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Bradenton Herald: Letter: Misinformation about forests hurts environment, consumers and economy

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Bradenton Herald readers received misleading information from McClatchy’s Kevin Hall in his April 16 online article, “Environmentalists want feds to halt imports of Russian timber that endanger rare tigers.” The article quoted the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) claiming that the best way to ensure the wildlife habitat of the Amur tiger is to buy wood certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).

I disagree.

FSC is only one of many certification programs that seek to improve land management. Two other certification programs, the American Tree Farm System (ATFS) and Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), procure all of their materials from North American forest resources, where oversight is much stronger than in other countries. By contrast, 90 percent of FSC forests are found overseas, where regulations are less stringent. In fact, FSC has certified land in Russia on which the clear-cutting of 200 to 600 year-old growth trees has taken place – the same country where the WWF claims wildlife is threatened.

Rather than buying wood certified by FSC, a much more sensible step to protect wildlife habitat would be purchasing ATFS and SFI-certified materials.

Not only does purchasing ATFS and SFI-certified materials protect the environment, it also supports U.S. jobs in our local communities, which is another issue that deserves our concern. Workers in our state’s forest industry are best served by regulations that do not discourage the use of wood in building construction. Unfortunately, the LEED building standard enforced in many construction projects does just that. LEED only awards a “certified wood credit” for wood certified by the FSC; it ignores other credible certifications like ATFS or SFI.

Making access to emerging “green” markets more difficult for forest owners makes it harder for these families to maintain their working forests, which not only protect our natural resources but also provide much-needed jobs and products.

Neither wildlife habitats nor the economic well-being of American workers will benefit from misinformation and rhetoric spread by activists or misguided government regulations for building projects.

John Alter

Malone, Fla.

Alter is a Florida tree farmer and an active member of the Florida Forestry Association and local forester.


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