Ownership & Certification
Criteria: Ownership & Certification
Data Source: USDA Forest Service, ATFS, SFI, FSC
Ownership Last Updated: February 2019
Certification Last Updated: November 2019 – January 2020
The criterion was designed to provide insights into timberland being utilized by the forest product supply chain, while also illuminating the use of certification, particularly on family-owned forest lands. Specific to your geography of interest, Forests in Focus displays information on:
- Acres: Timberland acres (in counties within the selected assessment areas(s))
- Ownership: Timberland owned by private, family forest owners* (in counties within the selected assessment areas(s))
- Certified Timberland:
- Total acres of ATFS, FSC, SFI and Dual FSC/SFI (within each of the selected state(s))**
- Percent of family forest owned timberland certified to ATFS (in counties within the selected assessment areas(s))
The Ownership & Certification criterion allows users to visualize the extent of certification adoption within the geography of interest.
It complements certification by identifying possible correlations between sustainability performance and certification, while also indicating key areas for certification expansion. Whereas forest certification verifies the use of specific practices on individual parcels of forests, the Ownership and Certification criterion assesses how management on both certified and uncertified lands MAY influence sustainability at scale. This approach is more commensurate with the scale of sourcing for brands, forest product companies and others.
* The term ’family forest ownership’ is synonymous with the US Forest Service FIA ‘family and individual ownership’ category.
The Ownership & Certification criterion uses data from the US Forest Service’s Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) program, the American Tree Farm System (ATFS), the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and the Sustainable Forest Initiative (SFI). Family forest owned timberland acres (from FIA plot data) and certified acreage estimates were summarized and reported at the county (or in some instances, supercounty) level. Information at an assessment area level includes any counties within or intersecting, the 50-mile mill sourcing radius. In the case of individual counties with fewer than two owners, data is reported in aggregated “supercounties”. This helps to ensure that the privacy of landowners is protected, while also addressing methodological errors that might result from small sample sizes. Since ATFS certification is exclusively for families and individuals, Forests in Focus also provides information on the percentage of family forests that are eligible for ATFS certification. This is done by creating a ratio of ATFS certified acres, reported at the county level, to the total estimated acres of family or individual owned woodland reported in FIA. Because SFI and FSC certified acres are only reported at the state level, finer levels of analysis are not available for these certification schemes.
Background Information on Certification
Forest management certification is a widely used approach designed to promote the use of good forest management practices and recognize products from well-managed forests in the marketplace. Each forest certification scheme has a set of forest management standards for implementation at the parcel level, which are then audited by third-party auditors.
The three forest management certification systems include:
- The American Tree Farm System (ATFS) is a forest management certification system designed specifically for family woodland owners in the United States. ATFS is internationally endorsed by the Programme for the Endorsement for Forest Certification (PEFC). ATFS is a program of the American Forest Foundation (AFF), an organization committed to delivering conservation impact through the engagement of family landowners.
- The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is an international certification scheme with a US-based organization and set of standards. FSC-US includes a general forest management standard and set of indicators adapted for small lands. The FSC Controlled Wood Standard minimizes the risk of using wood products from ‘unacceptable’ sources in FSC-labeled products. FSC is an independent, non-profit organization that sets standards under which forests and companies are certified.
- The Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) is a North American certification scheme with an industrial standard, which is internationally endorsed by PEFC. The SFI Fiber Sourcing Standard promotes responsible forestry practices in sourcing. SFI is an independent nonprofit that collaborates on forest-based conservation including through forest certification standards.
Possible Data and Analysis Limitations
The FIA methodology we utilize is designed to support an understanding of the nation’s forest resource and to support observations about trends at different scales. As with any analysis, there are statistical limitations to results, especially at finer scales. FIA data plots, for example, may not be evenly distributed across a landscape, affecting statistical reliability due to small sample size. Furthermore, several states including Wyoming, New Mexico and Nevada were not included in the Forests in Focus assessment, as the FIA data was insufficient to provide calculations consistent with the other states.