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Skagit Valley Herald
Soon, though, Henrikson and several other Western Washington forest owners will band together to get FSC certification as a group. At most a five-year contract will cost him $1,000, and he won't have to worry about the hardest part: marketing his eco-friendly wood to mills.

"This is a good opportunity for me," Henrikson said. "The alternative prior to this was doing it on my own, which would be too expensive and a difficult process trying to figure out by myself."

Richard Pine, part owner of a Salem, Ore.-based timber company, decided to go it alone and get his 2,200 acres in Lewis and Thurston counties green-certified in 1999. It has cost him close to $11,000. But as a charter member of the nonprofit Northwest Natural Resource Group, Pine expects to pay about half that over the next five years.

Henrikson, Pine and other landowners aren't expecting to make a quick buck because most mills aren't yet clamoring for more green-certified wood. They see green certification as more of a rewarding seal of approval for the extra care they take logging their land than any sure economic bet.

"Making forestry profitable is a lot tougher than it used to be, but this program gives landowners a new opportunity to connect with consumers that value their work," said Ian Hanna, who will run the group certification program when it launches early next year.

Green certification is an emerging market that's gaining the most ground in cities and states like Seattle and Washington that encourage environmentally sound building techniques for big public projects.

Major retailers including Home Depot and Lowe's have buying policies that favor certified wood. Most of the flooring Starbucks now buys is green certified, and do-it-yourself furniture retailer IKEA is a big buyer, said Michael Washburn, vice president of forestry and marketing for the U.S. chapter of FSC, a global nonprofit based in Bonn, Germany.

If you're a homeowner looking to build a deck, though, you're not likely to find a neat stack of certified 2-by-4s at the local lumber yard. In most cases, customers have to special-order the wood. Sometimes it doesn't cost any more than noncertified wood, but most often it's around 10 percent more expensive, industry experts say.

Most consumers aren't willing to both wait and pay more just for a guarantee that trees were cut in ways that don't pollute streams or degrade wildlife habitat, said Ron Jarvis, Home Depot's merchandising vice president.

‘‘The average consumer's a pocketbook environmentalist,'' Jarvis said. ‘‘They want to do the right thing until it hits their pocketbook.''

Kirk Hanson, a tree farmer who grows Douglas firs on 40 acres in Oakville, joined the board of the Port Angeles-based Northwest Natural Resource Group a few years ago and will be one of seven pilot members in the group certification program. Collectively, they own 2,900 acres.

The goal is to have 50 or 60 members with some 80,000 certified acres by the end of 2006, Hanna said. That would nearly triple the number of FSC-certified acres in Washington, which has about 45,000 green-certified acres, mostly on Fort Lewis, an Army base south of Tacoma.

Tom Doak heads up a group certification program in Maine that's seen its membership rise from about 20 to 60 in the past 18 months. They pay less each year than the members of the Washington group will, because getting certified through the American Tree Farm System's program is cheaper than going through the Forest Stewardship Council.

It costs mills extra time and money to process FSC-certified wood, because one of the standards requires that wood can be traced from the stump to the store. That means certified logs have to be kept in a separate stack, and a mill's machinery has to be wiped clean before the ‘‘green'' wood can be milled.

Eric Fritch, a mill owner in Snohomish, has been buying and selling certified wood for about three years. Sometimes he gets more orders than he can fill. Other times there's hardly any demand for it. Either way, he sees certified wood as a promising product — especially in a region as eco-friendly as the Pacific Northwest.

He's already told the Northwest Natural Resource Group he's eager to buy more certified wood and will pay an extra $25 for every 1,000 board feet over what he pays for noncertified wood. As long as he breaks even, he said he's willing to give the market time to mature.

‘‘I don't have the luxury of doing it from a standpoint of charity for very long,'' Fritch said. ‘‘You could lose money doing this in a hurry if you tried.''

On the Net:
Northwest Natural Resource Group: http://www.nnrg.org
Forest Stewardship Council: http://www.fsc.org/fsc

What's it mean to be green?
The American Tree Farm System, sponsored by the American Forest Foundation, was created in 1941 to promote sustainable forestry, making it the country's oldest ‘‘green certification'' program. Its members include about 51,000 family forest owners who manage about 33 million acres of land in 46 states.

In 1993, a coalition of timber traders, environmental groups and human rights organizations created the Forest Stewardship Council, a global nonprofit based in Bonn, Germany. Its mission: to promote environmentally sound, socially beneficial and economically viable management of the world's forests.

There are about 116 million FSC-certified acres worldwide, including 26 million in North America, about half in Canada and half in the United States. Pennsylvania, Maine and Minnesota each have more than 1 million acres of FSC-certified forests. Washington has about 45,000 acres.

The American Forest and Paper Association, an industry trade group, developed the Sustainable Forestry Initiative in 1995. Foresters, conservationists and scientists developed guidelines to make sure logging is done with an eye toward the long-term protection of wildlife, plants, soil and water quality. About 136 million acres in North America are SFI-certified, including forests owned by Weyerhaeuser Co. and Plum Creek Timber Co., both based in Washington state.
- The Associated Press
This document was modified last on Nov 09, 2004 - 11:24:15 PST
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