Sustaining Missouri’s Forests

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Published on: Sep. 2, 2000

Last revision: Nov. 5, 2010

with certification. One is the cost of maintaining separate inventories of certified products. Another is something called "chain-of-custody." This means that any certified product must be traceable as it moves from a forest to the ultimate end user. Despite such obstacles, the concept of independent third-party certification continues to gain acceptance.

Two certification programs are currently in operation. The Rainforest Alliance, an environmental organization, established Smart Wood. It certifies both sources (forests) and companies (manufacturers or distributors of wood products). Scientific Certification Systems (SCS) is a California firm that certifies forest products under the Green Cross label. The international Forest Stewardship Council, formed in 1993, serves as an impartial watchdog over the certification process.

An industry group called the American Forest and Paper Association has also developed what it calls the Sustainable Forestry Initiative. Member companies, who produce most of the nation’s paper and construction lumber, must agree to a set of principles and standards that promote improved forest management and harvesting. Adherence to these principles and standards is verified through a voluntary audit performed by an independent auditing specialist.

For most Missouri forest owners, certification is probably not feasible at this time. Initial certification inspections can cost from 5 cents to more than a dollar per acre. Then there are the annual audit expenses of $1,000 to $4,000. However, there are programs through Smart Wood and the Scientific Certification System through which foresters can become certified. Many small landowners use a forester to assist with managing their forestland. Those foresters, by virtue of their own certification, gain Smart Wood or SCS endorsement for the products from their clients’ forests. Several landowners in an area, working collectively with a certified forester, could further reduce their costs.

Because of the costs involved in conducting the certification process, the prices of lumber and products certified as being from sustainable forests are usually higher than those of non-certified competitors. But a recent Purdue University survey found that 68 percent of those polled would be willing to pay more for furniture whose materials originated from a sustainably managed forest.

Dr. Robert Lee, professor of forest sociology at the University of Washington, teaches that for any forest policy to be sustainable it must be socially acceptable, economically feasible and biologically possible. Beyond this, Lee says, without some predictability in the future, there can be no conservation.

This is because managing forests means waiting for a future reward, probably a reward to

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