Effects of environmental awareness?

Lumber processors discuss the market effects of buyer awareness of environmental issues. August 23, 2000

Has the so-called change in the marketplace effected any of you? Or is it all smoke and mirrors, so investors in these mega-companies "feel good" about "helping" the environment?

The worst thing, in my view, is the "big box" stores selling "perfect" surfaced-four-sides (S4S) lumber. A little wane and a small spike knot is O.K. for framing lumber; let the nice wood get value-added. A perfect, no-wane board has to come from a larger tree.

Our operation has not been effected directly, but we can supply a "chain of custody" for anybody who wants one.

I haven't seen any demand in my area for certified wood, but we don't do any exporting and are not looking for those markets. It doesn't mean that they don't exist, or that they aren't worthwhile to go after.

The Europeans seem to be more concerned with certified wood than the Americans. From the few posts I have seen from some British foresters, they have seen quite the increase in interest.

I have seen a bit more glue-up boards in the local builder-supply shops. This would help make clear boards from lower-quality material.

The perfect, no-wane board is needed in some applications and can be produced from smaller trees that are thinned from existing stands. A lot depends on the width required. It is a shame to see too many good-quality, small-diameter trees going to the mill instead of being left to grow. But I don't know how you will convince the private landowner to be more concerned about long-term management than short-term profit.

I am a veneer buyer in Pennsylvania. We buy a lot of certified wood off of state lands. The demand for certified wood is strong in England and elsewhere in Europe. I think the demand will increase.

The only problem is that there is not enough certified wood on the market to make much of a difference. There are a lot of loopholes in this area. Anybody can say they have certified wood. It is hard to say where the wood comes from and whether it is truly certified or not.

We operate a small hardwood sawmill and secondary manufacturing operation in Virginia.

We're getting more pressure from our byproduct customers (paper mills), believe it or not, than from lumber or secondary manufacturing customers, for certified woods. Their program is the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI).

Georgia-Pacific started about a year ago with a mandate that all round wood and chip suppliers would have to be SFI certified by January 1 (2000), and then by July 1 all chip suppliers (sawmills) have to certify that their raw material suppliers (loggers) are SFI- certified.

The other paper companies in the area have been more subtle in getting their suppliers on board with the program. All and all, it's a pretty good program of continuing education in areas of sustainable forestry, best management practices in logging, safety, and public relations.

When it comes down to brass tacks, our motivation as a sawmill, and that of many other loggers and sawmills, is not to get a higher price for our product or to avoid fines. Our motivation is to do the job right. We've seen no evidence that the cost of regulation and certified sustainable forestry programs has hit the end user of lumber.

If you ask the paper mills point-blank if they have a policy of only purchasing wood from SFI certified loggers they will tell you that if they did they would be looking at anti-trust violations. I have been a part of the SFI program (called MLEP here in Minnesota) since it started, but am no longer a member and will not support it.

I feel it is just a way for the paper companies and the state to blow smoke and waste my time and money. When part of the program was a day-long presentation on collecting mushrooms and birchbark I'd had enough. I have always tried to do things as they should be done and nothing they gave me in three years changed how I operated. The problem I see is the big paper companies' loggers are doing the same as ever and have not improved their habits much.

If I sound a bit anti-SFI and anti-large paper companies, it is because SFI made me that way.

We are sore about having SFI mandated to us. Log supply has been hand-to-mouth for the last year-and-a-half. We've tried to ease the group of small independent loggers who we've been dealing with into getting certified.

Today I spoke with three of them one-on-one as we settled up for this week's logs. It was real hard telling them we couldn't buy logs from them next week because they hadn't gotten certified by the deadline.

From your messages, it seems that the environmental certification is company-mandated, not state-required.

In British Columbia, the Province has a Forest Practices Code which every logger and company has to follow. The code governs the process because 80 percent of the wood cut in B.C. comes from Province-owned ("Crown") land.

With all the world coming down on B.C. with its clear cuts, they had to make some changes in the way we did things. It has raised the cost of logging by $20 to $50 a cubic meter.

This still isn't pleasing Greenpeace, WCWC, et. al., as they raise the bar higher and higher, for the ultimate goal of shutting down the forest industry in B.C.

The funny thing about it is that rumour has it that some Southern pine producers back these so-called environmental groups.

I was born and raised on Vancouver Island and was in the forest industry for about 16 years. What I saw go on with the tree-huggers was a big joke. You talk about clowns in a circus, some of them were bigger trouble than the loggers.

There was one story that was on the news: Up by Campbell River they were protesting, and two of these brains parked a VW van at a gateway 10 feet away from a river and handcuffed themselves to the back end and had gas poured all over the ground so authorities could not use a cutting torch to remove the chains. Another one: Out on the Tofino-Port Alberni Highway a guffy rock band had a protect-the-trees concert on a newly planted cutblock, and it was local loggers and family friends that went out and cleaned up their mess.

I heard that a very well-known beer company from the U.S. gave one of the tree-hugger organizations $250,000. In Port Alberni there is a furniture store, the owners are WCWC members and they screamed real loud, "Save the trees, shut down logging, but you still must buy from us and we will even let you charge it."

I'm sorry if I sound bitter but for some of the bigwigs that's how they make their living. There were all sorts of people jumping on the bandwagon and they were coming from other countries just to save the trees, putting good, hard-working people out of work, and lots of them ended up going on welfare that loggers and mill-workers worked hard to pay for.

I live in Alberta now and the forest industry is changing even here. The mills are making loggers take envirol tests; it's not wild like it used to be here. Even for the little wood lot logger and miller, they watch pretty close.