Forest Certification Audit is Officially Launched

On the eve of the Forest Stewardship Council’s Global Paper Forum, we have officially launched Forest Certification Audit. Here is today’s release and a bit more about the topics we will cover. We look forward to providing a steady source of information about international forestry, science and certification.

Here is the release:

Seattle – Washington Policy Center (WPC), one of the leading environmental think tanks in the nation, is launching a new information source on international forestry and the politics of forest “certification” systems. Forest Certification Audit (www.forestcertificationaudit.org) will provide a forum for a range of forestry experts to discuss certification issues and systems designed to ensure sustainable forestry practices.

“As with many environmental approaches, there is increasing pressure to move forest certification systems away from sound science,” said Todd Myers, environmental director at WPC. “Forest Certification Audit is designed to examine the ways certification systems have strayed from their original purpose and provide thoughts about the best ways to ensure sustainable international forestry and trade. This project will be will be a new source of cutting edge information, commentary and research surrounding forestry and certification. Forest Certification Audit will sort out the sustainable science from the political pressure.”

Myers served previously on the executive team at the Washington State Department of Natural Resources, dealing with forestry policy that ranged from protection of old growth to spotted owl habitat. He is author of the book Eco-Fads: How the Rise of Trendy Environmentalism is Harming the Environment.

Other expert contributors include:

  • Malcom Dick, who served previously as Alaska State Forester.
  • Holly Fretwell, forestry specialist for the Property and Environment Research Center and adjunct instructor at Montana State University.

Voluntary certification systems like the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) were originally designed to provide an economic reward for foresters in developed and developing countries to follow certain forest practices. Those rules, however, are increasingly substituting politics for science and are sometimes imposed on developing countries to restrict forestry and the international trade of wood products.

“Forests are a powerful symbol of environmental health and we have a great opportunity to protect that symbol and forest habitat around the world,” said Myers. “The best way to achieve those goals, however, is to promote prosperity and science. Forestland in the Northern Hemisphere is expanding and is managed sustainably. Forestland in developing countries is increasingly a key resource for conservation, poverty alleviation and global commerce. Using certification sometimes has an alternative agenda.  In some cases, environmental activists use certification to place barriers on communities in the Northern Hemisphere and the developing world, thereby leaving people without the prosperity or resources necessary to meet certain certification standards that environmental groups claim to support.”

WPC is a non-profit, non-partisan public policy research organization that promotes sound public policy based on free-market solutions. WPC improves lives of Washington state’s citizens by providing accurate, high-quality research for policymakers, the media and the general public. Headquartered in Seattle with satellite offices and full-time staff in Olympia and Eastern Washington, WPC publishes studies, sponsors events and conferences and educates citizens on vital public policy issues.

WPC’s Center for the Environment promotes the idea that human progress and prosperity work together in a free economy to protect the environment. Through unique and innovative analysis, WPC challenges the eco-fads so prevalent in the public debate and brings balance to the discussion of environmental issues.

Prosperity and Sustainability Go Hand-In-Hand in Asia and Worldwide

Famed GE CEO Jack Welch once said “You can’t grow long-term if you can’t eat short term.” The same can be said about forests. They can’t grow long-term if people can’t eat short term. That is the spirit behind my editorial in the Bangkok Post addressing forest certification standards.

It is certainly true that foresters should be given incentives to manage for the long-term and be given science-based standards of good forestry. Ignoring economic sustainability, however, is not a sound policy. If it isn’t economically sustainable, it won’t be environmentally sustainable.

As I wrote in the piece:

Prosperity and economic growth go hand-in-hand with good forestry practices; poverty and politics are the enemies of sustainable forestry. The evidence of this connection is everywhere. Last year the United Nations celebrated the International Year of the Forest, highlighting the link between prosperity and sound forestry. The UN noted that forest land is actually expanding in the Northern Hemisphere, where demand for wood products is high.

The areas where forests are at risk are primarily the poorest areas of the Southern Hemisphere. But in these regions, active forestry is not the culprit. In fact, it is part of the solution. Most trees in the Southern Hemisphere are cut down to cook food or to heat homes. Focusing on active forestry as the cause is misleading.

You can read the entire piece here: Don’t let politically driven forest certification derail Asia’s economic rise.