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Chipley Bugle: Letter to the Editor by Ted Everett, Executive Director, Washington County Chamber of Commerce

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Nearly one-quarter of Washington County’s residents depend on timber or logging to support their livelihoods and families. To keep these industries stable, our elected and appointed leaders should ensure regulations do not impede the production and sale of forest products by Florida businesses.

Unfortunately, federal policies have the effect of blocking Florida wood from use in thousands of building projects across America. Many jurisdictions mandate that developers abide by “LEED” standards. These guidelines only recognize a specific form of timber that is “certified” by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), a program that is hardly utilized at all by businesses, foresters and landowners in Florida.

Since LEED only deems FSC wood as “sustainable,” this means the timber harvested from millions of acres of Florida land certified by other programs, such as the American Tree Farm System (ATFS) or Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) can get blocked from use in thousands of construction projects nationwide.

The federal government’s promotion of only a single certification program discourages sustainability. FSC wood can easily be imported from foreign nations, as 90% of its land is found overseas. Many of these countries fail to meet American standards of oversight on public and private forests. Can any policymaker or government agency make the claim with a straight face that Russian, Chinese, Indonesian and Brazilian wood is more “sustainable” than that made in Florida and America?

This rural area of Florida needs to boost its local economy and cannot afford any policy that stalls economic growth and ultimately hurts consumers. A regulatory system that promotes competition in the timber industry and forest certification market will raise the amount of sustainable wood in American buildings and keep workers on the job.

Ted Everett, Executive Director, Washington County Chamber of Commerce

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