March 6, 2006

Forest certification process becomes more accessible to small-scale operators

Three community-based forests across Canada have received Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification from the Rainforest Alliance's SmartWood program. Their certification confirms that the process need not be exclusive to large companies and/or tracts of forest.

"These small-scale certifications are the new wave-they show that certification is both accessible to, and beneficial for, forests of all sizes," said FSC Canada vice-president Martin von Mirbach.

Canada has almost one-quarter of the world's certified forests (16.6 million hectares, or 41 million acres). Although the majority of these are large industrial operations, small operators are rising to the challenge.

Ecotrust Canada is the proud owner of the first FSC forest certification in British Columbia under that province's recently approved "small forest" standard. This group certification covers two operations and 757 hectares of evergreen forest on coastal BC.

"Many small-scale forest managers on Vancouver Island have been practicing sustainable forestry, but haven't been able to financially justify the extra step of getting FSC certified," Doug Hopwood of Ecotrust Canada explained. "Through an FSC Group Certificate, the Vancouver Island Ecoforestry Group has been able to cut the costs and boost the economic benefits of FSC certification. We are now working to market this certified wood to local manufacturers and the green building industry," he said.

On the other coast, the Nova Scotia Landowners and Forest Fibre Producers Association has put in place a group forest management certification that meets the rigorous FSC Maritime standard.

"We believe that our work on the ground, as part of the FSC system, is providing a guiding light for sustainable forestry and communities in our region," said the Association's Kingsley Brown. "Our Association initiated silvicultural practices that ensure the productivity of our forests for future generations and have paved the way for other small landowners to achieve the world's highest forest certification standard," Brown added.

As the recipient of the third certification, Silv-Econ, based just north of Toronto, has become the first forestry consulting firm in Canada to receive an FSC Resource Manager Certification. Responsible for initially putting three landowners and 220 hectares under FSC forest management, Silv-Econ has also worked closely with the York Regional Forest, the only FSC-certified municipal forest in Canada.

"Our goal at Silv-Econ Ltd. is to demonstrate leadership in sustainable forest management," said company representative David Puttock. "Our Resource Manager Certification provides assurances to woodlot owners that their forests are being managed to the highest standards of sustainable forestry. Certification also provides important standards for conserving and protecting the ecology of sensitive woodlands, such as those found on the Oak Ridges Moraine, while managing them for multiple benefits."

Domestic market demand for FSC-certified wood and paper products is experiencing rapid growth within Canada and internationally. Initiatives fuelling this growth include Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED(tm)) green building projects and strong commitments by the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, the city of Vancouver, the municipality of Waterloo, Public Works and Government Services Canada and others. These commitments mark an opportunity for small forest operators to respond to the markets demand for demonstrably sustainable forest products.

The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is an international non-profit organization founded in 1993 to promote environmentally sound, economically viable and socially beneficial management of the world's forests. FSC's members represent environmental and social organizations, forest and derivative industries, indigenous people's organizations, community forestry groups and certification bodies around the world.

The Rainforest Alliance seeks to protect ecosystems and the people and wildlife that depend on them by transforming land use practices, business practices and consumer behavior. The Alliance's SmartWood program was founded in 1989 to certify responsible forestry practices and to date has certified more than 69 million acres worldwide. SmartWood is the world's leading FSC forest certifier. Since April 2005, FSC-certified forest area in Canada has tripled.

More information is available from Maia Becker at FSC Canada, 416) 778-5568, ext 25, E-mail, Web site, Alexandre Boursier of the SmartWood Program (Rainforest Alliance), 514/768-0257, E-mail, or Jennifer Vogel of the Rainforest Alliance, 646) 452-1972, E-mail, Web site

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