WASHINGTON -- The Sustainable Forestry Initiative applauded the Governor of Georgia for urging broader recognition of forest certification standards by the U.S. Green Building Council.

An executive order signed August 10 by Georgia Governor Nathan Deal promotes the use of products from responsibly managed forests in Georgia in construction by the state.

"Any new or expanded state building shall incorporate 'Green Building' standards that give certification credits equally to forest products grown, manufactured, and certified under the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, the American Tree Farm System, and the Forest Stewardship Council,"  reads the order. Its introduction notes "the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED rating system unfairly awards its wood certification credit only to products certified to the Forest Stewardship Council standard," and "recognizing all forest certifications equally will help promote sustainable forestry in the State of Georgia."

"The executive order removes obstacles that devalue wood grown and milled in Georgia, says Georgia Forestry Association president Steve McWilliams. "Given the current depressed markets for building materials, there is less incentive for growers to keep their land in trees."

According to Kathy Abusow, SFI President and CEO, almost 99 percent of Georgia's certified forests are certified to SFI or the American Tree Farm System, but not FSC, and therefore are ineligible for LEED's certified wood credit. "It's time USGBC listened to the urging of elected officials, federal agencies, state foresters, landowners, conservation groups and academics to stop discriminating against well-managed domestic forests."

According to Abusow, the U.S. Department of Agriculture promoted a green building stating that sustainability of forest products can be verified using any credible third-party rating system, and in May a letter from eight members of Congress urged USGBC to "accept all credible forest management certification systems for qualification under the LEED rating system." 

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