3 May 1996

Timber bodies fall out on standards

By TonyMcDougal

TIMBER chiefs are at loggerheads with environmentalists over rival certification schemes to promote sustainable forestry in the UK.

The Timber Growers Association (TGA) claims the Forestry Stewardship Councils (FSC) decision to refuse to accept British government standards is adding costs to woodland owners and jeopardising projects.

It claims backers for a charcoal project using timber from neglected woodland in East Anglia have had to pull out because retailers would not take it unless it is certified as being from well managed forests under the FSC scheme.

Mark Crichton-Maitland, TGA chairman, said the FSC process – which was set up after the 1994 Earth Summit in Rio – requires additional checks to be paid for by the woodland owners.

He said these duplicated the existing regulatory arrangements enforced by the Forestry Authority and added significant extra costs. He also claimed environmentalists had hijacked the major multiples.

Lord Lindsay, Scottish farm and forestry minister, backed the TGAs stance. Speaking at their annual meeting in London, he said Britains forests were already acknowledged to be world class.

"Imposing a second set of standards does not make sense. It would confuse growers and customers, and may discourage owners from planting woodland."

Emma Youde, FSC information officer, said there was a need for an international scheme to standardise world timber quality in countries as diverse as the UK and Malaysia.

Ms Youde said the Soil Association had been given the duty of signing up forestry owners to the FSC certification scheme – which was set up by the World Wildlife Fund. So far, just two landowners, involving 400ha (988 acres) have signed up.

However, Prince Charles has looked at incorporating the scheme within his Duchy of Cornwall woodlands and at Sandringham.

&#8226 Two further projects within the Woodland Improvement Grant Scheme were launched by Lord Lindsay last week. One is aimed at bringing woodlands back into production, with funding going for selective felling, respacing and rhododendron control. The second will be for work to enhance the biodiversity of ancient semi-natural woodlands.