The success of “green” certification will depend on whether the public accepts certification programs as credible indicators of good forest management. It’s all about credibility.
That’s why the Dec. 16-17 commentary by Catherine Johnson of the Natural Resources Council of Maine is so troubling. Once again, Johnson and NRCM have shown they are willing to say anything to promote their own vision for forest certification. Johnson’s tactics could backfire and hurt the Forest Stewardship Council, which offers the certification program that NRCM endorses.
In her commentary, Johnson writes, “Maine Forest Service estimates that harvest levels are exceeding growth levels on the large ownerships in Maine by 37 percent.” That’s not true, and NRCM knows it.
I sat in the audience with Johnson at a legislative hearing, when Maine Forest Service Director Thomas Doak said the NRCM figure was “a misuse of information contained in an MFS analysis.” I sat in the audience with Johnson at a press conference in October, when Doak told reporters exactly the same thing.
I also know other Maine Forest Service personnel have told Johnson the figure is wrong. But Johnson continues to use the number to drum up support for FSC. In doing so, NRCM runs the risk of eroding public confidence in a valuable green certification program.
Maine Forest Products Council embraces certification as a way to demonstrate that forest management is environmentally sound. We think FSC has an excellent program. Members of the Forest Products Council own virtually all of the 1.5 million FSC-certified acres in Maine. Unlike NRCM, we recognize that other certification programs also have value.
All of the programs are in their infancy, and it remains to be seen which ones the public will accept. To the extent that Johnson’s statements erode the credibility of green certification, she is doing nothing to promote good forest management.