Healthy Forests Need Healthy Markets
Traditional forest product markets are at an all time low, meaning forest owners are making less money to reinvest back into their land. Forests provide myriad public benefits: clean air, clean water, wildlife habitat, places to recreate, and the wood products we all use every day. Without revenue to maintain healthy and productive forests, many of those public benefits we all enjoy may cease to exist.
Problems with Existing Green Markets
Green Building. Public policies are developing at the federal, state and local level, encouraging the use of green building rating systems. While this is certainly a step in the right direction for sustainability, existing policies put wood--an environmentally responsible material--at a real disadvantage.
On the other hand, these policies could help keep family-owned forests with a commitment to utilize high environmental standards. However, if these policies are structured to discourage the use of wood products, particularly from ATFS-certified forests, family forest owners will be unable to access these growing markets, potentially foregoing added income important for helping families stay on the land and keep their land forested.
Update from 2013: Wood products, including products from American Tree Farm System® (ATFS)-certified lands (a program of AFF), will now be given a fair shot by the General Services Administration (GSA) and the Department of Defense (DOD). GSA and DOD are two of the largest builders in the federal government.
After much education and outreach from the AFF network, our industry partners, governors, members of Congress, and others, both agencies decided to recognize both Green Globes and LEED as viable green building rating systems for federal buildings. They have for a number of years only recognized LEED, which discourages the use of wood—especially wood from ATFS-certified forests.
DOD, GSA, and other federal agencies who follow GSA’s lead can now choose not to use LEED. With this change, we now have an opportunity to get the federal government to use more wood in their buildings, and to use wood from ATFS certified forests. Thank you for all your support over the years on this issue—it truly demonstrates what can happen when we all engage on critical issues.
Non-traditional forest product markets. Increasing consumer demand for "green," or environmentally responsible, products is rapidly increasing. Wood is one of the most environmentally friendly materials, as it is both renewable and plentiful. The 2014 Farm Bill made some changes to a prominent green promotional program, the USDA Biobased Markets Program, to include more forest products. The Biobased Markets Program, which previously excluded the use of most forest products, promotes biobased products with a label in the marketplace and a federal procurement program.
Healthy forests provide critical public benefits, inluding clean air and water and wildlife habitat. Although a relatively new phenomena, AFF is working to ensure family forest owners are included in these potential markets, as they are the largest forest ownership group in the U.S. Ecosystem Services Markets.
Forest Market Policy Priorities
AFF supports public and private sector policies that help forest owners keep their forests healthy and productive. We work to strengthen markets for wood products by encouraging the use of forest products produced from American Tree Farm System-certified lands, which flows into the Sustainable Forestry Initiative® (SFI) Chain of Custody system. The SFI market signal provides customers with assurance that the products they purchase are sustainable.
AFF also supports policies that enable landowners to participate in non-traditional forest products markets, giving them a seat at the table in renewable energy, ecosystem services markets, and habitat credit schemes for endangered species.
AFF will continue to work to:
- Include & Encourage Wood Products
Support green procurement and green building policies that encourages the use of wood products from ATFS-certified family forests.
- Provide New Market Opportunities
In addition to support for traditional markets, AFF supports on the ground programs, dedicated to developing new market opportunities for landowners.
Photo Credits: Sunrise (Burge Family), Woodpile (2010 STIHL Photo Contest Submission by John Niemela), Turkeys (Salem Saloom)