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Pinchot Institute for Conservation Releases National Forest Certification Study Results
Oct 25, 2007
October 25, 2007

National Forest Certification Studies: Overview

In the results of a study released today, forest management practices on several National Forests were tested and found to measure up well against widely-accepted standards for sustainable forestry, although according to auditors' reports several face important conservation challenges. The findings are based on independent third-party evaluations of five National Forests, conducted as part of a two-year study by the Pinchot Institute for Conservation, an environmental policy think tank based in Washington, DC. Enclosed is an executive summary of the study results, and brief background information on forest certification. The full report and other details on the study are available at www.pinchot.org/current_projects/forest_cert/certification.

Forest management on five National Forests was evaluated against rigorous standards developed by the two major forest certification systems currently in use in the US -- the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI). The assessments showed that all five National Forests met or exceeded most of the basic certification requirements of the two systems, but indicated that in some instances there are problems that could affect wildlife habitat, water quality, and other key public values. These included controlling the impacts of off-road vehicle use, preventing erosion and stream sedimentation from deteriorating roads, and taking adequate measures to minimize insect and disease problems and wildfire risks.

These findings suggest that management practices on these National Forests are generally in line with existing certification standards, but that there are some significant conservation challenges that auditors attribute to limits on staffing and resources. Certification assessments often turn up problems that the resource managers themselves are already familiar with.

The Forest Service itself requested that the independent assessments be done, after reviewing the results of certification studies conducted by the Pinchot Institute on other public forest lands across the US. The FSC and SFI certification programs were originally developed to enable consumers to choose wood products from sustainably managed commercial forests. In a series of studies involving both state and tribal forest lands, the Pinchot Institute examined the potential benefits of certification for public forests, finding that the public reassurance resulting from independent assessments was far more important than any increase in market value from wood production.

Whether certification assessments will be extended to include other National Forests has yet to be determined by the Forest Service. Additional questions regarding any aspect of these studies or their results should be directed to Star Dodd at 202 797-6582 (sdodd@pinchot.org) or Allison Stewart, at (202) 205-0896 (astewart01@fs.fed.us )

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