Forest Bullies: Environmentalists Fight to Keep Certification Monopoly

If the issue of timber certification proves one thing, it’s that activist campaigners are willing to distort, lie and even intimidate to maintain their influence.

It’s easy to toss an issue so obscure into the weeds, but these machinations are real and they are costing the American consumer.

The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is the forest certification metric of choice for the environmental lobby. The standard is further buoyed as the lone means of certification included in the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards, which is enforced by 14 federal agencies and 34 state governments.

These various government edicts taken in sum and it's apparent FSC has an extraordinary monopoly on green building projects in America.

This unusual government preference for FSC comes even as numerous other reputable certification systems exist, including the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI).

Worse, the flaws with FSC are vast and immediate.

Less than a quarter of all forests certified by FSC are even in North America and the program's regional variances mean that it's nearly impossible to establish a consistent metric for timber certification. It has 23 varying standards across the glob, lacking a single uniform approach. In practice, it means that timber import from another country would be necessarily lesser than timber sourced from the few American-approved forests.

But having built their certification empire, environmentalists are not ready to cede any regulatory ground to competing standards.

FSC and its allies in the environmental lobby routinely accuse rival programs of allowing clear-cutting; in truth, however, FSC's regional variances has wrought this very result.

One regional standard, found in Russia, actually allows for clear-cutting forests, the very thing activists prop up as justification for shutting out competition. Just last year, IKEA found themselves in the crosshairs of international scrutiny for following these standards.

Furthermore, the fact that so few American forests are certified by FSC means that timber is frequently imported from these clear-cut forests to meet the demands of certifying government buildings as green. The energy exerted to transport the timber is dramatically increased from what it would otherwise be, and many American timber jobs are a non-starter.

In short, surface-level support for FSC is hardly consistent with the supposed goals of environmental activists and reeks of inconsistency and hypocrisy from the get-go.

It’s better understood when the deep ties FSC maintains with the most radical elements of the green “movement” are given the light of day. The intra-workings here are the root cause of the abrasive, unethical tactics used in attempts to keep the monopoly in place.

For instance, consider the connections fringe groups like the Dogwood Alliance maintains with FSC.

Dogwood has repeatedly launched public smear campaigns against businesses that choose SFI as their timber certification metric, with notable targets in the last decade including Office Max, Office Depot, Staples, and Kentucky Fried Chicken. The tactics incorporated into these smear efforts have included the absurd, such as an “Occupy KFC” protest, to outright civil disobedience and disinformation campaigns.