Decorative hardwood veneer (unlike most other materials) is a regularly renewable worldwide resource. As a 100% natural product it is also recyclable, biodegradable, non-toxic and energy efficient. Its natural cycle of growth/absorption is a key element in reducing CO2 within the atmosphere, thereby mitigating the “greenhouse” effect and that of ozone depletion.
Veneer is also recognised as the most economical method of utilising timber. As an example, the timber used to manufacture a standard solid 50mm door would provide veneer to clad more than 45 doors of the same size. Our industry has traditionally demonstrated and encouraged the preservation of this valuable natural resource by optimising its decorative use to the fullest visual and economic effect.
The environmental issues of sustainability and ecological management have evolved to represent a significant and important consideration to us all. Clients now look for reassurance that we source raw materials responsibly – and, in the absence of a globally recognised system of certification or labelling, this requires personal review and verification. Our policy of visiting our global suppliers and inspecting both material and records is a measure of our commitment to a responsible, sustainable industry.
The sustainable managed sources within Europe and North America, governed by strict domestic regulations, are rapidly being joined by other developing areas throughout the world and whilst the harvesting of veneer logs represents less than 2% of total logging activity, the same strict international legislation demanding the recognition of CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) now regulates our log suppliers worldwide.
NORTH AMERICAN FORESTRY & RELATED ENVIRONMENTAL LAW
Lack of Certification Does Not Imply Lack of Sustainability
In the case of American hardwoods, the forests are themselves living proof of sustainability. The US Federal government has seventy years of national forest inventory data to provide ample evidence that the resource is thriving.
To take just one headline statistic: over the last half century the volume of hardwoods standing in US forests has increased by over 90% while the area of American hardwood forests has increased by 18%.
Detailed supporting information is available at the USDA Forest Service website.
Facts & Figures
Around 73% of hardwood forest land in the United States is privately owned, often by families whose ownership stretches back several generations. There are approximately four million private forest owners with an average lot size of 20 hectares. It is usual for a sale of hardwood logs to occur only once, perhaps twice, in any landowner’s lifetime. Timber sales are a low percentage of lifetime expected income for these owners, so even a significant increase in timber and veneer values (which at present does not occur with certification) provide no real incentive for owners to achieve certification. The lumber and veneer that an American hardwood mill supplies to its customers will often come from thousands of these small landowners – and next year it will be an entirely different group.
There can be no doubt of the sustainability of the American hardwood resource, which reflects the effectiveness of the existing regulatory framework on the federal and state levels, the natural resilience of the American hardwood forests, and the nature of forest ownership. The dominance of small non-industrial forest owners makes independent forest certification difficult, however from a sustainability perspective it is a considerable strength, creating a strong link between US rural communities and their forests.
North American Forestry & Environmental Laws Under Which Our Veneer Suppliers Must Operate
Supplies of hardwood logs which include Walnut, Maple, White & Red Oak, Cherry and other North American species originate mostly from the North Appalachian region of the United States and south eastern part of the Ontario Province of Canada. Some logs may also originate from north western New Brunswick and in some cases overseas. In all cases the law of each territory regulates every purchase made by our supplier.
In the case of the United States, our supplier may buy logs sold at auction by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Those sales are regulated by the Forest & Rangeland Renewable Resources Planning Act 1974, 16 USDA 1601 (as amended by the National Forest Management Act 1976).
Our supplier also buys from private forestland owners, whose operations and sales are subject to the regulation of the National Environmental Protection Agency (NEPA) as well as the State Timber Laws in the United States which are based on guidelines recommended by the Co-operative Forestry Assistance Act 1978, 16 USCA 2101.
Most of the NEPA and state regulations include the obligation and guidelines for the production of sustainable forest management plans by forestland owners as well as reforestation activities. NEPA authorities must approve all forest management plans.
In the Canadian Province of Ontario recently approved legislation by the Ontario Government regulates logging activities and log purchase. The New Forest Act 171 (Legislative Assembly of Ontario) – Act Providing Sustainability of Crown Forests, was approved in December 1994 and amended the existing Crown Timber Act. Both forest management and reforestation regulations are defined within the said law and associated rules of application.
In New Brunswick, Canada, all log suppliers are subject to the Crown Lands and Forest Act as well as other reformed forestry regulations.
The New Brunswick Ministry of Natural Resources & Energy claims to have the toughest forestry legislation in Canada.
All supplies originating from overseas and abroad, including the United States and Canada are subject to CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of wild flora and fauna).
In the absence of a globally recognised system of certification the above examples of legislation can be explored further via the internet and demonstrate a general commitment to sustainable forestry with each legislative body looking to promote and retain natural resources.
Environmental concerns within our market place are real and important issues. The Richards Veneers group of companies will continue to monitor developments within the field of certification, regularly visit our suppliers to inspect their production and continue to work closely with them and our clients to source good quality veneer from well managed forests at a realistic price.