Forest certification for Small Ownerships
Forest certification for small ownership usually involves
- a landowner (or other entity) who requests that lands they own or
manage be “certified”
- an established certification system with defined criteria or standards
for forest management (often accredited by a national or international
- an independent auditor who is hired by the requesting landowner/organization
to compare the actual forest management practices , through documentation
and on the ground, with the system’s requirements. Forest areas
that have been found to have been managed to meet a particular standard
are said to be “certified” under that system.
Most (but not all) certifications up to now have been conducted on large
private or public forest ownerships. Opportunities for certification
of smaller ownerships under a variety of systems are available, however,
and new certification systems are under development.
The primary benefits of certification for the landowner may include:
- a successful certification audit provides independent assurance to
a landowner that their land is being managed well
- the certification process often reveals ways to improve the overall
forest management (these may or may not affect whether the land “passes” the
- forest products – especially sawlogs or pulpwood) from land
or operations which are certified are often be sold to buyers who are
interested in certified wood. Prices have not been shown to be substantially
different for certified wood, but it appears that certified wood is
sometimes preferred by some buyers.-
Landowners can take one of several routes to become certified - these
involve ensuring that forest management planning/activities meet the
standards of a particular certification system:
- Individual Property Certification: Landowners can have their land
assessed directly under a particular certification system. This is usually
prohibitively expensive for small landowners, since they bear all the
costs directly for hiring an independent auditor and having a certified
- Group Certification: Landowners can certify their land by joining
a group of landowners that is already certified. Existing “certified
groups” may include anywhere from a handful of landowners to
several hundred. Landowners can join several types of groups:
- Certified Resource Manager: Landowners can hire a particular
consulting forester or firm whose forest management approach has
been independently certified; their certification applies to all
of their clients who choose to enter the certified group;
Group Manager: Landowners can join an organization (often a nonprofit,
trust, or community organization) which has an independently audited
forest management program, and which acts as “group manager” to
provide services and conducts ongoing reviews. The group sets
standards and process to assure participating landowners that their
lands meet the certification standard.
Periodic re-certification audits of such “group” schemes
usually only involve a sample of the participating lands, though
all participants are considered certified.
- Certified Harvesting: Landowners who intend to harvest wood
can hire a certified wood harvester or enter a harvest verification
program to certify a particular harvest operation. Standard harvest
planning and implementation under such systems have been certified
by a third-party process. Under this approach harvested wood may
be marketed as “certified”,
though the land itself may not considered to be certified.
Certification by any of these routes has requirements which often involve
costs to forest landowners:
- Maintaining a high level of management, such as
- having comprehensive forest management plans prepared and regularly
- hiring a forester to plan and/or supervise forest harvesting or
However these requirements/costs may be comparable to any long-term
forest management program.
- Membership in a group and adherence to its management approach. This
can sometimes include fees which some, though not all, certified groups
charge. Fees may be annual or periodic.
- A certification audit of a single parcel involves considerable requirements;
most small landowners will not take this approach since it is generally
the most costly.
Costs may be borne directly or indirectly by the landowner, and can
range from quite small to relatively costly.
Certification is voluntary – it is not a set of laws or rules
about how lands must be managed. However, most certification systems
include a requirement that applicable land use laws are being followed.
Once enrolled in a certification scheme, landowners generally are not
severely restricted in how they manage their lands, as long as sustainable
forestry practices are used, important natural resources are conserved,
and adequate documentation is maintained. Documentation is generally
a primary responsibility of the group entity.
Forest certification is similar to the “certification” of
various products under the Good Housekeeping seal of approval, or based
on certain energy efficiency standards. It basically is a way of verifying
independently that certain claims about a product are true. Another example
is the certification of foods that are grown organically. In forest certification,
the claim that forests are well-managed or sustainably managed is the
claim which is being independently verified.
For more information about forest management in Maine, how to certify
your land, finding certified foresters and/or certified groups, and other
options for land management, please contact Maine Forest Service at 1.800.367.0223
(in state only), or 207.287.2791, or email email@example.com.