Build healthy forests by building right

Kelley Beamer, Cascadia Green Bulding Council

As Cascadia Green Building Council’s Oregon Advocacy and Outreach Manager, Kelley Beamer works with the state’s sustainability community to create a positive environmental influence through the built environment. Reach Kelley at kelley.beamer@cascadiagbc.org, or 503-228-5533 xt2#.

Each time a new building is designed, constructed or renovated, builders have an opportunity to support healthy and resilient forests by choosing sustainably harvested wood products.

Thanks largely to growth in the green building sector and the uptake of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design — LEED — building certification, several forestry standards have entered the market.

The most rigorous standard was developed by the nonprofit Forest Stewardship Council. The organization, known as the FSC, promotes responsible management of the world’s forests. FSC certification is a voluntary, market-based tool that ensures the highest biological and ethical standards were followed from forest to mill. FSC contains more performance-based criteria than any other standard in North America and follows strict requirements for assessing and conserving old growth and biodiversity.

The standard is also dedicated to protecting the rights of indigenous peoples on public and private lands and is the only certification system that outright prohibits genetically modified organisms. When lined up to other forestry standards, the FSC certification holds the highest bar.

In Oregon, we have several FSC-certified forests that represent both family-owned forests and large-scale land, like the FSC forest managed by the Warm Springs Tribe. As of March 2011, there were 548,379 acres of certified forests in Oregon. These forests provide an alternative to industrial timber harvesting, which have caused soil erosion and landslides that damage habitat and drinking water.

To date, the key problem has been linking these local forest products to the local builders who can source them. The good news is that the opportunity is growing.

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