Angie Poss, Duncan News Leader and The Pictorial, July 2, 2005

A Kinsol mountain woodlot is poised to become the first in the Cowichan Valley and the second on Vancouver Island to gain a prestigious environmental certification.

EcoSelect Timber, operated by Susan Paul and her husband David Pumple, has been given a preliminary nod for certification by the Forest Stewardship Council.

Two foresters and a forestry planner from Ecotrust Canada, which assesses operations for FSC certification, reviewed the woodlot in early June. The woodlot has been recommended for certification, which will be confirmed in August.

"It was a very intensive two-day process of going through all my documentation and all of our plans for managing the woodlot … and in particular our relationship with First Nations is particularly important," said Paul.

Despite the rigorous work of certification, it gives confirmation of the techniques the couple has been using since it took over the second-growth timber stand through the province’s woodlot licensing program eight years ago.

"We’re managing for the community and First Nations as well as the environment and valuen added," said Paul.

"I’ve been practising ecoforestry on the woodlot for all these years because
I believe it is the highest standard."

The EcoSelect woodlot is managed with selective harvesting in smallpatch cuts. Wetland areas are given larger than normal setbacks, special consideration is given tohabitat on a part of the woodlot on the top of Kinsol Mountain and portions are made available for First Nations ceremonial use and gathering of traditional medicines.

The 800-acre woodlot’s annual cut of 1,000 cubic metres is small compared to similar-size operations. But by focusing on custom manufacturing and high-end, value-added products, they make a more efficient use of wood, generating more jobs per cubic metre, said Paul. She hopes the FSC certification will strengthen ties
between their operation and consumers.

Retailers like Home Depot are increasingly feeling pressure from their customers to provide a more environmentally friendly option, said Donovan Woollard of Ecotrust

"They want to be able to demonstrate to their stakeholders that their procurement standards are not negatively impacting the areas their products come from," he said.

FSC certified products are also increasingly popular among developers looking for Green Building Certification. Some operators are motivated by ecological or community-minded reasons but as the system matures there will be people in it purely for market advantage," said Woollard.

Paul sees EcoSelect’s market share growing as the demand for ecologically responsible products increases to levels found in Europe.

It may boost business but certification is costly. The last group to be certified in B.C. spent an estimated $11,000 up front and continues to spend $3,000 to $4,000 each year.

To reduce costs for small operators, Ecotrust Canada is itself seeking certification from the Forest Stewardship Council. If that happens, the organization can later add operations to its certification, giving woodlot and other forestry companies the advantages of certification without high costs.

Woollard hopes that will encourage more certifications on the Island.