Technical Updates

Wednesday, 01 December 2004
From the President

Reviewing Our Regional Standards

One of the primary functions of FSC-US as an organization is the setting of forest management standards on a regional level. We have a great deal of pride in our standards, as no other National Initiative in the FSC system has done so as quickly and comprehensively. Here in the U.S., the standards development process brought together industry, environmentalists and social stakeholders in an open and transparent process to reach consensus on what a well managed forest is in nine different regions. This is no small accomplishment. Species protection, workers rights, water quality, customary use rights—the same issues that in the past had been contentious and divisive, the same issues that had launched hundreds of lawsuits, the same issues that had sparked violence in many rural communities—were converted from battleground to common ground.

FSC-US is required by FSC International to review its regional standards periodically, on three or five year cycles, in order for those standards to retain accreditation. The Rocky Mountain standard, the first one to achieve accreditation, is now coming up for review. Because of the importance of our standards, this review will be a major focus for FSC-US over the next two years. We believe that the nine regional standards here in the U.S. and the FSC standards globally represent the most effective conservation tool available to civil society, governments and industry today.

FSC staff and the Board of Directors have spent a great deal of time discussing the best way to approach the review of our standards. The conclusion we came to quickly was that there would be an obvious advantage to reviewing the regional standards as a group (we had originally planned to conduct separate reviews of each regional standard at the time as required by FSC International). Not only would there be benefits to comparing and contrasting different approaches taken in the standards, but it would be more efficient and cost effective to look at all the standards at once. What we are proposing is a significant undertaking, but as big as this process will be, cost and resources should still be less than if we were to take on nine smaller processes.

Another consideration was how to incorporate outside expertise and peer review into the standards review process. In FSC-US’s strategic planning process we saw the value in having a fresh, critical perspective challenge every assumption we had been operating under. FSC staff felt this would be a useful dynamic for the standards review process as well. While there will also be a great deal of interaction with the members of the standards committee and regional working groups, those bodies have been dissolved.

The impact of the standards committee and regional working groups is undeniable. FSC-certified acreage has increased dramatically and now stands at 13 million acres in the U.S. and 113 million worldwide. Also due to their work, environmental stakeholders, social stakeholders and the marketplace regard the FSC standards in the U.S. with the greatest integrity. The impact of developing a credible workable standard goes way beyond the FSC system. The development of the FSC standards has helped push other certification schemes to improve their management on millions of acres in the U.S. FSC-US would like to thank all those who contributed to the development of the nine regional standards.

Just as the standards committee and regional working groups served us well in the creative process, we must now develop a structure for the critical process.

The Goal: 
Regional standards that effectively implement on the ground the Principles and Criteria of the FSC system.

Keys To Success: 
1. A review based in science. 
2. A focus on the very specific issues related to the efficacy of FSC-US’s regional standards. 
3. Extensive stakeholder (supporters and detractors) consultation. 
4. The ability and opportunity to challenge all assumptions and approaches.

Intended Results: 
1. Regional Standards that give clear guidance to landowners. 
2. Clear auditable indicators that allow certifiers to objectively assess the compliance of forest management operations with the regional standards. 
3. Provide logical, coherent rationalization for the differences between regional standards. 
4. The enhanced ability to communicate the intent and performance of our standards.

The comprehensive approach to reviewing the FSC-US standards will entail a panel of experts reviewing the regional standards as a package and making determinations as to (among other things) the effectiveness, ability to audit, and scientific validity of all of the indicators within all standards. Once this review is complete, the panel of experts will present a set of recommendations to the FSC-US Board that will modify, strengthen or validate the U.S. regional standards. At that time, the Board will solicit feedback from stakeholders on the regional level.

The Board will review the feedback from stakeholders gathered during the review process and release its findings, including, possibly, new draft regional standards. Revised standards will be forwarded to FSC International, posted on the FSC-US website, and provided to the certifiers for use and implementation.

We are very excited about the new approach to revising the FSC-US standards. Conducting a comprehensive assessment will provide a stronger foundation for ensuring that any revisions to the regional standards will create a better balance between our environmental, economic and social objectives. The nine US regional standards were developed over a 6-year time frame. Now, we have the opportunity to take stock of lessons learned during that period. The result will be a set of standards that even better represent the interests of all of our stakeholders.

For more information about the standards revision process please contact Ned Daly, FSC-US Vice President for Operations at             202-342-0415      , Bill Wilkinson, FSC-US Senior Forester at 707-0475 or Greg Blomstrom, FSC-US Forest Analyst,            707-825-0730      .