Washington’s Board of Natural Resources decision this week to increase logging rates by 30 percent in Western Washington was expected, but dismaying nevertheless. Every 10 years, the Board sets logging rates for trust forests. The state could have chosen to become a national leader in sustainable forestry. By increasing cuts, it’s likely extinguished the possibility of seeking Forest Stewardship Council certification.

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  • FSC certification—the most environmentally stringent label for wood products—is an emerging trend in forestry that could help Washington enhance public credibility, make management more efficient, help timber workers, and protect forest ecosystems. Though the particulars are complex, the upshot is that forests are to be managed for ecology as well as economy, limiting timber harvests to sustainable levels and curtailing the worst ecological impacts of logging. Seeking certification might also ease Washington’s perennial tug-of-war between greens and the timber industry because the label sustains forest-dependent communities by encouraging local employment, providing strong health and safety standards, and ensuring the right of workers to organize.

    Eight other states have already won FSC certification for some or all of their state-owned forests. Even private industry has caught on. But so far, none of Washington’s state-owned forests carry the label. And they probably won’t in the near future.

    We can only hope that Oregon will do a better job of showing the world that we are serious about sustaining the forests that so define the Northwest.

    P.S.: Interestingly, FSC certification was just cited in a Technology Review article as an example of effective “voluntary environmentalism,” because guidelines are so strict.

    P.P.S.: To see what decades of clearcuts look like, check out our time-lapse maps of forested areas in the Northwest.