Selling forest products that have not been certified is becoming increasingly difficult. Forest certification is a process that verifies whether your forest management, including timber harvesting, is environmentally appropriate, socially beneficial, and economically viable. This process assures consumers that the forest products they are buying were obtained from well-managed forests. The primary certification systems in the United States are those offered by the Forest Stewardship Council, the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, and the American Tree Farm System.
To qualify for forest certification, you typically must:
The process of certifying your woodland requires an independent evaluator (a professional forester) who has no personal stake in your property to review your management plan and inspect your woodland. You pay a fee for this service. If you do not meet all of the certification criteria, you can make changes in your planning, record keeping, and management activities to comply. In some states an association of loggers has trained and certified loggers to harvest timber in a sustainable manner. Under some certification systems, if such a logger harvests timber from your land in compliance with certification standards, the wood harvested from your land will enter the marketplace as certified wood. This is a low-cost means to sell certified timber without the expense of arranging a professional review of your comprehensive plan and inspection of your woodland.
Many public and forest industry lands in the Lake States are certified. Relatively few family forests are certified because of the inspection and compliance costs. These costs can be reduced if you join other landowners in a cooperative to share in the certification process. Since some paper mills, sawmills, and large retail lumber distributors have made commitments to purchase and sell mainly certified wood products, there may be opportunities in the future to earn more for your certified stumpage and, therefore, justify the cost of certification. For timber to enter retail markets as fully certified, all handlers must follow a chain-of-custody process to track the wood from the stump to the retail market.
Certification is a voluntary process for landowners, but demand is growing rapidly for certified wood so certifying your woodland or timber harvest may give you a marketing advantage. Contact a forester for more information about certification opportunities in your state.