I’ve been thinking about the value of certification for all lands, including public lands, as we finalize SFI’s submission to the U.S. Forest Service, which is inviting views about whether U.S. national forests should be certified. (If you want to send in comments, the deadline for submissions is this Monday, Nov. 17, and the website with all the details is http://www.fs.fed.us/projects/forestcertification/index.shtml)

It’s clear to me that certification is a valuable tool for all forest managers, regardless of who owns the land and how the forest is being used – whether it is for water quality, conservation objectives, timber production, recreation or research. You only have to look at the list of SFI program participants to recognize that certification lets managers consider multiple uses and options for the forest.

Governments are important players in ensuring forests are well managed today for future generations, and U.S. national forests are a great example of public lands that would benefit from certification. The study by the Pinchot Institute for Conservation commissioned by the USFS showed the benefits of certification for national forests, and SFI Inc. welcomes the study and the USFS’s open and thorough response.

The USFS mission statement is to “to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the Nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations.” This mission is achieved under sustainable multiple-use management.

Third-party forest certification can help Forest Service managers meet their goals, and SFI’s single standard makes it a lot easier for an agency like the USFS that manages lands across the country. It provides a common framework, with objectives, performance measures and indicators that can be tracked and compared to improve planning, practices and reviews in a consistent and comparable context.

SFI has other advantages when it comes to public lands – from our open complaints process to regional SFI Implementation Committees that help to improve practices on the ground, train forest professionals and address questions about practices.

Two-thirds of the 150 million acres of SFI-certified lands in North America are publicly owned. Obviously, a lot of this is in Canada where the vast majority of forestland is publicly owned. But a quarter of the SFI-certified land in the United States is also in public hands – our program participants include state agencies from Maine to Indiana to Washington.

Of course public lands are not the same as private lands. That’s why the SFI 2005-2009 Standard has specific requirements around public lands – there’s more emphasis on public involvement and program participants must participate in land and resource management planning. I fully expect this is an area we will be examining in our review process leading to the SFI 2010-2014 Standard (you’ll soon be hearing more about our regional workshops early in 2009)


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