On its one-century birthday, the US Forest Service will begin seeking independent review for timber harvests in six national forests, including two in Oregon—Mount Hood and Siuslaw. The forests will be measured against the certification standards for Sustainable Forest Initiative (SFI) and Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). The move is an important first step, though the Forest Service is not yet seeking actual certification.

For years, greens have argued for zero cutting on federal land, a policy I support. But as I’ve argued before, in an era of rising cut rates and Orwellian “Healthy Forest Initiatives,” it may be time for environmental groups to consider a negotiated truce. FSC certification could be precisely the sort of compromise that would meet many of the objectives of conservationists, but also maintain a stable local timber economy.

Certification under SFI would probably not accomplish the truce that the federal agency appears to want. In fact, it is likely that portions of the national forest system are already eligible, or are nearly eligible, for certification even under FSC rules, which are more rigorous than SFI’s. And FSC confers the imprimatur of the environmental community in a way that SFI, with it’s strong ties to industry, cannot.