Forest certification is a relatively new development since the 1990's, and deals not with the final product, but the practice of forestry, growth of the product, harvesting of the product, and ecological impacts associated with the harvesting of the product (Klingberg 2003). Forest certification is gaining widespread attention by a variety of stakeholders including state agencies, forest industry, environmental organizations, professional foresters, loggers, government policy makers, social activists, and the general public (Viana et al. 1996; Mater 1999).
Forest certification has been promoted as a tool for broader public acceptance of forest management and for achieving environmental, social, and economic benefits on certified forests (Moore and Cubbage, 2008). The concept of forest certification has emerged as a management tool to attain sustainable forestry using a voluntary market approach rather than a regulatory approach.
Four major 3rd-party certification systems are active in North Carolina. These organizations are the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), Green Tag, and the American Tree Farm System (ATFS). Of the four, SFI and ATFS fall under the Program for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC), the world's largest forest certification umbrella organization endorsing national and/or regional forest certification standards that meet its rigorous sustainable forest management criteria.
The North Carolina SFI's State Implementation Committee website provides state-level information and contacts for that program. The North Carolina Forest Service's Forest Stewardship Program currently offers internal (as opposed to 3rd-party) certification. Efforts are underway to align this program with the North Carolina Tree Farm Program (state-level program of the ATFS) and eventually offer Forest Stewardship Program participants access to ATFS's 3rd party certification benefits.
Regardless of the reasons for NC landowners to enroll in forest certification systems, increased future efforts will be needed in education, outreach, training, and a collaborative effort between resource management agencies, forest industry, NGO's, and natural resource professionals to promote forest certification in North Carolina. Forest Certification may become a more important tool to many forest landowners in NC to demonstrate a commitment to forest sustainability and a long-term dedication to proper management and stewardship of our forest resources. Future opportunities may also exist to expand forest certification systems that incorporate emerging markets in ecosystems services and demand for export timber products. Group certification opportunities through third party organizations may also develop in the future.
Chapter 2(e) ("Conserving Working Forests") of the 2010 North Carolina Forest Resources Assessment provides additional details on forest certification systems and their potential implementation and importance to North Carolina's forests.
Klingberg, T. 2003. Certification of Forestry: A Small-scale Forester Perspective. In Small-scale Forest Economics, Management and Policy. 2(3): 409-421.
Mater, C. 1999. Understanding Forest Certification: Answers to Key Questions. Pinchot Institute for Conservation. 50p.
Moore, S. E. and Cubbage, F. 2008. Forest Stewardship Council Resource Manager Certification: Program Impacts and Prospects. Poster presented at the 6th Association of Natural Resource Extension Professionals Conference, May 19-23, 2008, Madison, WI (abstract published).
Viana, V. M.; Jamison, E.; Donovan, R. Z.; Elliot, C.; and Gholz, H. 1996. Certification of Forest Products: Issues and Perspectives. Island Press, Washington, D.C. 261p.