Georgia Forestry Association to Hold Annual Forestry Day at the Capitol
Sunday, January 22nd, 2012
On Feb. 8, the Georgia Forestry Association (GFA) will hold its annual Forestry Day at the Capitol in Atlanta to demonstrate to state policymakers the importance of forestry and related issues to the state's economy. Forestry Day includes a morning of meetings with legislators and regulators at the State Capitol. On the preceding day, Feb. 7, the GFA will hold its winter board meeting at the Omni Hotel at CNN Center followed by a reception for state legislators at the Sloppy Floyd Building in the evening.
"The Legislative Reception and Forestry Day are among the most important events of our program year," said Steve McWilliams, president of the GFA. "It's a great opportunity to thank lawmakers for their commitment to policies that promote healthy forests and private land ownership."
GFA is a trade association representing private woodland owners and forest-based businesses. For more than 100 years, GFA has worked to educate business, environmental and public leaders about responsible forest management practices, reforestation, and benefits derived from forestry and landowner rights. GFA also serves as a resource for its members by keeping them informed of legislative and regulatory issues that can affect the long-term health and value of forested land.
According to the Georgia Forestry Commission, the state's forestry industry had a total economic impact of approximately $27.2 billion in 2009. In 2010 the industry produced $16.9 billion in total revenue and provided more than 48,500 jobs. With 24 million acres of timberland, Georgia ranks second to Oregon as the state with the highest acreage of forest.
Despite the importance of forestry to the state's economy, Georgia regulations do not always promote the use of Georgia wood products. For example, wood sound barriers are cost-effective alternatives to steel and concrete sound barriers, but the Georgia Department of Transportation does not utilize wood structures for this purpose.
"We not only want to promote the use of Georgia wood products, we want to develop state pride in Georgia’s forestry industry," McWilliams said.
Taking Care of Forestry in the 2012 Legislative Session
The 2012 session of the Georgia General Assembly opened on January 12. During the session, the GFA will promote action on several issues impacting the state's forestry industry including:
- Seeking a hearing before the House and Senate Education Committees to review current building codes, which do not allow the structural use of wood in the construction or renovation of state public schools. Georgia is one of only four states in the country that restrict the use of wood framing in school construction.
- Seeking to persuade Governor Deal to issue an executive order to incorporate all nationally recognized green building standards in new or expanded state buildings. The popular Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) certification does not currently recognize equally the predominant forest certification standards used in Georgia and as a result it discriminates against Georgia-grown wood.
- Achieving passage of legislation to exempt from state sales tax the energy used in manufacturing. Georgia is among a minority of states with this type of tax, making it uncompetitive with other manufacturing locations in the U.S. Without the added cost of a sales tax on consumed energy, existing mill and factory locations in Georgia would be better able to compete for capital for upgrades and expansions. This link to an article which appears in the Atlanta Journal Constitution provides commentary on the challenges to getting this done.
The GFA is also pursuing action on issues related to timber theft, income tax credit for replanting trees after a natural disaster and others. Forestry Day presents the first important opportunity to show state legislators the importance of these issues and the forestry industry.
"The GFA lobbying team will be on the ground at the State Capitol every day the legislature is in session," McWilliams said.
More information on the Georgia Forestry Association and Forestry Day is available at www.gfagrow.org.