Certification of Forest Management

Forest management certification can be seen as a way to verify the quality of the management operations by an independent third party. Forest certification was set up as an instrument to transfer costs of sound forest management from forest owners to consumers. It can function as an economic incentive to producers and consumers that commit themselves to a more responsible use of natural forests (Upton and Bass 1996).

The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) was founded in 1993 to promote good forest management by evaluating and accrediting certifiers by encourag ing the development of national and regional standards of forest management and strengthening national certification in developing countries. The FSC has declared ten principles and criteria; these are: (1) compliance with laws and FSC principles; (2) tenure use rights and responsibilities; (3) indigenous peoples' rights; (4) community relations and workers' rights; (5) benefits from the forest; (6) environmental impact; (7) management plan; (8) monitoring and assessment; (9) maintenance of high conservation value forests; and (10) plantations (Higman et al. 1999). Their principles and criteria direct attention to environmental, conservational, non-timber production, and social objectives, more than to the sustained production of timber; yet the certification scheme to provide consumers with reliable information about the source of forest products is centered on wood (Dawkins and Philip 1998). The FSC global principles and criteria are being adapted into regional and national standards worldwide in order to incorporate locally appropriate interpretations of performance standards. Once endorsed by the FSC Board, the local standards can be used by FSC-accredited certifiers when working in those regions (Higman et al. 1999).

However, certification of forest management does not necessarily guarantee sustainability. Rather, it provides effective and credible independent proof that the forest is being well managed, and presumably this will result in sus-tainability (Higman et al. 1999).

Although the cost of certification may not be expensive on a per hectare basis (Upton and Bass 1996), financing a certification scheme can be difficult when cash flows are precarious. An additional difficulty lies in finding staff with sufficient training to carry out certified forest management operations. If prices for certified wood do not compensate the cost of certification, there is little incentive to certify. However, there are non-financial benefits to certification. The certification process often serves as an interface between research, forest policy, and management. In Costa Rica and Guyana, for example, certification has served to link forestry research and policy. In these two countries, the process of choosing a certification scheme and developing a national certification standard and forestry policy was built upon existing research (Louman et al. 2002).

The C & I for sustainable forest management can also be used to define the criteria for certification of forest products. Certified products are more appealing to consumers concerned about the environment and often sell for better prices. In addition, some forest owners often pride themselves on practicing sustainable forest management and certification of forest products is a standard way to demonstrate sustainability.

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