The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and more than a dozen of the world’s largest environmental organizations today urged the green building community to vote down a proposal to weaken standards for forest and forest products in the popular LEED program. The US Green Building Council (USGBC) opened voting on the measure today.

“Where we use forests, we have a responsibility to use them well,” said Corey Brinkema, president of the Forest Stewardship Council in the United States. “These revisions would be a big step backwards for the green building movement.”

Currently, only wood certified under standards set by the FSC is accepted for a credit toward green certifications in LEED (which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design). The revisions would make key principles of exemplary forest management optional rather than mandatory. They would also allow new certifications by groups without balanced and independent governance.
“The certified wood credit in LEED has been one of the principal drivers for healthy forests ecosystems in North America and around the world — we believe the standards set by FSC should represent the floor, not the ceiling,” Brinkema said.

In the 10 years since the LEED program has recognized FSC, North American forests certified under FSC standards have grown in size from less than 10 million acres to more than 130 million.
Leading environmental organizations — including the Sierra Club, World Wildlife Fund, National Wildlife Federation, Natural Resources Defense Council and Greenpeace — support FSC certification in LEED because it represents the gold standard in forest management. These groups and seven others have issued a letter urging USGBC members to vote “negative, with reason” to the weakened standards. “Clearly, a credit whose stated intent is to encourage ‘exemplary’ forest management should reward wood from forests whose management surpasses status quo practices,” the groups said.
The complete LEED program will come up for revision in 2012, with broad implications for the green building movement. If the proposed revision passes, it would encourage widespread lobbying for weaker standards throughout LEED.
“The bottom line is high standards are working, both for LEED and FSC,” Brinkema said. “Green building is that rare bright spot in real estate. Cheapening its standards would be disastrous.”

Read the letter from the environmental organizations here.

SOURCE: U.S. Green Building Council

Have something to say? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.