Guidelines for the Speaker’s Advisory Council on Forest Certification

 

The economic health and ecological stability of Maine’s forest resources is of tremendous importance to the State.  Consumers and policy makers need access to credible information about the health and stability of Maine’s forests.  Many forest landowners and stewards are participating in forest certification or verification systems, including the Forest Stewardship Council and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, which provide information pertaining to the landowner’s forestry practices.  An evaluation of these forest certification systems is necessary so that they can be better understood by policy makers and the citizens of Maine. 

 

The growing importance of “Green Certified” forest products to consumers heralds the beginning of consumer education about the state of Maine’s forests.  Information about certification systems needs to be available and accessible to consumers in addition to forestry professionals and academics.  The ecological and economic future of Maine’s forests depends on a well-informed citizenry and a balanced approach to the future of Maine’s woods. 

 

Membership

 

            The Council shall consist of no more then eight (8) members appointed by the Speaker of the Maine House of Representatives.  Membership shall be composed of persons who have practical expertise in at least one of the following areas: forest management, silviculture, timber harvesting, forest protection, forest ecology, auditing, wildlife biology, plant ecology, forest economics and a large landowner. 

 

Duties

 

            The Council shall study and report upon the forest certification systems being used in Maine.  In particular, the Council is charged with answering the following questions, though should not refrain from addressing such issues members feel are important:

 

Audit Process

I.                    What criteria and benchmarks, if any, are used by the forest certification   system to measure the following:

 

A          Sustainability of harvest rates for timber volume, quality, and species composition;

B          Trends for timber species composition and quality on the audited land, and trends for types of products being produced on the land;

C         Protection of water quality;

D         Protection of soil productivity and integrity;

E          Use of non-native species, exotic species, herbicides and pesticides;

F          Protection and inventory of biological diversity, including plant and wildlife habitat and ecological processes at the site and landscape level;

G         Protection and inventory of endangered, threatened and rare species and unique natural areas;

H         Condition of non-company lands that supply wood to the audited landowner’s mill, as measured by A-G above;

I            “Good corporate citizenship” in terms of labor and wage issues, public recreational accessibility, and support for local communities.

J            Presence of a landscape or eco-system management approach being defined in management plans, implemented in actual practice and monitored with respect to actual outcomes?

 

II.                 Do the forest certification systems consist of objective, measurable, and mandatory criteria?

 

III.               Does the forest certification system have a means to measure and ensure continuous improvement?

 

Specifics of Audit Teams

IV.              What measures are in place by forest certification systems to ensure the independence and credibility of the audits, auditors, and audit reports?

 

V.                 Is the public report prepared and released by the auditors or can it be prepared by the company that was audited?

 

VI.              How many person-hours did the audit team spend on-the-ground in conducting its audit?  Do the forest certification systems mandate numbers of personnel relative to the size of the parcel being audited? 

 

VII.            How much of the forest certification system assessment is based upon observed field performance vs. the existence of management systems?

 

Accessibility of Information

VIII.         Are the answers to the questions asked in Section I, A-J determinable from the reports made publicly available by the forest certification system or by the landowner?

 

IX.              Are clear and comprehensive forest certification system reports easily available to policymakers and the public?  Do the public reports describe management activities in a way that is accessible to the public and policy makers? 

 

X.                 How broad-based (in terms of stakeholder groups) is the development and management of, and support for, the audit system?

 

XI.              How much input does the public have in establishing the standards?

 

Other Considerations

 

XII.            What is the typical cost/range of costs of conducting an audit under a forest certification system?

 

XIII.         What types of benefits do landowners that undergo forest certification systems typically note or receive?  What are the disadvantages?

 

XIV.         What impact does certification have on consumer behavior? 

 

 

Technical Assistance

 

The Council may request technical assistance from any appropriate agency or organization. 

 

Meetings

 

The Council’s meetings will allow for attendance by the interested parties and the public.  Written comments and suggestions are welcomed, though need to be received as soon as possible for optimum consideration. 

 

Report

 

The Council shall issue its report by January 15, 2002.