Seattle’s Dolphin Safe, “Green” Certified Forests

With any luck, Seattle’s urban forests will soon be certified dolphin safe. That may seem strange, but it would be just about as meaningful as the city recently receiving a forest certification it promises it will never use.

With predictable fanfare, the City of Seattle has announced its urban forests have received certification from the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), stating that  the “Seattle park system meets the gold standard in environmentally friendly forestry.” City Hall’s senior forester Mark Mead noted “The FSC certification helps ensure we are doing the right things to assure a healthy and sustainable forest for Seattle.”

Advocates of the certification say the city can now sell any timber from the urban forests to consumers who want to know the timber came from a sustainably managed forest. FSC and other certification systems are typically associated with working forests where timber is being harvested and sold.

The City of Seattle, however, promises it won’t actually use the certification. “We want to be crystal clear that we don’t have a mandate to sell any timber,” says Mead. In fact, the City is so strident about this position, it promises to never to sell trees, even if they have fallen down. “The certification would allow us to sell it as FSC-certified timber, if we wanted to. But there’s infinitely more value in leaving a tree that falls,” said Michael Yadrick, an ecologist with Seattle Parks.

The certification report, which the City of Seattle paid $2,000 to complete, has little to say about forest management. The top concern of FSC assessors was the fact that “off-leash dogs are causing erosion” and other impacts. This isn’t a forestry issue, but an urban parks management issue.

Ironically, the FSC assessment does make one recommendation that contradicts Seattle Parks’ harvest policy. FSC auditors recommended that Seattle Parks “develop a local procurement policy for building and maintenance materials.” As FSC is telling Seattle to use local timber for building, Seattle is telling FSC they will do everything they can to make sure those local materials don’t come from its own lands.

This is not to say that Seattle Parks should be harvesting, but it highlights how useless it is to use the public’s money and paid staff time to receive certification for timber production the city promises will never occur.

So, why do it? The City of Seattle is quick to admit it is about image. Like so much of our environmental policy, the goal is to cultivate a green image for the city and its politicians, even if the effect of the policy on the environment is zero.

Seattle Parks may argue FSC certification ensures they are managing forests sustainably for the future, even if they don’t produce timber. This, however, is contradicted by the audit report. FSC auditors made no recommendations regarding forest management. The closest they came is when the audit notes Seattle Parks “should give consideration” to creating a range of tree ages in urban forests.

Receiving FSC certification – a certification that added no new knowledge and won’t be used and actually contradicts Seattle Park’s forest policy – is about as useful as receiving a dolphin safe certification. Although, we imagine they will also be concerned about “fecal contamination” from off-leash dogs.

Comments (8)

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  1. Looks like more “feel good” activity from a bloated bureacracy = more wasted tax payer dollars.

  2. Jordan says:

    Wait, so leaving a fallen tree helps the ecology, but dogs aren’t allowed to ‘fertilize?’

    Have to agree with Charles.

    The park systems are lovely, but if you go out into the actual forests of western Washington State, you quickly figure out why it’s the meth capital of the U.S. The forest is full of labs, not all of them abandoned.

  3. Robert says:

    I’m just curious how off-leash dogs are causing erosion. Furthermore, how does the leash prevent this erosion?!

  4. seyyed says:

    yup-an attempt at “green-washing.” waste the taxpayer money on something to make the city seem like its more environmentally responsible without doing anything.

  5. Frank O. Neil says:

    “The top concern of FSC assessors was the fact that “off-leash dogs are causing erosion” and other impacts. This isn’t a forestry issue, but an urban parks management issue.”
    Urban foresters are trained to run recreational parks and timber management … So it is a forestry issue.. that is why they call them URBAN Foresters.

  6. Olive O. Woodesy says:

    Mr. Myers,
    I understand your views on the corrupt marketing values Seattle is pushing to have a greener, cleaner, stamp of approval. The FSC can be used for timber sales as well as BMP’s for non- sustainable environment. The city of Seattle is not a timber industry by all means, but Seattle is at risk of losing 70% of their forested parks in the next two decades. Urban foresters are placing management programs that FSC provides to improve the sustainability of 6% of their public land.
    I do not approve of the slander being placed on the FSC program. If you have problems with Seattle’s marketing techniques; then aim your blogs towards the eco-marketing values that cities are placing to create population trends.
    This may help you out with your views on unleashed dogs and their ammonium deposits.
    http://www.cfr.washington.edu/research.smc/RFNRP/1FFC_Dangerfield_Brix1.pdf
    http://www.petco.com/product/110970/Potty-Patch-To-As-Seen-on-TV.aspx

    • Todd Myers says:

      We have two dogs that we are careful to pick up after, so I understand the problem. When I worked with the Department of Natural Resources we monitored water quality in Lake Whatcom near Bellingham and noticed a spike in fecal coliform. We found that it was caused by a lakeside resident throwing his dog’s poop into the water. I am well aware of the risks.

      But so is Seattle Parks. The FSC audit added nothing new to their understanding about dogs. Nor did the audit add anything to their understanding of forest management. Further, FSC certification will do nothing to protect the forested parks.

      That’s the problem. Seattle spent money on certification not to improve the forests or their management, but to look and feel good.

      Environmentalists should oppose wasting money on things that don’t help the environment. When they don’t, it shows they care more about image than the environment.

  7. Olive O. Woodesy says:

    “God has cared for these trees, saved them from drought, disease, avalanches, and a thousand tempests and floods. But he cannot save them from fools.”

    Environmentalist due waste money just like any other person, I do agree with you there. The idea was to create a substainable management program for Seattle’s parks.

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