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Timber Certification Programs

FSC certification is the leader, but research is still wise

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FSC is one solution, but a common-sense approach to certifications is increasingly wise.

San Rafael, California-based Eco-Timber sells FSC-approved wood, reclaimed wood from old buildings and wood alternatives like bamboo flooring.

RESEARCH THE GOOD AND THE NOT SO GOOD

"We won't buy wood from an FSC source if we feel it's questionable. But there are a lot of incredible working forests because of the FSC," says Eco-Timber CEO Cael Kendall. "In a capitalistic society, you have to give landowners economic incentives [like the FSC] to preserve the forests, otherwise they are going to be destroyed or turned into golf courses."

COMPARE THE PROFITABILITY FOR GOOD PRACTICES

While timber companies don't usually get a higher price for FSC-approved wood, sustainable harvesting is more profitable in the long run, says Kendall. For example, FSC-certified timber company Collins Pine recently harvested its two billionth board foot from its Almanor Forest, while the volume of standing timber has remained relatively unchanged since the early 1940s.

ASK FOR RETAILER COMMITMENTS

Both supply and demand for FSC-certified wood are high; the challenge is distribution, as there aren't enough companies committed to stocking it, according to Kendall. The largest buyer of certified wood in the U.S. is Home Depot, one of several large retailers pledging to give preference to FSC-certified products. Home Depot purchased more than $100 million worth of FSC-certified wood products in 2001.

ASK FOR LABELING FOR CONSUMERS

Even so, sales and marketing have been spotty. While stores in the Northwest have special displays for FSC products, Southwestern retailers stock no certified wood, according to Lansky. In other cases, FSC-approved wood is mixed with commercially harvested wood, confusing customers.

AMERICAN LANDS ALLIANCE

Despite the organization's kinks and flaws, even some of FSC's fiercest critics acknowledge its needed role in the movement to help forests regain their balance. As the American Lands Alliance puts it, "While not perfect, FSC is the only certification system that employs environmentally, socially and economically rigorous standards, that is genuinely independent of the wood products industry and deserving of consumer preference."

RESOURCES:
Forest Stewardship Council, (877) 372-5646, www.fscus.org.

Edited by Carolyn Allen
| certification | FSC | wood |

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