Tuesday, 17 January 2023
Engaging Stakeholders in Northern California
Certificate holders are at the core of the FSC system, building markets for products from responsibly managed forests. In many respects, FSC views these organizations as our primary customers, without whom we would not exist.
To better understand certificate holder challenges and opportunities, FSC US President Derik Frederiksen and Senior Manager for Forest Management Certification Markets Tom Kain spent a week in northern California late last year. With forest managers, manufacturers, and retailers, they listened closely for ways to improve the FSC system to lower costs and increase value.
The week started in San Francisco with sales and sustainability staff from Williams Sonoma, Pottery Barn, and West Elm. As buyers of forest products, they are in a powerful position to support FSC-certified forests in key sourcing regions around the world. Williams-Sonoma, Inc. recognizes FSC as the gold standard in responsible management, which translates into growing demand for FSC-certified wood. For example, West Elm more than doubled its FSC wood use in the past five years to 45% overall.
The second day of the tour brought a visit to Mendocino Redwood Company (MRC), which is both an FSC-certified chain-of-custody sawmill operator and forest management certificate holder. The sawmill tour included a focus on the constant investment MRC is making on both the technology and human aspects of the operation to increase recovery, production, and safety. Derik and Tom also heard about the challenges of striving to be a world class manufacturer, innovator, and leader in sustainability.
On the next day, the tour focused on Collins forestlands in the Chester area. Due to a large snowstorm, the forest tour was limited to what could be seen from the roadside. The area was heavily affected by large fires over the last several years. It was powerful to hear about the impacts of the Dixie Fire in particular, including the personal stories of those who lived through it; Derik and Tom were moved. The recovery and restoration effort will span many years due to both the size of the project and the capital required to prepare and plant such a large area.
The following day the team headed to Arcata to tour an FSC-certified forest managed by Green Diamond. Tom was particularly excited about the visit as he had worked on the property after graduation from Humboldt State University (now Cal Poly Humboldt). The tour focused on innovative ways to apply pesticides to control competing vegetation. In Tom’s day, aerial spraying was common; today, targeted hand application of pesticide around individual seedlings is used. Later that evening, FSC hosted a reception in Arcata to meet with local leaders.
On the last day of the trip, Derik and Tom met with FWS Forestry in Redding to discuss the challenges of opening size restrictions and pesticide application following large stand replacing fires. Another topic included the lack of a markets for small diameter or poor-quality timber, which can make it a challenge to keep the forest healthy, fire safe and thriving.
While these trips take a significant amount of time to plan and implement, they are invaluable to learn about the challenges and successes of FSC forest management and chain of custody certificate holders. As FSC US refines its strategies, these onsite visits will continue to be critical to provide real-time intelligence from the forest managers and mill operators who know their markets the best. In the year ahead, FSC plans similar visits to the Southeast and the upper Midwest.