U.S. Forest Service Looks Into 'Green' Certifications
"Tens of millions of acres of state forest lands around the country have already undergone the process," he said. "If it makes sense for a state department of natural resources to engage in certification, I don't see why it wouldn't make sense for managers of federal lands."
Back in the late 1980s, when national forests were producing 12 billion board feet a year a quarter of national lumber consumption — the Lakeview area had five mills working off the unit, which was turning out about 150 million board feet a year.
Collins' Fremont Mill is the only one left, working mostly off timber grown on Collins' own lands. Mosby said they have only been able to buy 5 million board feet a year off the unit in recent years, and much of that was killed by fire or insects, making it less valuable. He figures it could sustainably produce as much as 80 million board feet, 20 million board feet more than the Fremont Mill now uses. The audit will see if he is right.
Mosby said Collins got into certification after seeing a Danish lumber retailer shut down by protests over clear cutting tropical hardwood forests, and enjoyed a market advantage in the early going. That has mostly evaporated as the industry has followed suit, most of them with the less stringent SFI standard. But it is likely to become more of a factor as sustainability building standards — already common in commercial construction — are adopted in residential construction.
"It's just like organic food," said Mosby. "There is a certain segment that will pay extra to put organic or stuff with no pesticides in their body."
Catherine Mater is a forest engineering consultant in Corvallis and a senior fellow with the Pinchot Institute, which advises the Forest Service on forest management issues. She has been pressing the Forest Service to consider certification since 1997, when state forestry departments began adopting it. She has seen certification defuse confrontations on state lands, and hopes to see that happen on the national forests.