PLANNING, SUSTAINABILITY, and CERTIFICATION
Article #95, May, 2005
By Bill Cook
Michigan and the Lake States has been around 100 years. As with anything, change
happens. Forest management certainly continues to evolve with social structures
Over the past
decade, and recently more frequently, several terms seem to have taken on new
definitions and can be confusing. Forest planning, sustainability, and certification
are different, but related, concepts. They are evolving ideas in the long-standing
principles of forest planning and sustainability, but certification is the newer
kid on the block.
sustainability go back to the earliest days of forest management. A century
ago, these efforts focused almost exclusively on timber and watershed protection.
Over time, other aspects of a forest and their role in society have been increasingly
recognized, understood, and valued. Today, the planning process can be very
complex. Defining what might or might not be sustainable involves factors on
the cutting edge of many scientific disciplines. This "soup" has many
ingredients and deciding what tastes good can be controversial.
is the written expression of what an owner wants to see on a forest over a specified
number of years. A plan includes resource inventories, objectives, and identifies
forestry practices that will be used to work towards a desired future condition.
Plans come in a variety of forms, from expansive national forest documents constructed
under complex and sometimes confusing regulations, to specific and relatively
brief plans for a family forest.
is about providing the full suite of forest goods and services on a permanent
basis. Defining all the goods and services has been a challenge and will continue
to be so. Prescribing the balance of goods and services is even more difficult.
Lastly, there are ecological aspects that occur only at larger geographic scales
that we have only begun to understand, largely through the use of new technologies.
These aspects are the focus of ecosystem and landscape ecology.
also has strong social and economic dimensions. The economics of jobs, taxes,
tourism, clean water, timber, wildlife, and other benefits are usually fairly
easy for most people to envision. However, the social dimensions are more difficult,
yet every bit as critical. They deal with lifestyle and quality of life questions.
These data are often absent, but reliable scientific techniques exist to obtain
The third part of this
article deals with forest certification. Essentially, certification is a mechanism
by which a third party confirms whether or not a forest ownership is doing all
the good things they say they are doing. It is no longer enough that companies
and governments simply do a good job of forest management. They now have to
prove it, and that involves a time-consuming and expensive process.
The demand for
certification is clearly not coming from the end consumer, you and me, or from
forest owners, or from forest industry. It is coming from the manufacturers
that buy paper and wood products from forest industry mills. These middle consumers
have been successfully pressured by environmental groups. A company public image
is a marketable asset and can significantly affect their financial bottom line.
sustainability, and certification are different, but related, pieces of the
forest management puzzle. For people interested in our forest resources, it
is important to understand the differences among these concepts, as well as
how they relate to each other.
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Bill Cook is an MSU Extension forester providing educational programming for the entire Upper Peninsula. His office is located at the MSU Upper Peninsula Tree Improvement Center near Escanaba. The Center is the headquarters for three MSU Forestry properties in the U.P., with a combined area of about 8,000 acres. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 906-786-1575.
by Bill Cook, Forester/Biologist, Michigan State University Extension, 6005
J Road, Escanaba, MI 49829
906-786-1575 (voice), 906-786-9370 (fax), e-mail: email@example.com
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