Can timber companies prove that they source good wood?

by Michael Smith

In general, it would appear, the environmental community tends to be rather supportive of Forest Stewardship Council certification – often referred to as the “gold standard” of sustainable forestry.

And while there have been scandals before, I grant you that, like Asia Pulp & Paper’s controversial certification, most of the conscious and conscientious consumers still look at the FSC mark as a fairly safe guarantee that the wood does not come from ancient forests, and that it was sustainably logged.

It would seem, however, that we can no longer accept it completely at face value if we can believe Friends of the Earth.

According to a statement from their website it would appear as if FoE are are taking a step back from its endorsement of the FSC certification and this statements it reproduced hereunder in full:

The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification is the strongest available standard for new wood.

Most of its timber certifications have improved forestry standards in many countries.

However, we are deeply concerned by the number of FSC certifications that are now sparking controversy and threatening the credibility of the scheme.

We cannot support a scheme that fails to guarantee high environmental and social standards. As a result we can no longer recommend the FSC standard.

The best environmental choice is to repair, restore or adapt an existing item. You could buy second hand.

If you have to buy new, make sure the timber is locally sourced.

Source: Friends of the Earth

As a professional forester I would like to add that while logging ancient forests is not a very good practice and more than likely non-sustainable the woods and forests in most countries on Europe and North America are no longer ancient and primary forests. Many so-called ecologists insist on claiming that the old woodlands in, for instance, the south of Britain are “ancient woodlands”, which, alas, they are not. There are no primary woodlands and forests in the British Isles; all of them have been more-or-less commercially worked in their life, many of them of the claimed to be “ancient” woodlands within the last 50 years. They are primarily old coppice woods that have gone wild again and, contrary to the belief of many of the previously mentioned environmentalists, should not be allowed to carry on running wild. They must, if we are to save them as woods, be worked once again and that rather pronto. The longer they are left the greater the change of the coppice stools breaking apart. That would be the end of those woodlands and they would become scrub land of one from or the others but would lose their woodland characteristics.

It is wood from such local sourced that should be sourced and used for whatever projects, whether building or furniture.

On the other hand, the advice of Friends of the Earth as to secondhand and repairing is also a very valid one, as would be DIY from waste building lumber, for instance. This would divert at least a small amount of the ten million plus tonnes of waste building lumber that are annually in the UK sent to landfill. A practice that to me is just very difficult to understand.

© M Smith (Veshengro), October 2008