Group Certification for American Tree Farm System Member
What is it and how will it benefit private forest landowners?
The American Tree Farm System (ATFS) has been certifying private forest owners since 1941. All of the certifications of conformance with the American Forest Foundation Standard have been individual certifications. Certifications are done voluntarily using a third party verification process conducted by a volunteer force of professional inspecting foresters. ATFS certification recognizes forest landowners that practice sustainable forestry.
With the increased interest in forest certification by the global forest products industry, customers and other governmental organizations, the ATFS has modernized its standards to become internationally accepted as a credible forest certification option for family forest landowners. The American Forest Foundation (AFF) initiated a process to review and revise the Standards for Certification in 2001. After much revision and public comment, the AFF Standards of Sustainability for Forest Certification, referred to as “The 2004 Standard”, was ratified and implemented beginning this year. ATFS Group Certification is a newly developed third-party auditing process for evaluating groups of landowners and certifying them under a single certificate held by the Group Organization. A Group Organization is the company, corporation, firm, authority or institution comprising the legal entity consisting of qualified forest landowners seeking to be collectively certified to the AFF Standards. The Group Organization can be a few landowners to several hundred landowners. Group Certification allows individual family forest owners to benefit from the many “economies of scale” of being part of a larger group, as well as the services that are provided at a reasonable cost.
Benefits of group certification to the individual group members include improved flow and sharing of information, maintaining market access, improvement of forest management practices, reducing the overall costs of forest certification, and assurance to customers and the public that landowners are practicing sustainable forestry. A number of wood and paper products and buyer’s groups want their purchases of wood to be from sustainably managed forests. The difficulty and costs associated with individual certification under the 2004 Standard has increased significantly. Thus, Group Certification of a large number of forest owners helps address the logistical and cost constraints of certification.
Northwest Management, Inc. personnel Vincent Corrao and Gregory Bassler recently successfully completed the ATFS Group Certification Auditor training course and became ATFS Group Certification Auditors. Northwest Management, Inc. (NMI) can now assist groups of landowners that are interested in Group Certification in two capacities. First, NMI can serve as the Group Certification Body, which is the entity that conducts the independent third-party certification audits of the Group Organization. Second, NMI can serve as the Group Manager for the Group Organization. NMI can serve as either the Group Certification Body or the Group Manager, not both, for a particular group of forest landowners. Certification for private forest landowners is becoming an issue for market access. Several of the local sawmills have become certified either under SFI, FSC or both programs. Purchasing logs from small private forest landowners that aren’t certified is becoming increasing difficult. Proof of sustainable forest management, certification of loggers and compliance with Best Management Practices are important requirements.
If you are interested in individual or group certification to the new 2004 AFF Standard or have any questions on ATFS certification, please contact us at (208) 883-4488.