The Motion is as an outcome of Policy Motion 12 from the 2014 General Assembly that called on the working group to consider challenges and opportunities related to restoration and conversion, as well as the revision of FSC Criterion 6.10.
Criterion 6.10 deals with past conversion and has remained unchanged since February 2012 when the revised FSC Principles and Criteria (V5-0) were approved by the FSC membership. Criterion 6.10 was found to limit conversion to plantations to a very limited portion of the management unit.
Changing the 1994 conversion rule
The core issue is that land remains as forest and is not converted to non-forest uses – thus maintaining a forestry business case, including social and ecological services. Proposals for conversion should be evaluated with key partners, such as governments and communities, to ensure retention of natural forests in the landscape, while facilitating economic, social, and environmental benefits from conversion. This implies relaxing the (arbitrary) norms of the ‘1994’ and ‘5 per cent’ thresholds, and creating a ‘conservation net benefit’ policy instead of the current ‘very limited conversion’ policy.
Many of the world’s production natural forests have been degraded over time, and may no longer be economically productive units. To ensure that the social and environmental benefits of these forests are maintained, FSC needs to be more flexible in relation to the current 1994 and 5 per cent conversion thresholds.
“The conversion of natural forest to plantations has been controversial since the beginning of FSC. Anecdotal information from FSC regional and national offices suggests that there’s potentially millions of hectares of plantation which could be certified if the 1994 barrier could be replaced by requirements for effective compensation by restoration and/or additional conservation,” said Lineu Siqueira, a member of the Motion 12 working group.
He added that in 2014 the FSC membership had requested FSC to fast-track the implementation of Motion 18 from the 2011 General Assembly, which looked at creating a process that balances environmental, social, and economic interests to consider the challenges and opportunities related to restoration and conversion.
“Our motion mandate was to address the loophole in the Criterion 6.10, which I believe we did with adopting a new definition of ‘responsibility’ as ‘accountability’ from the policy FSC-POL-01-004 V3-0 (draft 4-1) [Policy for Association of Organizations with FSC]. We also said that, regardless of ownership, organizations of a management unit are still required to take reasonable measures to mitigate, control, and prevent environmental degradation which is continuing in the management unit as a legacy of activities or neglect by the previous owner,” added Siqueira.
Mr Stuart Valintine, Chairperson of the working group, said it was important for the FSC membership to have continuous engagement and have control over the conversion processes, especially for smallholders
The revised Criterion 6.10 on past, post-1994 conversion is proposed with 11 sub-criteria and 13 associated international generic indicators, plus a decision-making sequence for locating compensatory restoration and/or additional conservation.
Subsistence conversion should be in accordance with a community-endorsed land use plan. Those communities that have converted forest to plantation without a plan, must prepare such a plan and implement it. Likewise, community restoration (to forest) of areas previously converted to plantation should also follow the community plan. “If we as FSC members want to see better forest management, with properly managed compensation for loss and damage caused by conversion, we are urging members to talk to us and vote for Motion 7. This will allow the working group to continue working on harmonizing FSC,” said Siqueira.