FSC Launches Standard Development Process for US Forest Service Lands

The Forest Stewardship Council US has recently launched a project to consider additional indicators that would define FSC certification on lands managed by the US Forest Service.

Because the Forest Service oversees many beloved lands, it is required to manage for a range of values, including water, recreation, wildlife and timber. And due to the special nature of these lands, FSC certification of US Forest Service lands has not been possible to date. In fact, US federally managed lands are the only land type in the entire FSC system globally that are not currently eligible for certification.

To this point, FSC has required two thresholds be met in order for the US Forest Service to pursue certification: 1) willing landowner participation; and 2) additional indicators that address resource management and other issues unique to federal ownership.

In August 2013, Chief Thomas Tidwell of the US Forest Service submitted a letter to FSC US indicating the agency is a willing landowner, which satisfied the first threshold. The FSC-US Board of Directors has now approved initiation of the second threshold.

The outcome of this project will be a set of indicators that supplement the FSC-US Forest Management standard for evaluating lands managed by the US Forest Service.

At this point, it is not at all certain if the US Forest Service would choose to pursue certification. The scope of this project is entirely focused on the additional indicators a National Forest would need to meet to achieve FSC certification, and any actual certification is outside its scope.

To move forward, a chamber-balanced Working Group has been established to provide technical expertise to the process, and a Steering Committee will provide oversight. The FSC-US Board will have to approve the indicators as the national governing body, and the FSC-International Board is required to give final approval. The first meeting of the Working Group is scheduled for mid-December and the project is expected to take approximately one year to complete.

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