Forestry Certification Training for Agency Field Staff

Final Report for EW10-016

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2010: $48,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2012
Region: Western
State: Washington
Principal Investigator:
Lindsay Malone
Northwest Natural Resource Group
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Project Information

Abstract:

Northwest Natural Resource Group (NNRG) reached out to more than 111 forestry professionals and landowners through the “Forestry Training for Agency Field Staff” project funded by Western SARE. During the project period, NNRG added 26 Forest Stewardship Council-TM (FSC®)-certified forest members representing 112,000 acres to its Northwest Certified Forestry program. NNRG hosted six workshops across Western Washington and Northwest Oregon from March 2011 to March 2013. Feedback from workshop participants indicated an overall increase in knowledge and understanding of FSC management standards, assessment procedures, Chain-of-custody policies and current markets for certified wood products.

Project Objectives:

At the outset of this project, NNRG intended: 1) to increase knowledge and ability of 60-90 forestry professionals to provide technical assistance on FSC certification, 2) inform an additional 200 landowners about FSC certification through workshop-trained participants, 3) enroll 50 new FSC-certified landowners into NNRG’s Northwest Certified Forestry program within the project period, and 4) focus on 25 landowners selling wood products into the certified market.

Introduction:

In Washington State, the economics of forest ownership have changed as urban expansion continues to encroach on working forest lands; stimulating parcelization and additional forest conversion for scattered exurban development (UW-CFR, 2009). Already such changes in forest ownership have reduced timber supply, limited sawmill supply and expansion, and resulted in uneconomic transportation distances for saw-logs as haulage costs become more prohibitive. Despite these barriers, there is still need for active management of this forestland to reduce risks of fire in the urban-wildland interface, minimize pest damage, improve habitat for fish and wildlife, and enhance water quality and quantity.

Nonindustrial and family-owned woodlots comprise 215,000 unique ownerships across 5.5 million acres (about 25 percent of the forestland base) of Washington State (The 2007 Washington Forestland Database Project, 2010). These ownerships are typically at lower elevations, closer to cities and under the greatest pressure to convert to developable uses. Much like disappearing family farms, loss of these forestlands impacts rural economies as long-term job opportunities deteriorate and poverty rates increase. Increasingly, the forestland owned by a nonindustrial or family forester, was previously managed for industrial production and these single-species, even-aged, over-stocked forests will benefit from ecological thinning harvests, diverse native-species plantings and other habitat enhancement projects that require local infrastructure and can supplement local businesses.

Nationally, 2008 through 2010 was a period of floundering commodity timber prices and declining rural economies. Market data shows that during this same time frame, Forest Stewardship Council certified wood products demand grew steadily. There has been a global increase in FSC Chain of Custody businesses from 600 in 2008 to 25,000 in 2012 (FSC, 2012). While the recent global economic downturn greatly impacted timber prices, certified wood markets have been the least impacted, with demand increasing or holding steady (Sustainable Northwest, 2013). However, many timber businesses and small-scale owners still participate only in large-scale commodity markets and are not yet taking advantage of product diversification and marketing/branding opportunities provided by forest certification.
The potential market opportunities for FSC-certified products is a knowledge gap for both forest landowners and the forestry and wood products professional sector. There is also great need and opportunity to educate private, local and state forestry professionals on FSC certification requirements, the assessment process, markets, and how to connect to certified mills and manufacturers. Larger public lands have potential to anchor the supply of FSC-certified wood to mills, and smaller private owners have potential to supplement this supply and develop value-added products. Public and private foresters can recommend FSC certification to landowners who might find it of interest.

State, federal and Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) forestry professionals are on the ground in rural areas and are best able to meet the information and services needs of small private landowners. These agencies and entities have a long history of providing technical assistance to private small woodland owners, are well trusted by their constituents, and have a broad familiarity with the wood products marketplace. Although privately run programs, such as NNRG’s Northwest Certified Forestry, can provide FSC certification at greatly reduced cost (as low as $75/year) to landowners, there is still a lack of technical assistance to help landowners with forest management planning, niche marketing of forest products and FSC certification compliance issues, all of which can be best delivered through a locally-based geographically-distributed network such as the one proposed in the “Forestry Training for Agency Field Staff” project.

This project focused on a series of six workshops designed to address these needs through FSC markets and assessment training to forestry professionals in Washington and Oregon in an effort to educate landowners and provide technical expertise on accessing certified wood markets. These workshops were designed to prepare Washington Department of Natural Resources, Oregon Department of Forestry, Natural Resource Conservation Service, Extension, conservation districts, NGOs and others who work with small forest landowners to consider the benefits of FSC markets for forest products.

Works Cited
Forest Stewardship Council. 2012. Chain of Custody Program. https://ic.fsc.org/chain-of-custody.80.htm. Last accessed April 17, 2013.

“Retention of High?Valued Forest Lands at Risk of Conversion to Non?Forest Uses in Washington State”. 2009. Prepared for the Washington State Legislature and Washington Department of Natural Resources by the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences, University of Washington. http://www.nwenvironmentalforum.org/documents/RetentionReport/RetentionReport.pdf. Last accessed April 17, 2013.

