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Newsletter Stories

Thursday, 18 July 2019
Smallholder Access Program (SAP) pilot seeks to make FSC certification more accessible

July 18, 2019

The Rainforest Alliance, Forest Stewardship Council, and a consortium of forward-minded forestry companies have launched the Smallholder Access Program (SAP), a two-year FSC pilot project to increase forest certification for woodlands under 250 acres. The SAP will be available to landowners across Southern and Central Appalachia, encompassing parts of Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia. In its pilot phase, the SAP will be limited to a total enrollment of 7,400 acres (3,000 hectares). The SAP aims to enrich the ecological health and economic productivity of the region, one of the world’s most vital wood baskets and a biodiversity hotspot.

Corporate partners in this innovative pilot include Avery Dennison, Columbia Forest Products, Domtar, Evergreen Packaging, Kimberly-Clark, and Staples. The SAP was developed by the Appalachian Woodlands Alliance—a project of the Rainforest Alliance—with the support of FSC US and FSC International’s New Approaches for Smallholders and Communities Certification program, and extensive input from corporate partners, academic research institutions, landowner groups, and forestry professionals.

Nearly 60 percent of the forestland in this region is privately owned, representing a critical resource for the forest products industry. But for many landowners who harvest timber from their property once every 40-60 years and rely on natural forest regeneration in the interim, the value of certification rarely justifies the costs and long-term commitment required. As a result, this landowner segment has historically avoided forest certification programs, and the influence that they have on forest management decisions. For forest products companies in the region, this represents a missing resource for FSC-certified wood and fiber.

In response, the SAP has established a set of critical indicators and uses rigorous auditing specifically tailored to the realities of small family forests in the Southern and Central Appalachians. Over the next two years, the SAP will pilot a modified approach to FSC forest certification for owners of small woodland parcels, improving access to responsibly sourced wood from family forest owners.

“It is time to make FSC more relevant for the wide array of family forest owners,” said Corey Brinkema, President of FSC US. “We are committed to reinventing our approach for this key landowner group, and the SAP provides a test of a model that we hope will yield fruitful results for forest health and landowners.”

The SAP pilot will be formally operated by AWA partners Evergreen Packaging at their Canton, North Carolina mill, Columbia Forest Products at their mills in Old Fort, North Carolina and Craigsville, West Virginia, and the University of Kentucky’s Center for Forest and Wood Certification, with concurrent monitoring by the AWA, FSC, and technical experts in addition to the required auditing. All these partners have a long history of FSC certification and stewardship across the region.

Pending the success of the Smallholder Access Program, the principles behind the approach may be applied in other locations in the US and around the globe, with the intention of making FSC certification more available and relevant to smallholders in other regions.

For more information, visit the Appalachian Woodlands Alliance website.