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Tuesday, 18 February 2014
Update on Federal Lands Process

 (© Lori Knosalla)© Lori Knosalla

February 18, 2014


In November 2012, the Forest Stewardship Council US Board of Directors voted to revise the organization’s policy with respect to certification of federal forestlands. Since that time, FSC-US has been carefully exploring how certification might work on federal lands, and while FSC certification of federal lands remains an uncertain prospect, there have been developments in the process. 

In August 2013, FSC-US received a letter from Thomas Tidwell, Chief of the US Forest Service. In his letter, Chief Tidwell suggested further engagement with FSC to explore the potential of certification of US Forest Service lands. In late September 2013, FSC representatives met with Chief Tidwell and other senior staff from the Forest Service to discuss a process to explore certification on federal lands. While FSC made no commitments during the meeting, there was agreement that Chief Tidwell’s August letter establishes that the US Forest Service has met “Threshold Condition 1 - Willing Landowner Participation,” per the revised FSC-US Federal Lands Policy (Revised November 29, 2012). 

With Condition 1 met, FSC-US is now turning to “Threshold 2 – FSC US Commitment to Additional Considerations,” which requires “the existence of national-level indicators that address the special resource management, legal, technical, procedural, and governance issues associated with federal ownership.” Functionally, Threshold 2 requires a standards development process, which can be a lengthy and time-intensive effort in any context. 

Before moving forward with such a process, the FSC-US Board of Directors and staff are exploring potential funding sources to support the effort. If we are able to raise the funds needed, the standards development process could last 12 to 24 months. In short, we are likely still several years away from even testing FSC certification on a pilot basis, which is the most likely scenario for any federal lands certification. There will be many opportunities for stakeholder input along the way. 

Throughout it all, we keep in mind guidance from the 2008 letter from environmental community leaders to then-Chief Kimbell and Doug MacCleery: “Our national forests are not simply ours to exploit: they are a legacy for generations to come.” 

Because this is a sensitive issue with many interested stakeholders, FSC-US will provide regular updates on the process.