Good Wood

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Good wood

Good wood, or smart wood, is a term certifying that the wood is harvested from a forest operating under environmentally sound and sustainable practices. A "certified wood" label indicates to consumers that the wood they purchase comes from a forest operating within specific guidelines designed to ensure future use of the forest. A well-managed forestry operation takes into account the overall health of the forest and its ecosystems, the use of the forest by indigenous people and cultures, and the economic influences the forest has on local communities. Certification of wood allows the wood to be traced from harvest through processing to the final product (i.e., raw wood or an item made from wood) in an attempt to reduce uncontrollable deforestation , while meeting the demand for wood and wood products by consumers around the world.

Public concern regarding the disappearance of tropical forests initially spurred efforts to reduce the destruction of vast acres of rainforests by identifying environmentally responsible forestry operations and encouraging such practices by paying foresters higher prices. Certification, however, is not limited to tropical forests. All forest typestropical, temperate, and boreal (those located in northern climes)from all countries may apply for certification. Plantations (stands of timber that have been planted for the purpose of logging or that have been altered so that they no longer support the ecosystems of a natural forest) may also apply for certification.

Certification of forests and forest owners and managers is not required. Rather, the process is entirely voluntary. Several organizations currently assess forests and forest management operations to determine whether they meet the established guidelines of a well-managed, sustainable forest. The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), founded in 1993, is an organization of international members with environmental, forestry, and socioeconomic backgrounds that monitors these organizations and verifies that the certification they issue is legitimate.

A set of 10 guiding principles known as Principles and Criteria (P&C) were established by the FSC for certifying organizations to utilize when evaluating forest management operations. The P&C address a wide range of issues, including compliance with local, national, and international laws and treaties; review of the forest operation's management plans; the religious or cultural significance of the forest to the indigenous inhabitants; maintenance of the rights of the indigenous people to use the land; provision of jobs for nearby communities; the presence of threatened or endangered species ; control of excessive erosion when building roads into the forest; reduction of the potential for lost soil fertility as a result of harvesting; protection against the invasion of non-native species ; pest management that limits the use of certain chemical types and of genetically altered organisms; and protection of forests when deemed necessary (for example, a forest that protects a watershed or that contains threatened and/or endangered species).

Guarding against illegal harvesting is a major hurdle for those forest managers working to operate within the established regulations for certification. Forest devastation occurs not only from harvesting timber for wood sales but when forests are clear cut to make way for cattle crazing or farming, or to provide a fuel source for local inhabitants. Illegal harvesting often occurs in developing countries where enforcement against such activities is limited (for example, the majority of the trees harvested in Indonesia are done so illegally).

Critics argue against the worthiness of managing forests, suggesting that the logging of select trees from a forest should be allowed and that once completed, the remaining forest should be placed off limits to future logging. Nevertheless, certified wood products are in the market place; large wood and wood product suppliers are offering certified wood and wood products to their consumers. In 2001 the Forest Leadership Forum (a group of environmentalists, forest industry representatives, and retailers) met to identify how wood retailers can promote sustainable forests. It is hoped that consumer demand for good wood will drive up the number of forests participating in the certification program, thereby reducing the rate of irresponsible deforestation of the world's forests.

[Monica Anderson ]



Bass, Stephen, et al. Certification's Impact on Forests, Stakeholders and Supply Chains. London: IIED, 2001.


Forest Stewardship Council United States, 1155 30th Street, NW, Suite 300, Washington, DC USA 20007 (202) 342 0413, Fax: (202) 342 6589, Email: [email protected], <<