Sustainable Northwest. 2013. Personal communication with Forest Stewardship Program Manager, Paul Vanderford.

The 2007 Washington State Forestland Database. 2010. Precision Forestry Initiative, formerly the Rural Technology Initiative, School of Environmental and Forest Sciences, University of Washington. http://www.sefs.washington.edu/research.pfc/PFC_website/rti/index.html#parcels

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand
  • Kirk Hanson
  • Tristan Huff
  • Larry Nall
  • Eric Ruthford
  • Paul Vanderford

Education & Outreach Initiatives

Objective:
Description:

Methods

During this project NNRG developed two approaches to educating the target audience about FSC principles and market opportunities. One approach was to instruct forestry professionals in detail about certification, assessments and markets and this method specifically appealed to professionals wanting to diversify their skills and opportunities for clients. The other approach was developed in response to feedback and interest from private foresters, public land managers and small forest owners who wanted a shorter course and less in-depth training on assessment procedures.

NNRG developed a workshop curriculum entitled “FSC Assessor Training” which addressed certification standards, FSC chain-of-custody policies, field assessment criteria and procedures, audit procedures for small woodland owners, and current markets for FSC products. The 2-day training covered these topics and concluded with participants conducting a harvest assessment on an FSC-certified forest. Course materials included a PowerPoint presentation to overview FSC, the use of FSC assessment workbook guides used by auditors to conduct desk and field assessments, and management plans of certified forests. These intensive workshops were designed for 10-15 attendees.

In response to feedback from interested forestry professionals, land managers and private landowners, NNRG also conducted 1-day workshops. These trainings provided an overview of FSC principles, assessment criteria, and case studies on harvesting and selling into FSC markets. These overview workshops were designed for 20-50 participants.

NNRG hosted six workshops across Washington and Northwest Oregon (Table 1). Four of the six workshops took place on FSC-certified forestland. Site selection for trainings was determined by availability of certified forestland for the course and service areas of forestry professionals. Courses in Southwest Washington were more accessible to Washington and Oregon professionals, while the course in Central Washington was more accessible to Central and Eastern Washington professionals.

Outreach and Publications

NNRG conducted six training sessions through the “Forestry Training for Agency Field Staff” project (Table 1). The four 2-day workshops included a comprehensive presentation of FSC assessment principles, criteria and field audits of FSC-certified forest land. Workshops included presentations by subject experts, include FSC assessors (Michael Sterner-SCS Global Services and Larry Nall-Woodmark Soil Association), director of Northwest Certified Forestry (Kirk Hanson), FSC Northwest project manager (Diane Moody), and public land managers. The two 1-day workshops presented FSC principles, criteria, and case studies of harvesting and selling products as FSC-certified.

NNRG’s curriculum for leading the FSC Assessor Training workshops consisted of the following materials:

• A series of PowerPoint presentations including: FSC Assessor Training, FSC Market Trends, and FSC and Northwest Certified Forestry Overview.
• The forest management/stewardship plans for the four forests where 2-day assessment trainings were conducted (available upon request).
• The FSC assessment workbook used by NNRG’s third-party FSC assessor, Woodmark-Soil Association.
• Summary checklist for FSC principles and criteria most-key to assessment process.

NNRG collected evaluations and feedback from workshop participants. Feedback from workshop participants indicated an overall increase in knowledge and understanding of FSC management standards, assessment procedures, Chain-of-custody policies and current markets for certified wood products. NNRG adapted feedback from surveys and subsequent conversations with participants in subsequent training sessions.

Program Evaluation Results
The survey form and results are included for the following workshops:
Workshop #1-Elma, WA
Workshop #2-Long Beach, WA
Workshop #3-Leavenworth, WA
Workshop #4-Preston, WA
Workshop #5-Forest Grove, OR
Workshop #6-Vancouver, WA

Outcomes and impacts:

Through “Forestry Training for Agency Field Staff” project funded by Western SARE, NNRG was able to reach out to more than 111 forestry consultants, nonprofit land managers, city, county and state foresters, forestry students, extension foresters, wood products businesses and small forest landowners. Workshop participants learned about certification, value-added benefits of FSC products, and market trends and opportunities for certified products. During the project period, NNRG added 26 FSC-certified forest members representing 112,000 acres to its Northwest Certified Forestry program. Through these workshops, three forests became certified and at least four other forest managers are taking steps to certify an additional 40,000 acres. During the project period, Northwest Certified Forestry members completed numerous sales of FSC-certified wood and non-timber forest products. At least 17 members completed sales of FSC-certified products including 27 sales of wood products into the certified market.

Looking ahead, NNRG anticipates that several private and public forests whose land managers participated in these workshops, or whom NNRG reached through advertising these workshops, will become FSC-certified. Public land managers and private forest owners repeatedly conveyed that their interest in FSC-certification was several-fold: 1) FSC-certification establishes legitimacy for their forest management practices among stakeholders and interest groups; 2) while a voluntary-program it enables managers to optimize practices to improve forest health (i.e. prioritize addressing erosion or invasive species matters); 3) it provides additional value for wood products that go into the certified market; and 4) it is an added incentive to maintain forestland instead of converting to non-forest uses.

