and “sustainable management systems” will not help much, since the new standard would applaud the SFI as being "sustainable" and give builders credit for using SFI wood.