Family Forest Certification: Overview

April 15, 2007 at 12:52 pm Leave a comment

More wildlife. Healthy trees. A beautiful place to spend time with family and friends.

Sometimes land stewardship means active management: improving wildlife habitat, planting trees, or cleaning up after a windstorm. But how can you be sure contractors share your high standards for the care of your land? One option is to hire a third-party certified professional forester or logger.

How does forest certification work in Minnesota?
“Certification” means that an independent auditing team has verified that forest management complies with published sustainability standards. These standards address water quality protection, wildlife habitat improvement, forest health, and much more. You can read the standards for yourself at the sources listed below.

There are two basic certification models:

Certify your land: A third-party certified professional forester can prepare a forest management plan based on published sustainability standards. If your stewardship activities meet the high standards, your land will be recognized as certified. This is a public seal of approval indicating your commitment to a higher level of land stewardship.

Hire a certified logger: If you’re ready to harvest timber, you can now choose to hire an independently certified professional logger. In order to become certified, a logger must demonstrate compliance with the published standard. Compliance is audited periodically, and loggers who fail to comply lose their certification.

Frequently asked questions:

Will I keep full control over my land?

Yes, absolutely. Whatever option you choose, you will retain full control over current and future management of your land. What you gain is the confidence that your land management meets a higher standard of stewardship.

I don’t have anything to prove—I know our family takes good care of our land. Why would I go to the trouble to get certified?
There are many possible reasons. Certification can also be a powerful way to build family pride in the land, and engage more of the family in planning for the future of the land. Certification can also be a step toward permanent protection of your family’s land through a conservation easement or other arrangement. Also, if you intend to sell wood products , the “certified” label may create new market opportunities or command higher prices.

Who else is certified in Minnesota?
Virtually all public lands in Minnesota are independent third-party certified. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources achieved certification for its 4.9 million acres of forest land in 2006. Industrial owners have certified hundreds of thousands of acres, and many northern counties are certified or in process. More and more family forest owners are choosing certification as well, although until recently few certification options were available to them.

How much does it cost?
Costs will depend on what certification option you choose and on the specific agreement you have with service provider. Significant efforts have been made to keep certification costs low for family forest owners. Some options may have no added costs, while others may charge annual membership fees of $50 to $200 depending on the specific program and the amount of land you enroll.

What are the certification standards?
There are different sets of certification standards. They all address water quality, wildlife habitat, forest health, and more. You can read the standards for yourself on our certification systems & standards page.

Where did forest certification come from? Whose idea was all of this?
Forest certification originally arose as a way to reward landowners who agreed to comply with strict sustainability standards in the management of their land. The commitments and audits that are part of forest certification process allow landowners and wood processors to use specific labels when selling wood products. These labels allow interested consumers to differentiate among different options, and to make more informed purchasing decisions.

In recent years, more and more retailers have adopted preferential or exclusive purchasing policies based on certification principles. For example, many large retailers preferentially purchase FSC-certified wood products when available.

Certification is entirely market-driven. For better or worse, certification is not a government program. Read a history of forest certification from the Louisiana State University Ag Center (PDF link).

What do I need to do to get my land certified?
Learn about the different certification models, and how each one works, at our certification models page.  You can also read about the different certification systems and standards here.


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Minnesota woodlands and climate change Family Forest Certification Models

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News and information of interest to Minnesota woodland owners. Sister site to

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