Why USGBC Should Recognize SFI – Helping to Keep Working Forests as Forests

Larry Selzer
President and CEO
The Conservation Fund

The U.S. Green Building Council is inviting 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, Larry Selzer, President and CEO of The Conservation Fund, and a member of the conservation chamber and Vice Chair of the SFI Board of Directors, looks at how SFI certification helps conserve working forests and explains why SFI should be recognised by USGBC’s LEED rating tools.

At The Conservation Fund, we know that one of our greatest conservation challenges in North America today is the loss of working forests. We also know forests that are managed to provide economic return and for social attributes are more likely to continue to remain as forests and therefore likely to support environmental values as well.

That’s why we work with our many partners to help landowners and communities develop sustainable solutions that integrate economic return with environmental quality. And that’s why we support third-party certification programs like the Sustainable Forestry Initiative® (SFI®). The Conservation Fund owns almost 100,000 acres of working forests in the United States – all are actively managed and the SFI Standard plays a prominent role.

Last fall, in my remarks at the SFI Annual Conference, I spoke about how it is time to think of forests as infrastructure – a self-sustaining economy in green that provides us with clean air to breathe, clean water to drink, carbon sinks to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, and a source of renewable energy – not to mention the millions of jobs that depend on them.

We know how important it is to maintain our critical infrastructure. But before we can ask citizens to invest more in forests, we need to convince them those forests are, and will be, well managed – and that’s where forest certification comes in. Certification provides the public a window into the forest, and it provides them with independent assurance that certified forests are responsibly managed.

If the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) wants to help us keep working forests as forests, it will acknowledge SFI’s leadership in the area of responsible forestry. It will recognize that forests certified to SFI are part of the solution to keep forests as forests. If working forests don’t have access to green building markets, those forests may likely be converted to non-productive uses such as houses and commercial development. The purposeful exclusion of SFI can actually accelerate the loss of our forests lands nation-wide. 90 percent of the world’s forests are not certified, including a significant amount of land in North America. That’s why it’s so important for USGBC to recognize that the SFI Standard is making a real and positive difference towards keeping our forests as healthy, working forests, supporting a variety of economic, environmental and social values for communities today and in the future.

SFI certification was created to balance forest interests, and it does this extremely well. I am honored to serve in the conservation chamber, one of three equal chambers making up the SFI Board of Directors. I have dedicated my life to conservation and the protection of our working forests, and, working with the SFI Board to continue to set the highest standards for responsible forestry for the industry.

Consider this quote from John Burroughs: “To treat your facts with imagination is one thing, to imagine your facts is another.” America is losing millions of acres of working forest every year to development pressure, and yet the USGBC continues to give credentials when none are warranted to the inaccurate claims of a small faction who have proven they are bereft of any ideas about how to expand conservation in the future. Instead of supporting those who imagine their facts and repeating claims that have no grounding in the truth, USGBC needs to show true leadership and join us in protecting these treasured lands by recognizing the remarkable contribution SFI is making on millions of acres of forests across North America.

Larry Selzer has been a supporter of SFI certification since it began, and is currently Vice Chair of the SFI board. The Conservation Fund is a top-ranked non-profit, in 2010 it was #1 on Charity Navigator’s list of 10 of the Best Charities Everyone’s Heard Of for its efficient and fiscally responsible performance.

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