Sustainable Forest Management Certification
Third party forest certification is a positive private sector innovation and one tool used to verify and enhance sustainable forest management. However, the United States federal government neither mandates landowners in the United States to become certified, nor does it have the mandate to oversee and verify the numerous certification schemes. Moreover, the federal government carefully avoids policies that would favour one certification system over another.
In this context, forest certification is viewed as an independent activity to be undertaken at the sole discretion of the state and/or individual forest owner (Vogel 2008, Moore et al. 2012).
Some states and individual landowners have self-selected to certify their state and private lands. Most large corporate forestlands are certified.
There are three major forest sustainability schemes currently in use in the United States. All are recognized by Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC).
Approximately 20 percent of United States timberland is currently certified under one of these systems, with the large majority of the certified land being private land (AF&PA 2016. Note that acres may be certified under multiple systems).
- The Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI). SFI certifies approximately 60 million forest acres in the U.S., focusing primarily on larger firms. (Note: SFI reports a total of 280 million acres certified in North America and does not report U.S. specific numbers in its annual business report and related documents. The 60 million acre total for the U.S. is estimated from AF&PA (2016)).
- The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). FSC currently certifies approximately 35 million forest acres in U.S. as being sustainably managed and provides multiple U.S. companies with CoC verification.
- American Tree Farm System (ATFS). ATFS is a non-profit organization explicitly designed to provide certification and CoC services to smaller firms and land-owners in the United States. ATFS certifies approximately 22 million acres in the U.S.
Registration and Licensing of Harvests, Operators, and Buyers
- Every State uses a mix of voluntary and mandatory programs directed at registering, licensing, and/or certifying operators and professionals engaged in forest management, timber harvesting and the buying/selling of timber products. (Seneca Creek Study).
- In addition, private companies, State agencies, and professional societies, such as the Society of American Foresters, sponsor voluntary certification practitioner programs such as the Certified Forester program and Master Logger Program.
- One of the main ways to identify legal timber from private lands in the United States is documentation showing assurance of legal ownership of the lands or use rights pertaining to where the harvest took place. In addition, the purchase contract between the owner and the buyer are relevant documents.
Forest Contractor Education and Training Programs
Assessment of Lawful Harvesting & Sustainability of U.S. Hardwood Exports
American hardwoods are legal, sustainable and have low environmental impact. Learn more on the American Hardwood Export Council’s resource page.