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Readers' Letters: Best forest practices must be the goal

Your recent article about forest certification (Pulp fiction?, Sustainable Life, Aug. 15) missed important facts about the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI).

First, SFI is an independent organization governed with equal representation from conservation, economic and social stakeholders. You cited Forest Stewardship Council’s supporters, but did not report that SFI’s board of directors includes representatives of The Conservation Fund, Ducks Unlimited Canada, Bird Studies Canada, the Manomet Center for Conservation Studies, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, several academic foresters, and the state forester of Maryland.

Second, the notion that an FSC-labeled product indicates the product comes from land in which clear-cuts have been restricted to “six acres” is inaccurate. FSC actually has no clear-cutting restrictions over at least 45 percent of the land certified to that standard, including in Russia, Sweden, Brazil and parts of Canada.

On conversion of forestland to other uses, there is no significant difference between SFI and FSC. Both require participants to exclude lands slated for development from certified areas.

On chemical use, the SFI Standard requires use of chemicals to be the least toxic and narrowest spectrum pesticides and herbicides to achieve forest management objectives and to use integrated pest management wherever feasible. Meanwhile, FSC has granted at least 74 exemptions for companies to use “FSC-banned” chemicals, which leaves consumers in doubt about the veracity of FSC claims to forbid these chemicals.

SFI also promotes responsible forestry in many ways other than through the standard: through our chain of custody and certified sourcing labels; by investing in conservation research; by working directly with communities to promote sustainable practices; and through the innovative Forest Partners program.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, the National Association of State Foresters and other authorities have said the SFI, FSC and other credible certification programs all can be accepted as evidence of sustainable forestry. The reason that “academics and government foresters are avoiding the fight,” as your article put it, is that they know that the differences between SFI and FSC are insignificant compared with the need to promote responsible, science-based forest practices, regardless of the specific approach.

Kathy Abusow

Sustainable Forestry Initiative Inc. president/CEO

Washington, D.C.

Merkley must keep eye on abuse of EPA

This is an open letter to U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley:

I, like many of my fellow Portlanders, am deeply troubled by the use to which the Environmental Protection Agency has been put by career politicians and revolving-door consultants in the matter of our water. I know that you are well aware of the situation, and that you have stated that you will take no action over the heads of our city commissioners led by Mayor Charlie Hales.

However, on your website you reaffirm your commitment to Oregon’s rich and long tradition of conservation, such as what our Bull Run Watershed and sustainable gravity-fed reservoirs represent.

Therefore, surely you ought to balk at the very idea of construction of the planned ultraviolet treatment plant at the very headwater with its threat of mercury contamination. This is to say nothing of the blending of pure Bull Run drinking water with polluted water from the Willamette River and radioactive water from the Columbia River, a Superfund site.

In a recent news release about aluminum speculation, you stated, “Nothing gets an Oregonian madder than messing with our Oregon beer, and that’s just what Wall Street is doing.” Portland boasts many of those fine Oregon breweries, and they depend on the excellent quality of our Bull Run water to make those beers.

While we already pay some of the highest water rates in the country, the planned unnecessary construction projects will cost us 40 to 50 percent higher water rates over the next five years, by the bureau’s own projections. That must, just as with the aluminum issue, result in higher prices on our excellent and noteworthy local beers.

For these and many other reasons, we the citizens of Portland are asking that you hold a town hall meeting in Portland in the month of August to open up the issue to constructive debate.

In the past, I have been a staunch supporter of the mission represented by the EPA, but I now have cause to question its legitimacy if such abuses go not merely unanswered but unquestioned. Please do your just duty and act in this grave and troubling matter.

K.S. Harkey

Southwest Portland