Sunday, October 02, 2005

Certified Lumber

Since Wednesday we are proud owners of a big stack of certified lumber from sustainably managed forests. Now, not many people (and definitely not any local lumber yards) have heard about "certified" lumber (yet). But then, many people still shop at Mall-Wart too ;-)

The way I use the term Certified Lumber is to refer to wood harvested from forests that are managed responsibly (management for sustainability being one of the goals). According to my research there are three major "certification bodies" out there: FSC (Forest Stewardship Council), SFI (American Forest & Paper Association (AFPA) Sustainable Forest Initiative) and SmartWood.

FSC is an international, independent organization to "promote responsible management of the world's forests". According to their website, over the past 10 years, 50 million hectares (190,000 square miles - the size of MN, WI & IA combined) in more than 60 countries have been certified.

SFI on the other hand is the industry's voluntary program for responsible forest management that the members of the trade organization must "agree to work towards wood procurement and forest management strategies that meet the SFI program guidelines".

SmartWood was the world's first independent forestry certifier established in 1989.

So, what's FSC-certified responsible forestry management ?
  • biological diversity:
    maintain, enhance, or restore the long-term integrity of natural habitats, ecological processes, soil, water, and stand development
  • age class distribution:
    maintain or restore portions of the forest to the range and distribution of age classes of trees that result from processes that would normally occur on the site
  • endangered species:
    protect rare, threatened, and endangered species and their habitats; conservation zones and protection areas shall be established
  • habitat diversity:
    protect, maintain, and/or enhance diversity of habitats for native species
  • reserve areas:
    representative samples of existing ecosystems within the landscape shall be protected in their natural state and recorded on maps
  • harvest rate:
    rate of harvest of forest products shall not exceed that which can be permanently sustained
  • clear cutting:
    some clearcutting allowed, but "silvicultural practices provide disturbances and generate stand conditions that result in a successional phase that would occur naturally on the site; and: forest conversion to plantations or non-forest land uses shall not occur.
  • chemical use
    promote the development and adoption of environmentally friendly nonchemical
    methods of pest management and strive to avoid the use of chemical pesticides; World
    Health Organization Type 1A and 1B and chlorinated hydrocarbon pesticides that are persistent, toxic or whose derivatives remain biologically active and accumulate in the food
    chain beyond their intended use…shall be prohibited. If chemicals are used, proper equipment and training shall be provided to minimize health and environmental risks.
  • genetically modified species:

Most of the information above was taken from an excellent paper by the "Natural Resources Council of Maine".

Where can I get it?

It took me about half a day to find a local source for FSC certified lumber: Certified Wood Products out of Minnetonka. Owner Dan Haugen was incredibly friendly and helpful on providing our small project with the lumber. Typically his company only supplies large commercial projects with lumber. Compared with the cost of a local building supplies company, we only paid 6% (about $500) more for knowing that we did the right thing!