Sun, Feb

Potlatch Land Gets Green 'Certified' Label

The move to certify wood and paper made from Minnesota trees as environmentally friendly got a push last week, with forests owned by Potlatch Corp. certified by the Forest Stewardship Council.

The move to certify wood and paper made from Minnesota trees as environmentally friendly got a push last week, with forests owned by Potlatch Corp. certified by the Forest Stewardship Council.

Potlatch's 319,000 acres of northern Minnesota forests have been certified by the international organization as managed and harvested in an environmentally sustainable way.

The certification helps Potlatch market its trees and lumber from the trees to wholesalers and retailers that are increasingly demanding the certified stamp of approval.

The actual forest management that certification demands could be important for wildlife, hunters, bird watchers and local communities.

In theory, sustainable forestry and logging have no long-term ill effects on the land, birds or wildlife. And the process of turning trees into products should be good for workers and mill towns, said Dave Dubser, U.S. region manager for Smartwood who conducts Forest Stewardship Council certifications.

Companies like Home Depot, Time Warner, McDonald's and L.L. Bean have promised customers that their products, magazines, wrappers and catalogs come from certified forests.

Potlatch, Minnesota's largest private landowner, will make the announcement today in St. Paul. Company officials say it's the last of Potlatch's 1.5 million acres nationally to be certified under FSC, making Potlatch the only major forest products company in the United States to achieve full FSC certification.

"Right now, it (certified wood) is a small chunk of the market, but we think it's emerging," said Penn Siegel, chief executive officer of the Spokane, Wash.-based Potlatch.

Though Potlatch no longer owns the Cloquet paper mill or Cook board plant, the company still has a major presence in northern Minnesota. In addition to land holdings, the company operates the state's largest sawmill in Bemidji.

Within weeks, Minnesotans should be able to go into stores like Menards and buy Potlatch two-by-fours cut in Bemidji that are FSC-certified and labeled, Siegel said.

Tom Duffus, Minnesota director of the nonprofit Conservation Fund, said forest certification will play an increasingly larger role in helping the Northland market forest products.

"It's going to be about market share for Minnesota and Wisconsin. If this isn't the way the land managers and (timber industry) go, then we are going to lose market share," Duffus said. "Europe is demanding sustainability certification.... The biggest companies that sell the products in the U.S. are demanding it. If they can't get it from our area, they'll get it somewhere else."

Duffus said he recently purchased a new interior door for his house at Duluth's Home Depot store. He shopped for a door with a Forest Stewardship Council label.

"That made me feel better about my purchase," Duffus said. "It's a great door. The price was good. And it had the label."

Forest certification began in tropical rain forests more than a decade ago as concerns mounted over the devastation of many forests because of unscrupulous logging. The idea spread to North America soon after.

Aitkin County was the first major land manager in Minnesota to become certified sustainable in 1997. Since then, other landowners have followed.

"There are very specific, concrete, measurable things Potlatch has done and more changes they'll have make over time," Smartwood's Dubser said, such as leaving environmentally important trees standing. Smartwood will be back every year to make sure Potlatch follows the FSC rules.

To see more of the Duluth News-Tribune, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.DuluthSuperior.com.

Source: Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News