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Thursday, November 15, 2012

Report: PA state forest certification a wise and very valuable investment

The Pennsylvania General Assembly’s Legislative Budget and Finance Committee (LBFC) has issued a report finding that Pennsylvania’s investment in environmentally responsible management of its state forests is a wise one.

The report - The Costs and Benefits of FSC Certification of DCNR Forests - can be found at the committee website.

Pennsylvania’s 2.2 million acre state forest is certified by the Rainforest Alliance under the Forest Stewardship Council standards that supports environmentally responsible, socially beneficial, and economically viable forest management. Pennsylvania was one of the first states to have its publicly-owned forests certified.   The achievement and maintenance of that certification is a testament to the great work of the women and men of DCNR, and reflect their commitment to scientifically sustainable, socially acceptable, transparent, and accountable management of the public’s forest.

The certification has big net economic benefits. LBFC found that the FSC certification audits cost DCNR a miniscule 1 cent per acre per year plus some additional staff costs that support the certification.  On the other side of the ledger, it allows timber harvested from DCNR land to command a premium price on the timber market.  In timber sales between 2001 and 2006, LBFC found, DCNR earned a premium of about $7.7 million from the FSC certification - roughly a 10 percent increase in revenue for Pennsylvania’s state forest over what would have been earned in the absence of certification.

LBFC describes the economic benefits of FSC certification as “currently modest” – though I would argue that a 10 percent revenue increase is a great deal for Pennsylvania. Especially since that number is likely to go up.

LBC found that the certification is increasingly attractive to wood buyers and wood product manufacturers.  By 2006, FSC-certified buyers accounted for nearly two-thirds of the dollar value of all state forest timber sales, up from less than 15 percent in 1998. The percentage of timber volume going to FSC-certified buyers increased from less than 10 percent in 1998 to over 40 percent in 2006. 

LBFC also found that demand for certified lumber products and accompanying economic benefits may increase in the future.  They cite the European Union’s regulations on timber products and the green building movement, led by the LEED program, which will increase demand for certified lumber.  Further, several major companies (Home Depot, IKEA, Glatfelter, Time-Warner, and others) now require that some or all of their wood come from certified sources.    

The LBFC report includes extensive discussion of deer management issues, which have a major impact on forest sustainability.  DCNR’s response to the report on that score (and generally) is worth reading.

The LBFC report should be read in tandem with another report – a DCNR analysis of the impact of additional leasing of state forest land for natural gas drilling.  That analysis shows that shows that no additional leasing involving surface disturbance can occur without significantly altering the ecological integrity and wild character of our state forest system.  That DCNR analysis also found that additional leasing and resulting oil and gas development has the potential to jeopardize DCNR’s FSC certification. The latter report led to a moratorium on additional leasing that was signed by Governor Rendell in 2010 and that the Corbett Administration has so far kept in place.

Certification of the state forest is wise public policy.

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