The Truth About Clearcuts

Mass Timber and CLT: Green or Greenwashing?

Cross-laminated timber (CLT) and mass timber are billed as a solution to climate change, but is the wood coming from the same old clearcuts?

The good.

When made from small-diameter wood from thinning projects that restore native forests and old-growth on public lands, CLT and mass timber can help encourage forest restoration. If made from wood obtained from sustainable sources, such as Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)  certified private timberlands, CLT and mass timber can encourage landowners to adopt more sustainable practices.

The bad.

CLT and mass timber can just as easily be made with wood from clearcuts, or even from old-growth logging. In fact, Oregon’s one operating mass timber facility is sourcing its wood from clearcuts. There is no requirement in  Oregon that CLT and mass timber products be made with wood from FSC-certified private lands or from restoration thinning projects on public lands.

The World Resources Institute released a report last year on mass timber finding that "using wood in construction is likely to increase emissions for many decades, even relative to using concrete and steel."

The ugly.

Millions of dollars in public money are being used to subsidize CLT and mass timber building projects in Oregon. With no requirement that the wood used to make CLT and mass timber come from sustainable sources, taxpayers are simply giving away money to companies engaging in the same old clearcut logging.

Some terms and certifications are used to greenwash ecologically damaging logging practices. Certification from the Sustainable Forestry Initiative has come under fire for misleading sustainability claims and has been condemned by a large coalition of local and national environmental groups. Projects labeled "regeneration harvest," "eco-forestry," and "climate-resilient forestry" are other terms for clearcutting public lands forests.

These clearcuts on public lands in Oregon are being used for a mass timber project

What can be done about it?

Climate-related regulations in Oregon must take forest climate into account and limit carbon emissions from clearcut logging of young plantations.

Any taxpayer dollars subsidizing CLT and mass timber building projects should come with a requirement for real sustainable forestry practices, not as a giveaway for the same old clearcuts.