Making FSC Certification Work For Smallholder Forests

The Appalachian Woodlands Alliance suggests a novel approach that provides access to FSC for smallholders while maintaining the values, rigor, and confidence of FSC claims.

By Andrew Goldberg, Appalachian Woodlands Alliance Project Manager, Rainforest Alliance

Smallholder forest owners continue to struggle in accessing the benefits of Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification of their forests. Over the last two decades, organizations and procurement officers for forest products companies committed to responsible forestry practices and sourcing have invested heavily in efforts to bring “family forests” into the FSC program, mainly through group certification. Despite persistent efforts, this exceptionally important group of stewards remains overwhelmingly excluded from the FSC system.

Through different processes including initiatives being discussed here at the General Assembly, our community is revisiting how certification of smallholders could become more accessible.  One such example is the Appalachian Woodlands Alliance (AWA), a collaboration between the Rainforest Alliance, Avery Dennison, Columbia Forest Products, Domtar, Evergreen Packaging, Kimberly-Clark, Staples, and the U.S. Forest Service, which proposes a novel approach to certification of woodlots less than 100 hectares in the southern and central Appalachians of the United States. The AWA initiative combines a point-of-harvest verification of site-level indicators, combined with a regional assessment of other pertinent FSC principles and criteria to establish conditions where a confident claim of responsible forest management can be made.

As in many critical forest regions globally, small landowners contribute tremendously to the forest products industry. Recent data indicates that between 50% and 90% of wood supply for major forest products companies in the Appalachian region comes from forest parcels under 100 hectares. Group FSC certificates work well for some landowners (those with larger holdings or with more intensive management), but new tools and methods are critical to bringing the benefits of FSC to smallholders.

The model presented by the Appalachian Woodlands Alliance demonstrates it is possible to find solutions that include these “family forest” smallholders while holding the line for integrity of the certification and maintaining important conservation values.

To learn more about the AWA, please join Andrew Goldberg at the Local Learnings, Global Transformations session on Monday morning from 9:30 – 11 am in room SPB 2.