Senator urges agency chiefs to end practice that hurts Montana timber jobs
(Washington, D.C.) – Montana’s senior U.S. Senator Max Baucus is pressing the federal government to end a practice that hurts Montana forestry jobs by discriminating against American grown wood.
“Montana jobs rely on our timber industry and we’re at a big disadvantage because more than a million acres of Montana forests are being shut out of government construction projects. The more Montana-grown wood products we’re using at the federal level, the more Montana jobs we can support,” said Baucus.
In a letter co-signed by Senator Vitter (R-Louisiana) to Energy Secretary Steven Chu, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and General Services Administrator Daniel Tangherlini, Baucus argued the current green building standards for new government construction hurt Montana forestry jobs. Baucus and Vitter successfully pressed Forest Service Chief Thomas Tidwell to reconsider the policy by last Spring explaining the following key points:
- The federal government mandates new construction to adhere to its green building rating system (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design).
- But, the system fails to recognize two of the largest forest certification programs in the U.S. known as the Sustainable Forestry Initiative and the American Tree Farm system.
- 1.2 million acres of forests in Montana are certified through either the Sustainable Forestry Initiative or the American Tree Farm system.
July 17, 2012
The Honorable Steven Chu
Secretary of Energy
1000 Independence Ave SW
Washington, DC 20585-0002
The Honorable Leon Panetta
Secretary of Defense
1000 Defense Pentagon
Washington, DC 20301-1000
The Honorable Daniel Tangherlini
U.S. General Services Administration
1800 F Street, NW
Washington, DC 20405
Dear Secretary Chu, Secretary Panetta, and Administrator Tangherlini:
We write regarding the ongoing evaluation process of green building certification systems currently being conducted by the Department of Energy (DOE), the Department of Defense (DOD), and the General Services Administration (GSA). As you know, the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA) requires that every five years the DOE, in consultation with DOD and GSA, identify green building standards to be used across the Federal government.
In March of this year, the General Services Administration’s Office of Federal High-Performance Green Buildings released a study of green building certification systems. We acknowledge the responsibility of GSA to review and analyze certification systems that recognize the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) and the American Tree Farm system (ATFS). This is a particular interest of ours as we note that over 84 million acres of forests in the United States are SFI or ATFS certified.
As the EISA process continues, we support an approach that is based on principles including peer-reviewed scientific analysis, sound economics, and input from all interested parties. We welcome Secretary Tom Vilsack’s leadership on this issue as he announced in March 2011 that the Department of Agriculture will actively promote domestic timber products; domestically produced wood is among the most environmentally friendly resources that we have in this country.
Many of America’s rural communities depend on forestry for their livelihood. The federal government should adopt a certification system that promotes the use of any and all responsibly produced domestic wood products, such as those certified by SFI and ATFS. As the EISA process continues, we call for ample opportunities for public comment and due consideration to be given to all interested parties, so that an environmentally and economically sound approach can be reached that makes the most of what our forests and forest products industry have to offer. Thank you for your attention to this important matter.