RESTON, VA - Forest product and forestland certification are rapidly gaining recognition in the marketplace as vehicles for rewarding responsible forest management practices. More than 250 million acres of forests are certified around the world under the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) standard. Despite the growth in forest certification, it is often difficult for small ownerships and family forests to participate.
"Family forests are an important part of the landscape and provide critically important ecosystem services, such as carbon sequestration, water quality protection, and wildlife habitat," says Corey Brinkema, president of FSC-US.
At recent meetings held in Minneapolis, the FSC-US undertook the next steps for expanding family forest certification opportunities in the United States.
"In the U.S., almost 60 percent of the forests are privately owned and it is important to include these lands in forest stewardship efforts," says Kathryn Fernholz, executive director of Dovetail Partners and secretariat for the FSC Family Forests Alliance, a collaborative group that is advocating for expanded access to FSC certification opportunities for small privately owned forests.
The FSC is the fastest growing global forest certification program and the only one endorsed by the world's leading environmental and social non-governmental organizations. In the United States, the FSC has developed a Family Forests Program to ensure small landowners will be able to receive the benefits of FSC certification and sell their products under the FSC label.
"Our Family Forests Working Group was brought together to complete a process of reviewing the existing FSC certification standards and to offer recommendations on how to more effectively engage small landowners," says Brinkema.
The FSC-US's Family Forests Working Group includes representatives from the FSC Family Forests Alliance and other stakeholders.
"My hope, and the hope of other working group members, is to use our many years of experience working with family forest certification, and the lessons we've learned to help make the program work better for everyone while still maintaining the high standards that are expected of FSC certification," says John Gunn of the Trust to Conserve Northeast Forestlands, an Alliance core organizer.
Additional meetings of the working group are planned in May 2008, and a public review and comment period will be announced later this summer. The full standards review and approval process is anticipated to be completed before the end of the year.
For more information, visit www.familyforestsalliance.org.
About Forest Stewardship Council
The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is a nonprofit organization devoted to encouraging the responsible management of the world's forests. FSC sets high standards that ensure forestry is practiced in an environmentally responsible, socially beneficial, and economically viable way. Based in Reston, VA, FSC-US is the U.S. National Initiative of FSC International, based in Bonn, Germany. To learn more, go to www.fscus.org.
About FSC Family Forests Alliance
The FSC Family Forests Alliance has been created to provide a national mechanism for bringing together individuals and organizations committed to promoting responsible forest stewardship through FSC standards. By creating a forum for communication, cooperation, and information sharing, participants in the Alliance can pursue issues of common interest, learn from one another, and enlarge the community of landowners and small businesses practicing responsible forestry.