NEW HAVEN - Alan Robertson, a tree farmer and Vermont Woodlands Association board member, returned from a two-day visit to Washington, D.C., last week to urge U.S. Senators Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders, and Rep. Peter Welch, to put Vermont's forests to better use commercially.
"Every 1,000 acres of private forests supports an average of eight jobs-that's more than 3.6 million made-in-America jobs nationwide," Robertson said. He provided a briefing to the news media following his meeting with Vermont's legislators.
Robertson joined 30 other area forest owners as well as staff from the American Forest Foundation on Capitol Hill.
The meeting covered a number of issues that are important to ensure that forests continue to provide multiple benefits such as building and other wood-based products, biomass products, clean water, and plantings for carbon-reduction. The State of Vermont is more forested in 2010 than it was in the late 1800s.
Among the issues discussed was the U.S. Green Building Council's policy that Roberston claims discriminates against family owned forests and forest products.
"Right now, the council only recognizes FSC-certified wood-60 percent of that wood is imported. This hurts family forest landowners and the U.S. economy. What's more, by encouraging the use of concrete and steel instead of wood, the council is ignoring locally grown, sustainable wood that is more energy efficient and a renewable resource," Robertson said.
The group also discussed the importance of helping families keep their forestland intact through changes to estate tax policy for working forests. High taxes also work against family forestry.
It was unknown how Vermont's two senators and congressman will respond legislatively, through new programs or tax breaks, to support more forest-product development.