Forest Certification

Forest Certification focuses on regenerating, managing, and harvesting forests sustainably to protect soil, air, water, biodiversity, and other forest benefits. The certification process measures existing forest management practices against a set of standards established by an independent certifying organization. These standards ensure forest resources are managed in a way that promotes environmental, social, and economic sustainability. Participation in a certification system is voluntary.

Types of Forest Certification

  • Forest Management Certification. The most common type. Forest land management is evaluated against agreed-upon standards of sustainability and/or responsible forest management. Forest Management Certification can be issued as Standard Certification or Group Certification.
    • Standard Certification certifies a forest management organization or forest owner individually. The property is subject to either a full audit or surveillance audits every year.
    • Group Certification certifies a number of forest management organizations or forest owners collectively as one group or under one professional resource manager who is the Certificate holder. This structure allows for forest certification at a lower cost to individual landowners, since only a small sample of owners’ property is audited annually.
    • Chain of Custody Certification tracks wood from the certified forest to the finished product. This process involves a paper trail from the forest to the mills, manufacturers, and retailers who purchase, use or sell the wood. The finished product may have a logo identifying the certification system, or product invoices and other documentation may bear a certification claim.

Why is it important?

Certification shows others that forest landowners have invested in environmentally sound management and have committed to sustaining their forest resources. People own forest land for a variety of reasons: as an asset for their heirs, for recreation, to maintain privacy, to provide wildlife habitat, and other reasons. Though important, timber income is often a secondary consideration. For many landowners, certification provides a way to measure and demonstrate responsible forest management that has a positive effect on the environment and is consistent with their long-term goals.

Both landowners and manufacturers may also view certification as a means of establishing a competitive advantage in the forest products marketplace. Certification may create opportunities to access new markets, which increasingly favor certified forest products. For example, green building gives preference to certified wood products and this market is growing in popularity. Increasing numbers of publishing companies and retailers prefer to buy certified wood products, and retailers anticipate that the demand for certified products will increase. For landowners, certification can ensure market access to area mills that supply certified forest products to manufacturers and retailers. Certification also provides the required documentation of sustainability for the emerging carbon credit market, a potential new opportunity for landowners.

Because certification principles are designed to protect and enhance natural resources, certification can improve wildlife habitat, water quality, and other benefits important to landowners. Input from natural resource professionals in the certification process can be a valuable part of improving various nontimber benefits.

Become Certified

The general process involves initial discussions, a pre-assessment, field inspection and verification, obtaining a certification status, and follow-up audits. Once certified, less intensive audits occur periodically as required by the certification system.

What is the background?

The management of America’s forests has been debated for more than a century. Forest certification emerged as a pressing issue in the 1980s, amid increased concern over rapid tropical deforestation. In 1988, several environmental groups encouraged the International Tropical Timber Organization to apply some type of labeling system to easily identify timber harvested from sustainably produced tropical forests. In 1992, as part of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (also known as the Earth Summit) Agenda 21 Forestry Principles were created to address sustainable forestry. While this formal, governmental process of developing standards for sustainable forest management was under way, forest certification began to take shape through other nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) as well. In 1993, the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), a voluntary nonprofit organization, was formed with a coalition of environmental organizations and forest product companies. FSC eventually developed standards for forest management based on 10 principles. In 1994, the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) began to develop and implement certification principles mainly for lands owned by major forest industries. Since then, more than 50 forest certification systems have been developed, many as national certification systems for specific countries. In the United States, four systems account for most of the certified forests.

Last modified: Thursday, 06-Nov-2014 10:18:08 EST