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Forest Conservation: Responsible Trade

Forest Certification and The Nature Conservancy

In “working forests” that are privately owned and harvested for their timber — those forests that lie beyond national parks and other protected areas — forest management can be compatible with biodiversity conservation. In these forests, The Nature Conservancy uses forest certification to ensure that harvesting is carried out in an ecologically sound and socially beneficial manner.

Forest certification:
  • Is a market-based, non-regulatory conservation tool designed to recognize and promote responsible forest management.
  • Through certification, timber harvest planning and practices are evaluated by an independent third party according to standards that address environmental protection as well as social and economic welfare.
  • In most cases, wood is tracked through the “chain of custody,” the path taken by raw materials from the forest to the consumer, including all successive stages of processing, transformation, manufacturing and distribution.
  • In the marketplace, certified wood and forest products may be labeled so that businesses and consumers can choose products derived from responsibly managed forests.

Forest certification creates a unique connection between local forest management practices and global purchasing decisions. It holds the potential to transform international forest trade and to help conserve forest ecosystems around the world.

Since its development in the early 1990s, forest certification has come to be recognized as the leading market-based conservation initiative, doing more for forest conservation than any other tool in the past 15 years. Around the world, several hundred million acres of forest have been certified. Nearly 60 forest certification systems operate around the world, most of them designed for country-level application.

FSC Certification

The Nature Conservancy strongly supports the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) as the standard that addresses ecological issues most comprehensively and has the potential to bring the biggest gains to biodiversity around the world. A global certification system headquartered in Germany, the FSC promotes environmentally appropriate, socially beneficial and economically viable forest management. More than 220 million acres of forest operations in more than 82 countries have been FSC certified. The Conservancy is working with partners to see that number increase to 300 million acres by 2010.

FSC-certified products can be labeled according to the percentage of certified wood in a given product line. Products that are 100 percent reclaimed and recycled can also use the FSC label. New FSC guidelines verify legality and that the wood was not harvested from an uncertified High Conservation Value Forest, an area of social conflict or on a plantation that was recently converted from a natural forest.

  • The Nature Conservancy is an FSC-certified land manager.
  • Many Conservancy-owned and -managed working forests are FSC-certified.
  • Our forest conservation projects in Bolivia and Indonesia use FSC to combat illegal logging.
  • In Canada's boreal forest, we use FSC's High Conservation Value Forest assessment process to identify important ecological areas within managed lands.
  • Nature Conservancy magazine is printed on FSC-certified paper.
  • Our goal: 300 million acres of forest FSC-certified around the world by 2010, much of it in tropical countries.

FSC has changed the international dialogue around forest management and has led to improved management on hundreds of millions of acres. But the percentage of certified wood reaching global markets still represents a very small fraction of international forest products trade — only four percent by some counts. The Nature Conservancy aims to increase demand for FSC-certified products by helping U.S.-based corporations move toward certification in their paper and wood products procurement.

Other Forest Certification Standards

In North America, The Nature Conservancy has also worked with other forest certification standards.

Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI): A North American standard originally set up by the American Forest & Paper Association as a "Code of Conduct" for the U.S. forest products industry in the early 1990s, SFI has evolved into a certification system with third-party verification and improved standards. Currently, more than 133 million acres are enrolled in SFI. In the past six years, The Nature Conservancy has been instrumental in integrating biodiversity considerations into SFI standards.

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