Principles and Criteria
Forest Management Standards
Family Forests Program
The FSC-US Family Forests Program provides a powerful market-driven incentive for individuals and families to engage in responsible forest stewardship. Through efficient, low-cost group programs that we foster, family forest owners gain access to lucrative markets for FSC-certified wood. We develop tools, templates, and educational resources to help public and private partners establish and maintain FSC-certified family forest groups. Our program managers also provide consultation to emerging groups and cultivate wood supply chain connections between groups and forest products companies.
Over a third of the forestland in the United States is owned and managed by some 10 million families and individuals collectively known as “family forest owners”. Family forestlands provide immense value from benefits like clean water, wildlife habitat, and stable jobs for forest workers. Getting smallholders to carry out forest stewardship programs has, however, been a decades-long challenge. Unfortunately, only 1 in 5 acres of family forestland is owned by someone who has a written forest management plan. Only 2 in 5 acres are owned by people who have received any sort of professional resource management advice.
One of the disincentives to maintaining the vitality of working family forests is that responsible management often goes under-rewarded in economic systems. The FSC-US Family Forests Program helps create financial incentives for the prized ecosystem services family forests supply. Our goal is to expand the economic benefits of family forest stewardship through effective, affordable group certification.
Examples of FSC-Certified Family Forest Groups
FSC group certificates can be large or small, sponsored by a range of public and private organizations. Here are a few successful models:
- Northwest Certified Forestry — Private landowner association helping 157 certified members with over 50,000 acres in Washington and Oregon
- Wisconsin Managed Forest Law Group — State administered group with over 42,892 members and 2.3 million acres that are dual FSC-Tree Farm certified
- Indiana Classified Forest Certified Group — State group with 7,800 members owning 528,000 acres; dual FSC-Tree Farm certified
- Southern Forests Network — A group administered by a nonprofit organization for landowners in Mississippi, North Carolina, Virginia, and Tennessee; 10 members holding 2,138 acres
- Aitkin County Soil & Water Conservation District (SWCD) — A group certificate administered by a local government agency in Minnesota; 19 landowners with about 2,000 acres
- Working Woodlands — Innovative group program recently formed by The Nature Conservancy’s Pennsylvania Forest Conservation Program combines FSC certification with a Forest Carbon Credit payments
- Alabama Treasure Forest Association — Non-profit forestry organization starting in 2011 with seven tracks and 6,073 acres but with potential to grow to more than 1,500 owners with over two million acres
- Columbia Forest Products — Hardwood plywood and hardwood veneer company providing FSC-certified forest management plans to family forest owners in the Appalachian Region; 32 members with about 33,000 acres in 2010
For more information:
Please contact Paul Pingrey, Family Forests Program Manager with any questions or comments, firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) strives to ensure equity of access to certification. In 2004, as a response to the challenges faced by small, non-industrial private landowners in accessing FSC certification, FSC passed a policy allowing for streamlined procedures and standards to be applied to small and low intensity managed forests (known in the US as "family forests" and defined as being 1,000 hectares (2,470 acres) or less). With the goal of equitable access to certification, FSC National Initiatives, such as FSC-US, are directed to develop forest management standards that take into account the realities of these small operators without reducing the rigor of compliance. In response, FSC-US included family forest-specific indicators and guidance as part of the National FSC-US Forest Management Standard adopted in July 2010. The FSC-US Family Forest Indicators combined with FSC group certification policies help make FSC certification relevant and affordable to smallholders