Third-party certification can help forest owners

To the Editor:

The best way to keep private forestlands in forests is to have an economic environment that makes the timber on these lands valuable enough to encourage landowners to continue to manage their forests and receive a decent return on their land. This requires viable markets for lumber, pulpwood and other wood products in the region. In these tough economic times, timber and pulpwood markets are fluid throughout the country and in our region as well. Forest landowners who want to improve their position in today’s fluctuating markets may want to consider third-party certification.

Third-party forest certification is basically where an accredited organization, usually an independent nonprofit organization, certifies that the landowner is properly managing their land for natural resource sustainability, following applicable laws and regulations, and adhering to a written management plan guiding the management into the future (usually a ten year plan). All of these certifying organizations have standards that must be met in order to qualify in their particular program.

Third-party forest certification is a relatively new development in timber markets and it is uncertain whether a landowner will receive a premium price for “certified” timber. However, I believe it is wise to investigate forest certification because some forest product companies, including some in Western North Carolina, welcome “certified sustainable” timber to attract customers who want to claim they are utilizing products sourced from these lands. While you may or may not receive a premium price, depending on market conditions, you may get preferential attention and more competition for your timber when you decide to harvest timber on certified lands.      

Landowners who want to pursue forest certification have several choices of organizations to negotiate with in order to achieve valid certification. I believe that the American Tree Farm System is the best choice for private landowners. It is the oldest certification program in the world – beginning over 70 years ago – and relies heavily on trained volunteer natural resource professionals to accomplish its certifications, inspections, etc. As a result, there is currently no charge for their certification or inspections. I don’t know of another certification program that is free.  

Also, the American Tree Farm System certification is recognized by some other sustainable forest interests as meeting their standards, including the North Carolina Forest Stewardship Program, US Natural Resource Conservation Service and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (an international certification program).

You can learn more about the American Tree Farm System first hand by attending a free day-long workshop (including lunch) that will be held in Brasstown on Sept. 15 at the Brasstown Community Center. You can find out more about the workshop and the American Tree Farm System in North Carolina by going on the Internet to Click on the “Workshops” feature for specifics on the Brasstown Workshop. You can register for the workshop by calling the Clay County Extension Office at 828.369.6305 to reserve a spot.

Steve Henson

NC Registered Forester #496

Haywood County

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