Coordinator, Maine SFI Implementation Committee
March 22, 2012
The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) is asking for comments on the draft language for its LEED rating system. SFI Inc. has invited views on the treatment of third-party forest certification, which must be “FSC or better” according to the latest USGBC credit language. In this post, Pat Sirois, Coordinator of the Maine SFI Implementation Committee talks about SFI community outreach in Maine.
In Maine, there are more than seven million acres certified to the Sustainable Forestry Initiative® (SFI®) Standard, and another 780,000 certified to the American Tree Farm Standard. None has LEED recognition. This is unfortunate because these lands represent about half of Maine’s forests, and they are managed sustainably by some of the best forest landowners and managers anywhere.
It also suggests the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) does not value the many contributions made by volunteer members of the Maine SFI Implementation Committee who work hard to broaden the practice of sustainable forestry on certified and uncertified lands in our state. We are one of 37 community-based SFI implementation committees across North America engaged in important initiatives such as logger training, landowner outreach and conservation and community projects.
Here’s just a sample of what we have achieved in Maine alone: We have been involved in training for more than 6,500 loggers and forest professionals since 1999. We worked with the Maine Snowmobile Association to expand the use of best management practices in recreational trail construction. We supported government efforts to enhance brook trout habitat. We partnered on a project with a local Habitat for Humanity affiliate. We’re also involved in a pilot project led by corporate sponsors to make SFI certification more accessible to medium-sized landowners.
We must be doing something right. Our state has 400 nesting pairs of bald eagles and 90 percent of the remaining native brook trout habitat in the lower 48 states. The U.S. Forest Service says our water has the best quality for drinkability of the 20 most eastern states. We have one of the most developed logger and forester training infrastructures anywhere.
Yet much of the wood harvested and manufactured in Maine is not eligible for LEED certified wood credits. Thankfully, Maine Governor Paul LePage and our customers worldwide know we do a great job, and acknowledge that SFI, Tree Farm and Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) all have a lot to do with our favorable environmental profile.
Last year, Governor LePage signed an executive order saying that any new or expanded state buildings must be built to a green building rating standard that accepts all forest certification programs equally. The USGBC should follow suit and recognize we have an advantage over regions of the world where forests are not certified and are not managed sustainably.
What’s lost in all this is something we in Maine are very proud of, the sustainability of the forest resource and how all certification programs have contributed to that end.
Respected organizations are calling on the U.S. Green Building Council to recognize all credible certification programs used in North America for its LEED rating system – including the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, American Tree Farm System, Canadian Standards Association and Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification. The LEED Rating System Third Public Comment Period closes March 27, 2012. At the end of the review period, USGBC members will vote on the final draft.