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Are there acceptable methods to verify that a forest is sustainably managed?

A number of third-party certification programs exist to verify forest management methods. In the United States, standards for forest management include the American Forest & Paper Association's Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) and the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). At present, FSC is more broadly accepted among environmental groups, while SFI is evolving in ways that may improve its acceptance among those groups. - Victoria Mills, Project Manager, Corporate Partnerships, Environmental Defense

LISTENING STUDY: Some responses reference the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) as a credible way to verify sustainability.

In addition to its participation in the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), Boise expanded its forest stewardship program in 1999 to include an additional, comprehensive set of forest management objectives entitled Boise Forest Stewardship Values and Measures. Boise incorporates compliance with the Forest Stewardship Values and Measures and SFI standards into all of our forest management plans and programs. Boise retained PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, an internationally known business services firm, to provide a series of third-party forest management audits assessing Boise's implementation of and compliance with SFI and our own standards. Boise's certification program has two unique features. First, our customers are invited to accompany the independent audit teams into the forests to observe their work. Second, Boise has also established a Forest Stewardship Advisory Council of nationally known conservation experts who participate with Boise foresters in reviewing audit results and recommending changes. - Boise Cascade

The Natural Resources Council of Maine is working to promote voluntary, third party forest audits that will ensure Maine's forests are managed so that they protect the timber supply, ecological health of the forest and economic health of our communities. The independent Forest Stewardship Council in the ONLY audit and certification program currently available that the public can trust. The industry-controlled alternative is like letting the fox guard the chicken coop. - The Natural Resources Council of Maine

Third party certification of a recognized sustainability standard such as the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) is a good way to verify sustainable forests and harvests. - International Paper

Georgia Pacific's Wood and Fiber Procurement Environmental Strategy addresses several key areas including harvesting practices, wildlife habitat, private landowner leadership, public land management and facility management. Georgia-Pacific foresters demonstrate Sustainable Forestry in Action through third-party verification of wood procurement practices under the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI). - Georgia Pacific

LISTENING STUDY: Other responses indicate that the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) provides a reliable method of verifying sustainability.

Basic monitoring of forest resource conditions can be used to determine whether forests are managed per my definition of "sustainable forestry".
     Currently, the best system for determining if commercial forests are "well-managed" is the independent certification system of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). The FSC is the only forest certification system in the US that:
- Is governed at all levels by an equal balance of environmental, social, and economic interests.
- Is consistently and sufficiently independent from the companies being certified.
- Has a primary emphasis on performance standards for "on-the-ground" outcomes, vs. open-ended "system-based" standards.
- Explicitly addresses a broad range of environmental, social, and economic concerns.
- Prohibits conversion of natural forests to ecologically-impoverished plantations.
- Requires protection measures for old growth forests.
- Requires management for other natural forest attributes and ecosystem function at meaningful levels.
- Requires consistent chain-of-custody monitoring system to track certified products from the forest to point of sale.
- Daniel Hall, Forest Biodiversity Program Director, American Lands Alliance

The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is a scheme which issues certificates for well-managed forests and was created to provide the means for corporate buyers and the public to identify products coming from responsible forest management, with the aim to create the economic incentives for wider application in the market place.
     Ecologically responsible forest management such as that required by the FSC, seeks to ensure that the ecosystem of the forest is not damaged and only low volumes of trees are extracted. The impacts on the plant and animal life in the forest from this method of logging are minimal. Greenpeace is a founding member of the FSC and is active in its development at both the international, national and regional levels. - Greenpeace

Certification systems that verify management to the above (sustainable forest management) definition. So far only the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) meets all three parts of the definition. - Robert R. Bryan, Forest Ecologist, Maine Audubon

We consider Silva Forest Foundation's certification standards to be acceptable, as well as some national and regional standards developed under the Forest Stewardship Council system. - Susan Hammond, Executive Director, Silva Forest Foundation

Logging destroys forests when practices such as clearcutting large areas, removing too many large or old trees, building roads, and polluting streams damage a forest ecosystem to the point where it can no longer regenerate itself. But the use of sustainable forestry practices can ensure that an ecosystem remains intact and can be logged periodically for years to come. The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) uses input from environmental, science, and business interests to determine sustainable logging practices for different forest areas based on each ecosystem's characteristics.
     The FSC system sets rigorous standards based on environmental, social, and economic criteria, and independent third-party auditors evaluate forests based on these standards. Products that come from forests that receive FSC certification are allowed to bear the FSC symbol so that consumers can identify the products as having come from well-managed forests. You can show your support for sustainable forestry practices by purchasing items - from furniture to musical instruments - that bear the FSC logo. - Co-op America 2001

The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) process is necessary but not sufficient. - Frank Locantore, Co-op America

LISTENING STUDY: Other responses do not reference a specific standard or scheme.

Criteria and indicators provide a means to measure, assess, monitor and demonstrate progress towards achieving sustainability of forest management in a given country or in a specified forest area over a period of time. Certification, on the other hand, is an instrument used to confirm the achievement of certain predefined minimum standards of forest management in a given forest area at a given point in time.
     One way of demonstrating that a particular forest is being managed sustainably for wood production purposes is through the act of third-party certification. A number of international, regional and national forest certification schemes now exist. - Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations 2000

Third party certification to a credible forest certification standard can be a tool to verify that a forest is sustainably managed. - Stora Enso

Yes, but they vary with those doing the "accepting." Moreover, given how much is not known about ecological integrity, verification methods must be conservative. - Michael Snyder, Forester

LISTENING STUDY: Some researchers are studying and comparing the effects of different certification schemes.

UPM Plans Forest Certification Field Tests: UPM has announced it will begin parallel certification field testing of forest certification schemes in three different countries this summer: Finland, the U.K. and Canada. Testing will be done on company owned and managed land between national schemes and international PEFC and FSC schemes. WWF International will act as an observer in the project.
     The results of the test will open an opportunity to improve different national certification standards and to get them accepted by a broad base of stakeholders. With this initiative, UPM wants to promote the increase of certified fibre globally. Based on these test results, UPM will further develop its worldwide forestry and wood sourcing practices and promote the development of credible certification schemes in the countries it operates.
     "Through parallel certification field testing we can evaluate the benefits of different schemes," says Jaakko Sarantola, senior vice president, Forestry and Wood Sourcing. "At the moment there is strong competition between the schemes and this has caused confusion in the international market. Testing will tell of our willingness for continuous improvement and at the same time will provide an opportunity to compare the different schemes equally."
     "WWF welcomes this initiative. Together with the recently announced other ongoing assessments of certification systems at national level in Europe, the results of this test will form a solid basis for defining thresholds for credible certification which are understandable by all stakeholders in the certification debate. We are particularly keen on this initiative, which will allow us to learn and develop the certification processes further," says Duncan Pollard, the Head of the European Forest programme at WWF International.
     In Finland and the U.K., the testing will be carried out on company owned land, which is currently certified to national forest standards (FFCS and UKWAS). In Canada, the testing will be carried out on provincially owned forests managed by the company. The Canadian forests are certified according to the North American SFI scheme. In all countries the comparisons will be made with PEFC and FSC, and in Finland with both the Swedish FSC and draft Finnish FSC.
     There are currently more than 50 different certification schemes worldwide, but only less than 5% of world's forest resources are certified. UPM is committed to several national and international certification schemes through its own guidelines. UPM strongly supports the mutual recognition of forest certification schemes that have comparable standards for sustainable forest management. UPM sees that forest certification is one tool to confirm that the fibre used in its products comes from well and sustainably managed forests. - UPM press release, reported on, June 23, 2004

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