MINNEAPOLIS—The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) has launched a revised 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 all necessary revisions every five years.
“The revised standard captures the on-the-ground practices that represent genuine forest stewardship and provide the foundation for FSC-certified forestry in the U.S.,” said Corey Brinkema, president of FSC-US. “The completion of this effort, coupled with accelerating adoption by American retailers and manufacturers, provides a fantastic opportunity for promoting the values of both forest stewardship and FSC with the American consumer.”The new standard marks the end of a three-year review and revision process concentrating on the myriad of 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.
As Ed Korczak, CEO and executive director of the National Wood Floor Association (NWFA) noted, the revised standard has a direct affect on the hardwood flooring business. “The changes in FSC-US impact our industry. While all the modifications in grouping standards applicable to the entire U.S. are important and recognize the uniqueness of domestic forests, accessibility for family forests has the most direct impact on wood flooring.
“Since 80% of all hardwood forestland is owned by families holding less than 100 acres,” he explained, “this accessibility change will greatly help the NWFA Responsible Procurement Program (RPP) and the FSC Procurement Group increase the amount of FSC hard- wood forests.”
What’s new in the revised standard? According to Brinkema, the consistency of a single national standard, for one. “The new 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 standard retains regional variation where necessary in order to address local environmental and social conditions.”
Also crucial in the new standard, he noted, is the 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 the various requirements in the standard.”
Brinkema also agreed with Korczak in that accessibility for family forests is a key part of the new standard. “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.”
According to Neil Poland, president of Mullican Flooring, “It appears the changes will be a step in the right direction. However, the real value of the revision will be found in the details.”
Industry consultant, Jason Grant, principal of Jason Grant Consulting, believes the impact of the revised standard on the wood flooring industry “is positive insofar as it should facilitate the growth of FSC supply in the hardwood region, and this, in turn, will make it easier for wood flooring manufacturers to develop FSC-certified product lines and grow sales to those segments of the market that preference them.”
Because there is more consistency and clarity across regions, Grant noted, “the new standard should tend to make things easier and more predictable for wood flooring producers who may be looking to source FSC-certified raw materials from multiple hardwood-producing regions.”
Grant also agreed with Korczak, noting that “the new standard contains indicators and guidance on family forests that will tend to assist the NWFA RPP’s FSC Procurement Group, which is working to overcome barriers to the FSC certification of family forest lands in the hardwood region.”
Mike Jani, an FSC-US board member, standards committee member, and chief forester of the Humboldt Redwood Co. and Mendocino Redwood Co., said, “It would be an understatement to say that FSC’s standards development process, which brings together diverse perspectives and oftentimes conflicting interests, is challenging. How ever, it’s a necessary undertaking to capture a true balance of values. The result is a standard that is challenging yet functional for forest managers and a market- place label that consumers can trust to represent outstanding forest management.”
The new standard retains key environmental, social and economic concepts from the regional standards, but improves consistency and clarity in application, noted Brinkema. “The distinguishing hallmarks of FSC certification remain intact in the revision, including old growth protection, restrictions on con- version and clearcuts, restrictions on chemical use, 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,” concluded Brinkema. “Those forests that are currently FSC-certified will have until Oct. 8, 2011 to be in conformance to this standard.”
For more information on the revised FSC-US standard, call 877.372.5646.