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Md. LEED law shuts out many of state’s tree farmers
Associate Editor ~ Delmarva Farmer

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — In agriculture, what is grown locally and sold locally is usually considered to be “green,” too

But Maryland tree farmers say unless a bill introduced in the state legislature is passed, the two could be considered opposites when it comes to lumber.

In last year’s General Session, the High Performance Buildings Act was passed that gave specific requirements for a “green building” in Maryland.

The law named Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design or LEED as the only rating system to certify the buildings. LEED certification requires wood certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), a process that most tree farmers in Maryland have deemed too costly for their operations.

That means builders following the state’s protocol for a green building would likely have to get wood shipped from another state or another country.

“It basically shuts out our tree farmers from even being considered,” said Karin Miller, executive director for the Maryland Forest Association. “It closes them out of the market.”

Mimi Wright, forestry representative on the Maryland Agriculture Commission who owns about 400 acres of forestland in Maryland and Delaware, said opportunities for selling wood in Maryland are getting more limited, especially on the Eastern Shore.

“It’s hard to accept that after 30 years of sustainable management, that with the stroke of a pen, my wood isn’t good enough to be used in Maryland buildings,” Wright said.

Miller citied the building proposal of a slots parlor in Rocky Gap State Park.

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources and Maryland Economic Development Corporation are requiring the building to have LEED gold certification.

Any trees cleared by the construction will have to be replanted, but based on the state’s requirements, “it’s highly unlikely that there will be a single stick in there that came out of a Maryland forest,” Miller said.

Last week, Senate Bill 243 was introduced by Sen. Janet Greenip, R-Dist. 33, that amends the High Performance Buildings Act to include the Green Globes Program as an alternate rating system.

Green Globes accepts wood certified by the American Tree Farm System (ATFS) and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), the two main certifiers in Maryland, covering more than 200,000 acres in the state.

There are about 50,000 acres in Maryland certified by FSC.

A hearing before the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee for the bill has been scheduled for Feb. 11 at 1:30 p.m., in Annapolis, Md.

Rita Neznek, public affairs director for the American Forest Foundation (AFF), said Maryland is not alone when it comes to certification issues.

She said AFF is working with tree farmers in about 25 states that have passed or proposed legislation regarding forest certification and legislation has been floated at the federal level as well.

“It is a national issue,” said Neznek. “Green building is great as long as it recognizes the trees raised sustainably by American farmers as green.”

FSC certification involves annual assessments from foresters, ecologists and social scientists that look at harvesting rates, wildlife ecosystem, threats to endangered species, chemical use and benefits of the forestry operation to the local community.

The group also certifies the “chain of custody” for companies that sell wood products, tracking wood from the forest through milling and manufacturing to the point of sale ensuring that products sold as certified actually originate in certified forests. FSC has offices in 46 countries and is supported by environmental groups.

ATFS is the oldest forest certifier in North America, beginning in 1941 and is endorsed internationally by the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC).
Forests certified by the ATFS must have a written forest management plan and has to meet nine standards of sustainability ranging from compliance with state and local regulations, reforestation, wildlife biodiversity and air, water and soil protection.

Re-certification by a third-party audit is done every five years and between re-certifications, tree farmers are subject to an annual monitoring surveillance system that randomly selects tree farms for inspection.

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