Republican Representative Gregg Harper of Mississippi and Democratic Representative Kurt Schrader of Oregon
When it comes to the health of our nation’s forests and the communities that depend on them, we occupy common ground. Another thing we share is our respect for the U.S. Green Building Council’s decision to create a pathway for more U.S. forests to earn Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) credits. LEED credits are key to tapping into the emerging green building market.
The Council’s recent decision to recognize products certified to the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) and the American Tree Farm System (ATFS) is something that we and many others have championed for years. It’s gratifying to see the work of so many people who care about forests and the communities that rely on them being recognized by this decision.
It’s important to have a level playing field when it comes to recognizing forest certification standards. The combined acres certified to SFI and ATFS in our states — 3.4 million acres in Mississippi and 4.6 million acres in Oregon — make important contributions to responsible forest management. Forests certified to these standards support conservation values such as water quality and conserving habitat. Offering LEED credits to forests certified to these standards will help encourage more responsible forestry and stronger forest products markets.
Our forests play a key role in the sustainability of rural communities across America. By creating more market opportunities for responsibly managed forests, we are also creating incentives to keep forests as forests for future generations in these communities.
Responsible forestry relies on good stewardship of a renewable resource. And in our two states, responsible forestry plays a key role in the local economies that drive prosperity.
According to Mississippi State University’s Department of Forestry, forestry in Mississippi generates more than $10 billion in economic activity and employs more than 63,000 people. The same story of forestry’s importance to state economies plays out in Oregon. The Oregon Department of Forestry says sustainably producing timber adds about $12 billion annually to Oregon’s economy and supports more than 58,000 jobs.
We both look forward to this sustainable, renewable economic resource growing in importance for our states. The U.S. Green Building Council’s recognition of SFI and the ATFS under LEED will help make this growth happen.