CONGRESSMAN BISHOP WELCOMES GEORGIA FORESTS’ INCLUSION IN LEED DESIGNATION
MONTEZUMA, GA – Today, Congressman Sanford D. Bishop Jr. (GA-02), co-chair of the Congressional Working Forests Caucus, welcomed the U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) recent action to expand use of forest products in their Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) green building program by including recognition of the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) and the American Tree Farm System (AFTS), effectively opening a pathway for more U.S. forest products to be used in the LEED rating system.
“Forest landowners and manufacturers across Georgia and the United States now have new opportunities to participate in green building efforts due to USGBC’s recent action. Creating a broader range of forest products to be available for LEED credits is great news for our nation’s woodlands, for the jobs created by sustainably managed lands, and for American-grown forest products people use every day!” said Congressman Sanford Bishop.
“Congressman Bishop’s leadership on this issue was invaluable. Because of his work, small family landowners in Georgia, of which there are hundreds of thousands, will have new market opportunities that will help them keep their land in forest. This is an incredible victory for Georgia’s forest-based economy and Georgia’s forest owners,” said Tom Martin, President and CEO of the American Forest Foundation.
“Given the developments in forest certification over the last 10 years, the time was right for the USGBC to respond to the advice of many forestry experts, government officials and conservationists and re-examine the role of forest certification in the LEED rating system. We’re pleased to see they made the right decision for our forests and the built environment,” said Doyle Simons, Weyerhaeuser President and CEO.
Forest-related industries provide $23.6 billion and 108,112 jobs to the state economy, making it Georgia’s second largest manufacturing employer. Georgia contains the largest area of forest cover of any state in the South. Sixty-two percent of Georgia is forested, accounting for a total of 24 million acres. Of that, approximately 90% of Georgia’s forests are privately owned by individuals and families or private industry, including 1,212 Tree Farms in the state certified by the American Tree Farm System.
Before USGBC’s action, only the 174,000 acres certified by the Forest Leadership Council (FSC) were eligible for LEED credits in Georgia. Georgia has one of the highest penetrations of ATFS certified land compared to other states. More than 81 million acres of forests in the United State are certified to SFI and ATFS, with 4.3 million acres certified in Georgia.
This action will further stimulate the use of wood products, which serve as long-term storage for carbon, use less energy, and produce less pollution in their manufacturing when compared to other building materials. Having sustainable markets for wood and other forest products is vital to ensuring U.S. woodlands remain healthy, sustainably managed forests providing clean air and water, recreational opportunities, and habitats for countless forms of wildlife.
LEED is providing credits to forest products sourced from the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) Program and the American Tree Farm System (ATFS), two non-profit organizations dedicated to promoting sustainable forest management. By recognizing all credible, third-party certification systems and other responsible sources, LEED is invigorating the market for American-grown forest products, increasing jobs, and strengthening the overall economy in rural areas.