Forest Certification Systems & Standards

April 15, 2007 at 1:11 pm Leave a comment

There are several different forest certification systems. Although in general the systems have been getting more similar over time, some differences remain. As a woodland owner, you need to understand the different systems in order to make the right certification decision for your land.

This page offers links and information about the different forest certification systems available to family forest owners in Minnesota.

American Tree Farm System

Tree Farm logoOverview from the certifying agency: The American Tree Farm System® (ATFS), a program of the American Forest Foundation, is committed to sustaining forests, watershed and healthy habitats through the power of private stewardship.

Since 1941, ATFS has educated and recognized the commitment of private forest owners in the United States. Currently, ATFS has 27.5 million acres of privately owned forestland and 87,000 family forest owners who are committed to excellence in forest stewardship, in 46 states. Tree Farmers share a unique commitment to protect wildlife habitat and watersheds, to conserve soil and to provide recreation for their communities while producing wood for America. These individuals hold the key to the kinds of forests, forest activities and forest resources future generations of Americans will enjoy.

ATFS has established standards and guidelines for property owners to meet to become a certified Tree Farm. Under these standards and guidelines, private forest owners must develop a management plan based on strict environmental standards and pass an inspection by an ATFS volunteer forester. (source)

How it works in Minnesota: There are two different ways to get involved in Tree Farm in Minnesota: as an individual or a member of a group. Thousands of family forest owners in Minnesota have obtained a free Tree Farm plan from a professional forester. If they generally follow the plan, they maintain their Tree Farmer status. Awards are given annually for state, regional, and national Tree Farmer of the Year.

The traditional (individual) Tree Farm approach currently does not include independent third-party certification. Although there are many good reasons to become a Tree Farmer, individual Tree Farm certification does not qualify as independent third-party certified.

However, the Tree Farm group certification process does qualify as independent third-party certified. Under this system, a group of landowners applies for certification under Tree Farm’s group certification standard. No Minnesota groups are currently active, but very large groups in Wisconsin, Maine, and elsewhere are active. Learn more about Tree Farm group certification.

Certification standards: Tree Farm certification standards


Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)

FSC logoOverview from the certifying agency: Poverty, disease, land use change, climate change, and pollution all continue to threaten our resources and the stability of cultures worldwide. Driven in part by the failure of an intergovernmental process to agree on a global forest compact, and the compelling question-“what is sustainable forestry?”- loggers, foresters, environmentalists, and sociologists came together to form the FSC in 1993.

The Forest Stewardship Council was created to change the dialogue about and the practice of sustainable forestry worldwide. This impressive goal has in many ways been achieved, yet there is more work to be done. FSC sets forth principles, criteria, and standards that span economic, social, and environmental concerns. The FSC standards represent the world’s strongest system for guiding forest management toward sustainable outcomes. Like the forestry profession itself, the FSC system includes stakeholders with a diverse array of perspectives on what represents a well-managed and sustainable forest. (source)

How it works in Minnesota: There are two different ways to get your land certified under FSC standards in Minnesota: individually or as part of a group.

Individually: You work with a professional forester to plan the future stewardship of your land. The plan is built around your family’s vision and goals. This process helps you identify ways to improve your stewardship and gives you confidence in your decisions. You agree to comply with FSC’s certification standards, and your land may receive a periodic audit to verify compliance.

As part of a group: As with individual certification, you work one-on-one with a trusted, local professional forester to develop a plan specific to your goals and your land. But, the certification applies to a group of landowners, of which you’re a part. The most common type of group is a woodland owner co-operative. Note that you (not the group) retain FULL control over your land.

The advantages of the group model include less frequent audits on your land and likely lower costs.

Existing FSC certified groups in Minnesota:

Certification standards: FSC certification principles & standards


Minnesota Master Logger Certification

MMLC logoOverview from the certifying agency: Minnesota Master Logger Certification (MMLC) is a performance-based program that recognizes both training and experience. MMLC is a recognition and acknowledgement of the professionalism of both the individual logger and the business of logging.

Master Logger certification is a voluntary, add-on component of MLEP. The Minnesota Master Logger Certification Program is a third-party audited certification of a logging operation’s business and harvest practices. Think of it as providing a “Good Housekeeping” seal of approval of a logging business.

MLEP’s Master Logger Certification Program was developed by a working group including representatives from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, The Nature Conservancy, Minnesota Forestry Association, University of Minnesota, Minnesota Forest Industries, Associated Contract Loggers and Truckers of Minnesota, Minnesota Timber Producers Association, Izaak Walton League and Dovetail, Inc. (source)

How it works in Minnesota: Under a logger certification system, you simply choose to hire an independent third-party certified logger to harvest your timber. MMLC certified loggers have committed to comply with MMLC standards, and are audited periodically to ensure compliance. You can find a list of MMLC certified loggers here.

Certification standards: MMLC certification standards (PDF)



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