The designation applies to all state-owned forestlands outside the Adirondack and Catskill parks - about 762,900 acres. This status has been awarded to only 10 percent of the world's forests and only a few American states.
"At first blush, saying you manage a 'green' forest might sound redundant. But it's a designation few have earned," said Grannis. "We're very proud of this recognition. It not only validates the state's efforts to practice forestry in an economically, environmentally and socially-responsible way, but also adds value to our forest products."
State-owned forests previously had been certified but certification lapsed several years ago following a period of cutbacks in the department. When he assumed leadership of the DEC in April 2007, Commissioner Grannis made a goal of regaining the designation.
Green certification is not only a validation of management practices, but similar to the organic label on grocery products, certified forest products can carry a stamp or imprint that increases their value in the marketplace.
New York state-owned forests annually generate about $5 million in revenue from the sale of forest products such as lumber, furniture, flooring, pulpwood, particle board and paper products including envelopes, greeting cards, catalogs and other products.
Interest in certified products has been growing and there are now roughly 80 green certified paper or wood businesses in New York, ranging from paper mills to printers to flooring suppliers.
"A majority of our state forests were acquired over 75 years ago, not as healthy forests but as abandoned farmland with depleted soils and serious erosion problems," said State Forester Robert Davies. "The recognition we are receiving is due to the support of Commissioner Grannis and the dedication of the department's past and present professional forestry staff."
"Forests are key to keeping our air and water clean, conserving biodiversity, and helping ameliorate the impacts of climate change," said Albert Caccese, executive director of Audubon New York, the state program of the National Audubon Society. "Sustainable forest management can provide habitat to many species of birds and other wildlife, and also support the economies of rural communities."
The green certified status was granted by third-party independent certification auditors NSF-International and Scientific Certification Systems, who assessed the state's forest practices and forest management plan against the standards set by the Forest Stewardship Council, FSC, and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative.
These independent, nonprofit organizations establish forest-certification standards to guide forest management activities on lands across the country. Auditing of New York forests began in the summer of 2007.
To make the grade, a state must meet strict measures in nine categories, including sustainable practices of cutting and planting, forest health, and biological diversity, as well as soil and water protection.
The auditors found that New York excelled in protecting mature forests, limiting the impact of invasive plants and insects, identifying and protecting imperiled species and using easements to conserve working forests.
"The State of New York is joining rare company - only 10 percent of the world's forests are certified. The state has taken a true leadership role in managing our forests for future generations while meeting the needs of the marketplace," said Kathy Abusow, Sustainable Forestry Initiative chief executive. "Today's announcement demonstrates the State of New York's commitment to the environment by taking this important step to support and promote responsible forest management."
Robert Hrubes, Scientific Certification Systems senior vice president, said, "Conformity with the rigorous FSC standard assures the public that New York State is practicing exemplary forest management."
Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2008. All rights reserved.