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Sunshine State News: Ted Everett: A Step in The Right Direction for Florida Forests

Thursday, May 23, 2013

By Ted Everett
As a Florida landowner and forester, I appreciate that state lawmakers value the importance of the timber industry in our state.
Claiming 48 percent of Florida’s land mass, generating approximately $5 billion of our gross domestic product (GDP) and $581 million in local, state and federal tax revenue, our forests are a critical contributor to the state’s economy.
During Florida’s 2013 legislative session, Rep. Halsey Beshears and Sen. Greg Evers worked to preserve the forest industry by passing sensible legislation to help our economy and environment. House Bill 269 requires that state and local government agencies use Florida wood products when building new schools, community parks, and renovating government buildings – as long as the wood is equal in price and quality. In short, if you can find it in Florida, you buy it in Florida. Encouraging agencies to use Florida timber for construction projects will benefit foresters, the timber and logging industries, and domestic markets.

HB 269 also allows state governments and local municipalities to choose from a myriad of options when implementing a sustainable building code instead of endorsing a single sustainable rating system in the Florida statute. Agencies may determine which system best aligns with their construction needs on a project-by-project basis, ensuring a level playing field for green building systems.

Having the freedom to choose the best sustainable building code is important as more than 2.4 million acres of Florida timber is certified through credible, well-respected programs like Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) and American Tree Farm System (ATFS). Certification standards have been used for more than two decades by local foresters and landowners to protect forests from destructive practices and ensure wood products are environmentally friendly.

I have worked in the field of forestry for many years, and my family has been in the forest industry all my life. Additionally, I obtained my baccalaureate degree in forestry with a focus on forest management. As a faithful steward of our woodlands, I am well aware of the burdens caused by some “green” building systems, such as LEED, which refuses to recognize more than 99 percent of Florida-grown wood. Unfortunately, LEED only awards sustainable credits for wood certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), creating a monopolistic climate for forest certifications and increasing costs for consumers.

Other states should follow Florida’s lead with practical legislation that supports free-market principles in the timber and logging industries. Encouraging our public entities to choose Florida timber first is a positive step toward practices that are already occurring in the private sector. Many Florida-based companies, including Publix, support diversity in sustainable forest certification by using SFI, ATFS and FSC certified products.

In Chipley, nearly 30 percent of the community depends on timber and logging for jobs. On behalf of the Washington County Chamber of Commerce, I would like to thank our lawmakers for passing purposeful legislation to ensure Florida’s forest industries and certification programs remain competitive. As our economy continues to grow, this sector will remain vital in promoting development, restoration, and supporting hundreds of thousands of Florida jobs. Boosting competition in a growing industry will keep business and jobs in Florida – where they should be.

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