On July 8, 2010, the U.S. national office of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC–US) announced the launch of the revised FSC-US Forest Management Standard for forest operations in the contiguous U.S. The revised standard has been approved by FSC International which requires all accredited forest management standards based on its 10 Principles and 56 Criteria to undergo a review and consider necessary revision every five years.
The revised US Standard marks the end of a three year review and revision process concentrating on the myriad environmental, social, and economic values associated with forests and forest products. The revised standard harmonizes nine regional standards into one national standard to reduce complexity and improve efficiencies in the management and auditing process. Regional variation is maintained in key areas of forest management and conservation where local conditions, including forest types and ecological processes, warrant different management techniques.
FSC governance and procedures for standards and policy setting are founded on stakeholder collaboration and transparency. FSC firmly believes that exemplary forestry can only be defined by direct participation from diverse environmental, social, and economic groups and the values they place on forests and forest products.
“FSC is a uniquely democratic space for environmental, social and business interests to debate forest management issues,” stated Scott Paul, Director of the U.S. Forest Campaign at Greenpeace and FSC-US Board member. “FSC continues to be the gold standard for forest certification.”
The new standard retains key environmental, social, and economic concepts from the regional standards, but improves consistency and clarity in application. The distinguishing hallmarks of FSC certification remain intact in the revision, including old growth protection, restrictions on conversion and clearcuts, restrictions on chemical use, and consultation with community groups, and protection of indigenous people’s rights.
The revised standard is available for use immediately and all forests seeking FSC-certification but not currently FSC-certified should be evaluated to this revised standard. Those forests that are currently FSC-certified will have until October 8, 2011 to be in conformance to this standard.
What’s New In The Revised FSC-US Forest Management Standard
Consistency of a single national standard. The new US National Standard harmonizes the expiring nine regional standards into one national standard, while still maintaining regional variation in key areas of forest management and conservation. In our 2007 standards review, environmental, social, and economic chamber stakeholders, as well as the Certifying Bodies, all agreed that one national standard would eliminate unnecessary complexity and improve efficiencies in the auditing process. The new FSC-US Forest Management standard retains regional variation where necessary to address local environmental and social conditions.
Assurance of on the ground results. The new standard comes with guidance statements that clarify the goals of the requirements and suggested tools for achieving them. These guidance statements are intended to encourage clear and consistent application of the standard. FSC-US is committed to further developing tools and providing guidance on existing tools to help land managers understand and implement requirements in the standard.
Accessibility for Family Forests. FSC-US has developed a modified set of requirements that addresses challenges faced by small and low intensity managed forests. This allows for family forests (and other ownerships qualifying as small or low intensity) to be evaluated for FSC certification using a standard that takes into account the scale and intensity of small forest management operations.
The Family Forest Indicators are designed to reflect that certain FSC criteria (such as the capacity for forest management to affect local economies, larger social conditions, and large scale ecological processes) may not apply to family forests individually. Additionally, the certification procedures take into account the potential cumulative impacts of multiple family forests in close proximity on these same issues. In some cases new indicators have been developed to address conditions unique to small ownerships.
What Does Not Change In The New Standard
The FSC-US Forest Management Standard captures the same key environmental, social, and economic concepts that the regional standards previously captured:
- Exceptionally high restrictions on conversion of natural forests to non-forest uses or plantations;
- Strict limitations on clear cuts for forest types that do not experience similar, natural disturbance regimes;
- Old growth protection;
- Restrictions on the use of highly toxic pesticides;
- Requirements to protect rare species in addition to those that are state or federally listed as threatened or endangered;
- Evaluating and managing for social impacts, and providing for local community benefit;
- Consultation with indigenous and community groups prior to any management that might affect their rights and resources.
(Images courtesy of FSC)