Proposal for a Sustainable Forestry Management Policy
Forests are an invaluable natural resource with multiple conflicting uses. When left to stand, forests help conserve biodiversity, stabilize the environment and control erosion; when logged, they provide building materials, fuel and agricultural land for human use. The challenge is to find an equilibrium between these uses: in other words, to make the transition toward sustainable forestry management.
Unfortunately, poverty has driven people in developing countries to clear-cut large tracts of land, while instability and corruption have rendered developing country governments powerless to stop illegal logging and trade in illegal forest products. The results have been staggering. The World Resources Institute recently reported that tropical regions have been deforested at an alarming rate of 1% annually since 1985; in some countries, the rate has spiraled to over 7% per year (1). Much of this deforestation is linked to the illegal trade in forest products. Greenpeace estimates that up to 80% of all logs cut in the Brazilian Amazon are extracted illegally; the estimate is 70% for Indonesia (2).
In order to fight the problem of illegal logging and trade, I propose the following package of policy actions. First, to change US government procurement policy to prefer timber from sustainably managed forests; second, to provide technical assistance to help developing countries with forestry management; and third, to promote a national eco-certification system for sustainably managed forestry products.
FIRST, the US government shall adapt its timber procurement policy to give preferential treatment to forest products certified to meet sustainable management criteria. In the G-8 Summit in Okinawa, the US government committed itself to find ways to "combat illegal logging, including export and procurement practices" (3). In 1999, the US government spent over $36.5 million on lumber, making it a small but significant player in the global timber market (4). Changing our procurement practices would provide assurance to sustainable timber providers that there will be a market for their goods and would penalize ecologically irresponsible competitors. Because not enough wood is currently produced under sustainable certification programs to meet government needs, the US should establish sustainable management as a preference, but not a requirement until 2010, when it should begin to purchase only certified wood. The US should appoint a panel of environmentalists, industry executives and academic experts to determine which certification systems to accept. Possible examples include Forest Stewardship Council certification (5); ISO 14001-series environmental management systems (6); and Smartwood certification (7).
SECOND, the US...