Several of the founders of the SWC vision were originally helping on the Lake States Working Group of the FSC to develop the new regional standard. After a while the director of the twin city based non-profit told me that he would no longer pay our expenses and time to participate as "There is only enough money to pay my own salary" So those of us who are self employed - and the only ones who actually do forestry work..... were not able to participate and the whole process was left up to the traditional experts in the forestry system.
Guess how this ended up? It is 52 pages long! This standard might work on some 200,000 acre forest somewhere in the world, but here in the Lake States - the timber resource is on small woodlots where this new guideline is totally overwhelming and ridiculous. The experts have done it again!
As time went on, we also saw how FSC and SmartWood were working with big business - corporate America! From the forest owner's point of view, how can lumber be sold at the huge discount stores if all the certification standards are followed....? That does not compute! Get real! Certified wood is different, yet that story is not being told in the rush to get certified wood on the shelves.
We also get lots of call from lumber brokers working this new certified wood angle to try and make a fast buck. And there are the weekly requests for FSC certified wood by the truckload and boatfull, but only at rock bottom wholesale prices. What is really going on here?
Our Wisconsin DNR just printed a big generic feature on all the certified wood programs in their magazine, but little else has been done around here to tell wood users the real story about certification. The demand for certified wood in this region is still basically nonexistent, even after 4 years. We have found little benefit from FSC so far, despite our big investment of time and money. We sell our wood here at Timbergreen Farm as locally produced and having superior quality due to our careful and unique drying process - and can't begin to meet the demand. Word of mouth brings us new customers - not because we were FSC - but because we are the local producer of good wood.
Just to clarify my thoughts - we are very disappointed with the way FSC certification is working out
here: The subsidized certified umbrella controlled by a non-profit organization in the big city, funded by grants, no business experience, no forestry experience, no track record of management work...
(Oh, yeah! They have money so its OK, and their services are free!)
And now - SmartWood recently told Timbergreen that our annual audit would cost me $4,860 to stay
certified. ( my assessment team leader when I became certified guaranteed me that an annual audit
would cost $500-700 ). Even if I could afford to pay that audit fee, I don't think that I would stay FSC certified at this time.
Our customers know what it means to buy wood at Timbergreen. I will not lose a penny!
The cooperatives are being seduced and controlled and confused by non-profit organizations who pay their own professional salaries with funds raised on our ideas and work... they give a few tidbits of money to keep the coops begging for more, they have sold out the original vision to the traditional experts to keep the money flowing.... then the forest owners wonder why they have not made any profit in their cooperative.... go figure! You follow a non-profit and that is exactly what you will get!
One letter this week had the point of view that I should just mellow out - that we are all working for the same goals, just in different ways. It seems to me that both FSC and the sustainable forestry cooperative movement - is under serious attack. Indeed, we are battling the traditional forces in the timber industry that have kept forest owners alone, ignorant, and afraid to manage their forests. If you don't know the real enemy here, you have already been defeated. Forest owners are at war with the traditional system today, whether you know it or not! We have had enough abuse, we now have an alternative!
These are some of the issues that today lead Timbergreen Forestry to take a voluntary suspension of
our SmartWood (and FSC) certification. We will see what happens in the next few months....
While all this sounds like such a bummer - the wood business is really good right now! Just a bump in the road. We are not giving up - we know that this all can work. more