State joins Georgia, Maine and Oregon in ensuring green buildings adopt sustainable forest practices.
Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant has signed legislation specifying that rating systems used in green building projects funded by the state government "shall not exclude certificate credits for forest products certified by the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) or the American Tree Farm System (ATFS)." The law positions the state’s wood products industry in green building projects while providing a market incentive for landowners to adopt or maintain sustainable forest practices, according to SFI, based in Washington, D.C.
"Kudos to the Mississippi legislature and Governor Phil Bryant for their leadership on this important issue," says Kathy Abusow, president and CEO of SFI. "The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) currently recognizes only the Forest Stewardship Council standard in its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating tool. As such, LEED as currently worded does not meet the criteria of Mississippi's new law. For more than a decade, the overwhelming majority of responsibly managed certified forests have not been eligible for the LEED forest certification credits, undermining communities, conservation and working forests."
More than 100 elected officials, including 14 governors and 89 members of Congress, have already urged the USGBC to support all credible forest certification standards, including the SFI Standard.
"Mississippi has 3.5 million acres certified to the SFI or ATFS standards. LEED's exclusion of SFI and ATFS is unfounded and unfair to thousands of Mississippians whose livelihoods depend on the forest products sector," says J. Tedrick Ratcliff Jr., executive vice president of Mississippi Forestry Association. "We applaud Representative Reynolds (D-Water Valley) for initiating this effort and the state's decision to take a stand for the use of local sustainably harvested wood products in state green building projects."
"This legislation promotes markets for home-grown products from responsibly managed forests," says State Forester Charlie Morgan. "Our legislature and our governor recognized the opportunity to do something positive for our forests, Mississippi school trust lands and our local communities by prohibiting the use of a rating system like USGBC's LEED that currently discriminates against 97 percent of Mississippi's forests."
Mississippi joins Georgia and Maine in blocking the use of green building rating systems that do not give equal credit to all forest certification standards in promoting wood products grown and manufactured in the state. The Mississippi law adds to the pressure on USGBC to adopt a more encouraging policy toward wood products as it prepares the fourth version of LEED, a process for which USGBC is currently accepting public comments.
"The most effective way to promote responsible forest management is to recognize forest owners who practice it," Abusow says. "USGBC should heed the growing chorus of elected officials, professional foresters, conservation groups, labor representatives and academics who oppose LEED's discrimination against well-managed domestic forests."