Resolution to Support Georgia’s Forests

May 23, 2013 11:11 am

by Eric The Younger · 20 comments

Resolution to Support Georgia’s Forests

WHEREAS the forest products industry in Georgia provides more than 115,000 jobs,supports more than $25 billion in annual economic activity, and supports more than 24 million acres of Georgia forestland.

WHEREAS the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) only recognizes building materials certified by the  Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) for credit toward its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification.

WHEREAS FSC certifies 0.1% of the productive forestland in Georgia, and a requirement for FSC certified materials would exclude 99.9% of the building materials produced from Georgia’s forests.

WHEREAS these Georgia produced building materials are renewable,  sustainable, and many are certified by other programs which include, but are not limited to: Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) and American Tree Farm System.

WHEREAS Governor Deal issued an executive order in August 2012 which requires state projects to use only programs which recognize all product certification standards equally.

WHEREAS Governor Deal’s order does not apply to private projects and “school districts, municipalities, and counties”.

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Georgia Republican Party will actively discourage the use of LEED certification.  All delegates to this convention are hereby charged to protect Georgia’s timber industry by going home and encouraging their local elected officials to follow Governor Deal’s lead.  All local projects should recognize all timber certifications equally.

Ed May 23, 2013 at 11:45 am

We already know Republicans hate the environment.

Baker May 23, 2013 at 11:53 am

OMG, does this seriously say actively discourage LEED certification? Ha. Wow.

Ed May 23, 2013 at 12:00 pm

Upon further inspection… yes.

drjay May 23, 2013 at 12:21 pm

why can’t ga’s forests get off their lazy roots and support themselves?

Artful Dodger May 23, 2013 at 12:21 pm

This is a good thing for the state of Georgia.

Baker May 23, 2013 at 12:23 pm

Anyone know why the FSC won’t certify more than .1%? Perhaps we could work on that rather than actively discourage LEED. Lots of companies with lots of money really like being able to brag about their LEED buildings. I don’t think this a good idea.

Artful Dodger May 23, 2013 at 12:39 pm

So much time and energy has gone into trying to get LEED to recognize other certification methods, such as Tree Farm, but they just won’t budge. In Georgia, we manage our forests sustainably, but that’s just not good enough for LEED.

David Staples May 23, 2013 at 1:15 pm

That is a pretty artful way of dodging Baker’s question. So I’ll ask too… why won’t the FSC certify more than .1%?

griftdrift May 23, 2013 at 1:12 pm

I’m going to need Chuck Leavell to issue a ruling on this one.

Ellynn May 23, 2013 at 1:27 pm

FSC certified materials are not one of the manditory credits for LEED and apply to finsh woods and interior cabinets and finishes, not structural or standard lumber. A basic local material use credit can get around a FSC requirement. What the owners of the majority of forests in this state (the Georia-Pacfic and other paper industry owners) can not get around is the use of non LEED allowed glues and chemicals in their plywood and laminated wood products without switching out equipment or redusing their comsummer waste. This is not about the forests.

David Staples May 23, 2013 at 1:47 pm

Thanks for the explanation, Ellynn! :-)

George Chidi May 23, 2013 at 1:57 pm

Apparently the “grass roots” includes lobbyists for a narrow slice of the lumber industry in Georgia. Somehow, Home Depot manages to sell high-margin LEED-compliant products, as do Georgia Pacific and a bunch of rug manufacturers in Dalton who produce sustainable floor covering for a market that is growing because of LEED … but a few guys don’t like the short-term marginal hit to their business, so they manufacture a controversy. And a Republican party that is disinclined to ask questions when someone screams “environmentalism!” eats it up.

This is stupid.

George Chidi May 23, 2013 at 2:31 pm

Alright. “Stupid” is a strong word.

Here’s the background. SFI is a timber industry-driven organization which by less charitable people could be called a “greenwashing” group. Their standards for safety and environmental protection are reportedly less rigorously enforced than that of FSC … which itself is accused by some serious environmentalists of letting some bad actors off the hook.

SFI has been lobbying for years to be part of the LEED standard. But when LEED said no last year, they sent in the lobbyists with the goal of blowing up LEED. And timber has some of the best lobbyists in the world. Check out the rules for sustainable biofuel production and how that translates into tax credits for those folks if you don’t believe me.

http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2011-04-26/business/35261957_1_tax-credits-alternative-fuel-black-liquor

So, look. You’re being played. The timber folks want a break, and they’re willing to screw the rug folks, the building materials folks like Vulcan and other firms to get it. And they’re willing to use trite jingoistic appeals to reflexive anti-environmental attitude among conservatives to get it.

If there’s one fair hit on FSC, it appears to be difficult for small suppliers to get their ducks in a row to win certification.

What no one seems to be able to answer right now — at least, no one who has published anything clear about it that’s easy to find — is why Georgia’s 24 million acres of forest isn’t FSC certified. What is it about our timber that makes logging it an unsustainable act, by FSC standards? Is the Georgia timber industry just being cheap, or is there something intrinsic?

mpierce May 23, 2013 at 8:52 pm
Ellynn May 24, 2013 at 10:09 am

The American Consumer Institute Center for Citizen Research, who wrote this report, is a well known astroturfing think tank. I would read with care… (IMHO)

Charlie May 23, 2013 at 9:00 pm

So, to recap….The Georgia Republican Party is limited to 9 problems and LEED certification is one?

Baker May 23, 2013 at 11:30 pm

+1

theforester May 24, 2013 at 11:10 am

All of the related LEED and FSC vs other forest certification issues are caused mostly from quite a bit of mis-understanding from all sides.

