Hill Briefing – Supporting Wood Use in Green Building

Nadine Block, who focuses on Government Outreach for SFI, gives an overview of the Hill Briefings held in mid-June.

Last month SFI participated in briefings on Capitol Hill, and a remarkable panel helped bring awareness to forest certification, wood as an ideal building material, and the importance of opening LEED to all credible forest certification programs. The briefing was a part of High-Performance Building Week, a perfect opportunity to talk about issues surrounding wood and green building.

Briefing panelists included 2009 National Tree Farmers of the Year Earl and Wanda Barrs, CEO of the Society of American Foresters Michael Goergen, President of the National Association of State Foresters Steven Koehn and union representative Bill Street.

Several themes emerged during the briefings:

  • It is critical to have strong markets for domestic forest products – without them, you lose a key incentive to keep our forests to pass onto our children.
  • Federal policies and green building rating systems should incentivize the use of wood products because they are renewable, use less energy to produce and store carbon.
  • Green building rating systems should recognize all credible forest certification systems as a way of raising the bar for management of our forests.
  • Each certification program addresses a different interest or need. SFI was created for North American forests, requiring stringent practices that go beyond our basic laws. Other systems were specifically designed for tropical forest lands in developing countries or small family forests in Europe, which is why they all have an important and credible role in certification.

Some of our panelists recorded a few thoughts I thought would be interesting to share:

Earl Barrs, Gully Branch Tree Farm, 2009 National Tree Farmer of the Year

“One reason we have forest land in Georgia is because we’ve always had good markets, and it’s important we continue to have good markets … We’re doing all the conservation environmental stewardship and we’re doing all the things that make a forest sustainable.”

Wanda Barrs, Gully Branch Tree Farm, 2009 National Tree Farmer of the Year

“If we don’t have healthy markets, then the likelihood of our family farm surviving the next generation transfer is highly unlikely. The quality of life and conservation values – air quality, clean water, recreation, wildlife, recreation – can be lost if there are no markets.”


Michael Goergen, CEO of Society of American Foresters

“There are many different forest certification systems, and the value of having these certification systems is they improve each other … They’re pushing each other to improve their standards all the time. They’re using better science. They’re getting better information, and they’re improving forest management on the ground.”

Hear more of what Earl, Wanda and Michael had to say on SFI’s YouTube channel.

We feel energized from the feedback and interest we got on the Hill, and we plan to continue outreach to key officials. You can help too! Urge the USGBC to open its LEED rating system. Show support for increased certification by signing our petition, as well as passing along our green building video to friends and family.


SIGN UP to receive our Monthly Newsletter.


SIGN UP to receive notice of our latest posts.


SIGN UP to receive the latest SFI Related News.


Rob Olszewski Memorial Education Fund

If you are interested in making a contribution to the Rob Olszewski Memorial Education Fund, you can either: Send a check, payable to Sustainable Forestry Initiative Inc.

Mail to: SFI Inc. 2121 K St. NW, Suite 750 Washington, DC 20037 Please indicate that the funds should be designated to the Rob Olszewski Memorial Education Fund.

Or, you can make an online donation:

You will receive a donation receipt from SFI Inc. acknowledging your charitable donation.