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To the Editor.....Forestry certification affects Minnesota's timber industry

Workers and businesses in Cloquet understand the importance of timber to the region's economy. How government agencies regulate commerce in the forest products industry can affect economic growth and job creation. It is essential that policymakers make informed decisions and take steps that promote conservation, sustainable development and do not hinder job growth.

Many landowners and businesses take the proactive step of promoting sustainable growth by receiving third-party certification from groups like the American Tree Farm System (ATFS), Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI). Certification takes place when one of these organizations verifies that a business or forester responsibly manages their land.

Products procured from certified forestland carry extra appeal to eco-conscious consumers and certified wood is ideal building material for new offices, schools and other structures.

Unfortunately, many "green" building codes narrowly restrict the type of timber that can enter construction projects. Many developments favor FSC wood, to the exclusion of ATFS and SFI timber. By obstructing or denying access to these markets for businesses that use ATFS and SFI-certified materials, these codes decrease their customer base and potentially threaten job creation in the timber industry as a whole.

Policymakers at the local, state and national levels should not be drawn into a debate over which certification program is superior to each other. ATFS, SFI and FSC timber should be granted equal access to new markets. This will provide real relief to natural-resource based economies, stabilize the forest products industry and keep workers on the job.

Bruce Ahlgren

Cloquet Mayor