First, most folks in the green building industry know that the majority of LEED is about energy conservation and a healthy environment to work and live – renewable energy systems, alotta insulation, water saving plumbing, and no VOC’s in the products. Building materials receive a minor part of the LEED crediting. There are four building material related problems with LEED. 1- Only FSC wood products get credit for “wood” building products and there are other very good or better certification systems (1 point out of 110 points), 2- LEED allows “rapidly renewable material” , such as bamboo to receive credits (1 point), but not wood – there is a 10 year maximum growing time, so folks can clear their forest and plant bamboo for harvest if they want to sell to the LEED market – this is likely happening in Asia and it is not very sustainable 3) products with recycled content get credit, but not products that are renewable (unless rapidly like bamboo), so all steel and some concrete actually qualify for points (1 point), 4) the LEED system does not use a life cycle analysis to measure impacts of the building material production, This would provide a real scientific analysis of the best building products to use, if done. LEED does give credit for utilizing locally grown or manufactured material. LEED is also in the process of considering a major change that would provide some use of life cycle analysis, but will continue to only give the “wood” point to FSC certified products. One other problem with LEED is that it is “self-certifying”, which means that the system was established and requires approval of the USGBC members – architects, builders, developers, engineers, and anyone else who wants to join the US Green Building Council – no requirement for scientist approval.

Now a look at FSC:
FSC was established in the early 1990’s to reduce exploitation of tropical forests in developing countries where public land ownership, clearing of forest by poor populations for agriculture, combined with rampant corruption resulted in tropical forest destruction. The FSC organization then began to expand and used very similar principles to apply to US forests which are owned mostly by private individuals and where the economy, laws and regulations provide much more stability for legitimate “working forests”. By the way, the majority of forest land in Georgia is actually owned by individuals (58%), the govt. owns 9% and the remaining is owned by small private industry and larger corporations who are owned by investors such as pension plans.

In the mid-1990’s, the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) certification program was then developed by industry as a better fit for North American forests, which already had a stable social and governance structure. The initial focus of SFI was to ensure protection of the land resources. SFI eventually spun away from industry and is now an independent organization that provides training to foresters and loggers, as well as providing the certification system. It also accepts wood managed under the American Forests Tree Farm program that is used by many individual small forest owners to assist with proper forest management.

FSC and SFI have actually evolved to be very similar and are both very good certification systems for forests and forest products. The real problem is that they add cost to the production of wood (audits, etc). This is an additional cost for a forest owner who is paying ad valorem taxes every year, paying for tree seedlings to be planted and waiting 30+ years for income from a harvest. Some individual forest landowners are choosing to be certified in Georgia by following the Tree Farm program (low cost) and a few are following FSC because they are receiving assistance or assurance from specific forest product mills to help cover some of the costs.

If you really want to know more about forest certification, the Georgia Forestry Commission has organized a training workshops for foresters and landowners in Statesboro on June 20th. You are welcome to attend. Please register using the following: http://ceps.georgiasouthern.edu//conted/forestry.html
I will provide some additionaldetails of the issues around FSC:

Some folks have a concern that FSC has different standards for different regions. For example, an intensive plantation of certain non-native tree may be perfectly acceptable in some global regions, but not in others. There are likely good reasons to have regional differences, as ecosystems vary greatly, but perhaps some of certain types of differences in regional standards should be re-visited by FSC.

FSC does not allow the use of certain herbicides and other chemicals without special permission on a case by case basis. One of these is Hexazinone (Velpar). They do allow many of the other herbicides. One of the other restricted FSC chemicals is Pemethrin, which is the active ingrediant in the tick repellent used by most foresters to prevent tick bites and lymes disease. So my joke has been that foresters can’t use permenone and walk through a FSC forest. So does that mean that ticks and lymes disease are FSC approved?

FSC has a restriction on harvest size – the average is 40 acres with maximum of 80 acres.

In the past, FSC has restricted the use of “plantations”, but lately they have clarified that “plantations” are either planted exotic species or planted native species that are managed very intensively (complete vegetation control, frequent fertilization, etc.).

For most NIPF landowners in the South, FSC could be accomplished with the correct management planning. FSC has a “family forest” standard that provides clarity on meeting some of the “social issues” and other issues that seem to apply more to large corporate owners (employee standards, worker health, etc.). By the way, SFI has similar requirements on this issue and most of the other FSC principles that are designed for corporate owners.

I hope this helps everyone’s understanding of the forest certification issue in Georgia.

Dave Bearse May 25, 2013 at 9:07 pm

I guess lobbsyists advocating a resolution supporting billboards didn’t open the wallets wide enough.

SWPA June 19, 2013 at 9:48 am

As the Executive Director of the Southeastern Wood Producers Association (SWPA), the voice of logging companies in Georgia and Florida, I would like to announce that on June 8, 2013, the SWPA Board of Directors’ unanimously voted to adopt an official position on forest certification by way of a resolution on behalf of its members. It can be read at http://www.swpa.ag/pdf/PressReleaseForestCertificationProgramSWPA.pdf
along with other reputable related articles on the SWPA’s home page at http://www.swpa.ag.
This resolution is consistent with the forest certification position adopted by the Georgia Republican Party (GAGOP).

The citizens of Georgia are also encouraged to visit the Georgia Forestry Commission website’s home page (www.gfc.state.ga.us) and read the industry report as to the economic impact the forest products industry has in Georgia. In 2011 the total economic output was $25 billion in regard to direct impact from forest products, and approximately $10 billion in output dollars from secondary industries that rely on the stability of the primary forest industries. In 2011 the forest industry returned $179.3 million net dollars to Georgia’s budget.

The SWPA is interested in examining the strategies that will replace these dollars when the forest industry in Georgia begins its decline at the hands of the Green Building Council. Respectfully submitted by Tommy Carroll.

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