Forest certification developed as a way to verify sustainable forest management. It is an outgrowth of the desire of many publics in our nation, and throughout the world, to have forest owners and forest managers demonstrate responsible, healthy, and sustainable management of our forests. In the future, certification may be important to maintaining timber markets, local economies, and a forest owner’s ability to manage their forest.
Forest Certification involves:
Review of on-the-ground forest practices against a set of standards that address environmental, social, and economic issues.
Provision of an independent, third party review attesting how effectively current management maintains forest health and productivity, and that there is conformance with certification standards.
Periodic re-verification and re-certification after initial certification.
Voluntary forest certification systems are in place for forest owners and consumers who want assurances that land is being managed sustainably to credible standards. In the US there are two primary certification systems:
Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification schemes (PEFC) is an umbrella organization for the assessment of and mutual recognition of national forest certification schemes. This organization works at the global scale. Under this umbrella, in the USA, are the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) and the American Forest Foundation-American Tree Farm System (ATFS).
SFI Inc. is an independent, non-profit organization responsible for maintaining, overseeing and improving a sustainable forestry certification program that is internationally recognized and is the largest single forest standard in the world. In order to be certified under SFI, a forest owner must be in conformance with SFI Objectives, Performance Measures, and Indicators. The SFI program collaborates with ATFS to provide forest certification on family forest lands.
ATFS has a forest certification standard that applies to small landowners in the United States. The ATFS works to sustain forests, watershed and healthy wildlife habitats through the power of private stewardship by offering affordable forest certification for family forest landowners. Landowners have three options to ATFS certification: Group Certification through State Tree Farm Committee programs, Group Certification through Independently Managed Group (IMG) Organizations, and Individual Third Party Certification.
Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is an independent, non-governmental, not-for-profit organization established to promote the responsible management of the world’s forests. FSC is a certification system that provides internationally recognized standard-setting, trademark assurance and accreditation services to companies, organizations, and communities interested in responsible forestry. FSC has a number of systems in place for smallholders seeking to demonstrate their long-term and careful management practices. Smallholders is an FSC term used to describe those who own, manage or use forests which are considered “small” in relation to others in their region.
Additional information about these systems is available from their respective websites. Forest owners interested in pursuing certification should contact a professional forester in their area.