Increasing consumer and producer awareness about the benefits of locally-practiced ecological forestry will increase demand for FSC-certified wood products from local forests. Adequate supply and access to supply of certified wood products remain key needs for regional green building enterprises. As the demand for local, FSC-certified wood products increases, the demographic of private forest landowners who practice ecologically-based forestry but require economic justification to obtain certification, will seek the benefits of certification.

Project Outcomes

Project outcomes:

The “Forestry Training for Agency Field Staff” project has been an opportunity for NNRG to develop new partnerships with several institutions, including: The Nature Conservancy, Forterra, North Olympic Land Trust, Clark County Department of Environmental Services, Port of Grays Harbor, Oregon State University Extension Forester-Tristan Huff, Professional Forestry Services, Logs to Lumber, and Tierra Learning Center. These partnerships represent more than 10,000 acres of FSC-certified forestland, ecologically-based forest management plans, and monitoring plans. They also represent new commercial thinning activities to improve forest structure and health, increased supply to local wood markets, and increased awareness of FSC-certification and products.

NNRG’s work with Clark County Department of Environmental Services is a particular highlight of this project. County forester, James Vandling, participated in the first FSC Assessor Training workshop in Elma, WA in March 2011. By December 2011, the County enrolled 1,100 acres of its 3,800-acre forest, Camp Bonneville, into Northwest Certified Forestry’s FSC-certification program. The County began to sell FSC-certified woods in autumn 2012 to several local mills. The final FSC Assessor Training Workshop of this project was held in Clark County in March 2013; the County’s recent certification and timber harvests provided a comprehensive overview of certification enrollment processes and harvest audit procedures. Clark County plans to certify the balance of Camp Bonneville’s forest land with Northwest Certified Forestry by the end 2013.

Clark County DES is actively managing Camp Bonneville to demonstrate how ecologically-based silviculture treatments improve forest growth and health, wood production can pay for restoration, and how FSC-certified wood products can garner a market premium. In addition, as County Forester, Vandling oversees the County’s designated forest land current use taxation program and engages with small forest landowners. With more than 128,000 acres of designated forestland owned by small forest owners, there is potential to educate a significant base of woodland owners close to the Portland, Oregon-market about the benefits of FSC-certification and market premiums.

Recommendations:

Potential Contributions

Through this project, NNRG has strengthened its understanding of the needs and motivations of forestry professionals, public land managers and private landowners for pursuing FSC-certification. NNRG has developed a curriculum and resources to educate interested forestry professional and land managers about FSC certification, assessment procedures, chain of custody procedures, and market opportunities. Additionally, in conducting these workshops, NNRG has identified current barriers to landowners and managers for pursuing FSC-certification.

During the FSC Assessor Training workshops the primary reasons that land managers and owners decide to pursue certification include: 1) Established principles that guide forest management practices convey legitimacy to stakeholders and interest groups; 2) FSC principles and criteria enable managers to optimize practices to improve ecosystem health; 3) incentive to maintain forestland as a long-term resource; and 4) provides additional value when wood products go into certified markets that provide premiums. Understanding decision factors and motivations for pursuing FSC-certification are critical for improving outreach and developing messaging platforms to engage and assist the array of landowners and managers interested in ecologically forestry, rural economic development and FSC-certification.

An outcome of these workshops and conversations with consulting foresters is that their clients, who are small forest owners, indicate that managing forests to FSC-certified standards is often consistent with their objectives; however, for FSC-certification to be a viable option, landowners require favorable market conditions. Consulting foresters also speculate that a larger, more consistent premium for FSC wood products would also incentivize other managers to adopt practices aligned with FSC principles and criteria. Related to this finding, but outside the scope of the funding for this project, NNRG and longtime partner, Sustainable Northwest, are engaged in addressing how to increase local market demand for FSC-certified wood products. While FSC producers have grown locally, nationally and globally and FSC market-share has also steadily grown, the gaps between local wood growers (forest landowners) and local wood products producers and local wood users are apparent.

Future Recommendations

At the onset of this project, NNRG identified two barriers to increasing potential market opportunities for forest producers through FSC-certification. This project addressed the need to bridge the gap for both forest landowners and the forestry and wood products professional sector about the ecological and economic benefits of certification. This remains an important focus of NNRG’s mission and the organization will continue to pursue means to educate landowners and forestry professionals about the benefits of certification. However, feedback from workshop participants, current members of Northwest Certified Forestry and potential future members suggest that improving the market demand for certified wood products and pathways to access the existing certified wood market is needed to incentivize certification. NNRG recommends that SARE continue to support research to educate forestry professionals and wood products producers about the benefits of certified product markets. In addition, future research and pilot projects that identify and address barriers to local wood production and utilization in markets will benefit rural and regional economies.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.