Stephen DeMaura

Green energy has become a focal point of President Obama’s jobs agenda. Through generous taxpayer-funded loans and federal regulations, the administration has promised to prop up clean energy initiatives in order to grow the economy and protect the environment. Unfortunately, it is Obama’s allies that have received the boost, as opposed to the American workers.

One clear – albeit underreported – example is the way that forests are certified. To promote responsible land management and economic development, conservationists and businesses that use natural resources have fought for voluntary, market-based, and non-regulatory solutions – chief among them is forest certification.

Organizations that certify forestland lay out specific objectives, performance criteria and compliance indicators that landowners must meet. Over the last two decades, certification programs have grown in concert with the emerging demand for “green” products. Wood, timber and paper goods that bear the seal of programs such as the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) and the American Tree Farm System (ATFS) let retailers and consumers know that products were procured in a manner that promotes sustainability. The diverse set of programs gives landowners and tree farmers the flexibility to choose what archetype is most practical for their particular operation.

This market-based approach to certification works. As such initiatives have grown and the market has responded, an ever-increasing amount of certified products have become available to the public.

In recent years however, government agencies and environmental activists have tried to uproot the voluntary system, distorting the market so as to force landowners to register with the FSC and abandon other systems. FSC all the while promoted by out-of-touch environmental groups like Greenpeace and the World Wildlife Fund. More specifically, federal, state and local agencies have adopted policies, regulations and ordinances that mandate the exclusive use of FSC-certified wood in public projects.

Moreover, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system, which many authorities at the local, state and federal levels follow when awarding contracts, only recognize FSC certification.

While FSC has the endorsement of leftist environmental groups, there is no evidence that FSC-certified products perform better than timber certified by other programs. It’s “standards” are inconsistent. Lumber from countries like Russia, for example, is held to a much lower standard than the lumber harvested in the U.S.


Stephen DeMaura

Stephen DeMaura is president of Americans for Job Security.