New Jersey Audubon Earns Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) Group Certificate

clip_image002On April 9th, 2012 New Jersey Audubon (NJA) became the first and only organization in the state certified to the standards of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). Under the auspices of the Rainforest Alliance, NJA’s Ecological Forestry Project is now officially certified to supply qualifying forest land owners, in New Jersey, FSC Certification.

Late in the 1980s, the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) forest certification movement was initiated as a result of European consumers boycotting the use of imported hardwoods in light of tropical deforestation concerns. The boycott was intended to reduce the demand for products harvested in an exploitive manner, however, the boycott also had a negative effect on responsible enterprises. This spurred members of European environmental organizations and the forest industry to meet and discuss standards of practice for harvesting tropical hardwoods in a non-destructive way. In 1993, in Switzerland, the World Wide Fund for Nature, now the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), along with other conservation organizations, helped to form the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). FSC was tasked with developing a set of Principles and Criteria which could be applied to the management of forestland throughout the world and also with developing a process for an independent third party to evaluate these Principles and Criteria.

The ten FSC Principles of Forest Stewardship are summarized below, and a full copy is available from the FSC or NJA. Criteria subtend each Principle and provide direction for its implementation. The ten Principles address the following:

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The forestlands of our region can be categorized into three groups: private industrial ownerships, government ownerships, and non-industrial private forests (NIPFs). Timber harvests on government lands have been decreasing over the past decade as more land is classified as wilderness, or reserved forest. On small, private woodlots the amount of wood available for harvest is increasing and these lands will become more important to our nation's overall wood supply.

This inadvertent, increased pressure on NIPFs can be used in two, very alternative ways: as an economic driving force to allow good forestry to be realized or as a shortsighted opportunity to harvest timber in ways that leave only low-quality trees in the forest. This is the question many forestland owners are presently facing. At NJA we believe forest owners should choose to pursue certified forestry and make a commitment to be part of an on-the-ground movement to advance high quality, responsible forest management.

clip_image006Through certification, there are two general benefits derived by the forestland owner as well as their surrounding community. First, participation in third party certification will hold forest management activities on the property to a higher standard, in turn by setting positive example. This will have an impact on how forestry is practiced on other private woodlands. A second benefit is that the forest products harvested from certified lands will displace some non-FSC-certified wood from the marketplace. An increased consumer demand for FSC-certified wood products, in a finite economy, will put pressure on owners of non-FSC-certified lands to get certified in turn enhancing the environmental integrity of private forestlands both throughout New Jersey and nationwide.

To date, NJA has already certified approximately 13,000 acres of working forest land under its Group Certificate: RA-FM/COC-005879. The property owners are both private and public alike, some of which are also under conservation easement. Through NJA, NJ Department of Environmental Protection’s Division of Fish and Wildlife has successfully earned the certification of roughly 3,000 acres of woodland, in the Skylands Region, better known as Sparta Mountain Wildlife Management Area. Also, just about 9,000 acres of the Pequannock Watershed, owned by The City of Newark, has been FSC certified by NJA with the goal of certifying 14,000 additional acres within two years. NJA (as the FSC Group Entity), these properties as well as six others, and all associated NJ Forest Stewardship Plans, had to undergo a comprehensive evaluation by a team of internationally recognized eco-investigators.

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Land owners interested in FSC certification can be rest assured that NJA will assist in the following ways. The marketing of FSC-certified wood from small woodlots presents a complex problem. NJA is working with landowners and other organizations to develop strategies to promote New Jersey grown wood harvested from FSC-certified forests. We will independently produce or provide guidance and support to the public, landowners, and consulting foresters in the development of Forest Stewardship Plans that lead to FSC certification. Our Ecological Forestry Project will manage the FSC certification process and maintain records of pertinent information with particular attention paid to meeting the requirements of annual Rainforest Alliance audits and five year comprehensive assessments. We will also provide ongoing monitoring to assure that forestland owners, already having received FSC certification, remain conformant with their respective management plans and the ten guiding FSC Principals.

NJA is committed to maintaining the ecological integrity of New Jersey’s forestlands through certification and beyond. Those interested in certification are encouraged to contact a NJA Forester at Wattles Stewardship Center in Port Murray at (908) 837 – 9570.

By: Jeremy Caggiano, NJA Stewardship Project Coordinator