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Seminole Chronicle: LEED standards should recognize all types of sustainable wood

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

By William St.Laurent, President of Consolidated Forest Products in Longwood

A growing number of workers in the agriculture, forestry and wood products industries embrace sustainable practices. Regulations for these sectors should encourage this market-driven trend, not stifle it.

One process that promotes conservation on land and throughout supply chains is forest certification. Programs like the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, Forest Stewardship Council and American Tree Farm System formally recognize or “certify” tree farmers or businesses that meet their standards of responsible land management.

Regrettably, too many regulations only recognize one of these programs – FSC – as promoting sustainability. This means businesses that partner with the ATFS or SFI systems can get shut out of construction projects that use timber as a building material.

Many of these construction projects adhere to the “LEED” building code, one that ideally promotes smart growth. However, it is not smart at all to sideline a majority of Florida and American wood from these projects, especially timber recognized by credible certification programs.

Limiting recognition to a one certification program actually discourages sustainability by limiting incentives for businesses to seek it. If a business cannot meet FSC’s standards, the program may not certify its products or property at all.

Such a framework also hurts economic growth by artificially limiting commerce in green markets. Competition is the best approach to any industry and this principle goes for forest certification as well.

If we want to increase the amount of sustainable goods in our stores and in our homes, we should open markets to as many of these products as possible, not close them.

Florida took a positive step forward by approving a bill this year that requires taxpayer-funded projects to use Florida wood first as long as it is equal in price and quality. This will allow for greater competition in public building projects. More states should follow our example.

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