Certified Forests: preparing private landowners for the future

Final Report for LS05-171

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2005: $102,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2008
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $18,331.00
Region: Southern
State: Mississippi
Principal Investigator:
Glenn Hughes
Mississippi State University Extension Service
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Project Information


Project Investigators: Glenn Hughes Richard P. Vlosky Michael A. Dunn Priyan Perera Project Participants: Cecil Chambliss, forest landowner, Forrest County, MS. Joe Huggins, forest landowner, Lafayette County, MS. We examined the potential for certified forest products in Louisiana and Mississippi. A mail survey of major home retail centers revealed that one-third sell certified wood, and the sale of certified wood is expected to increase. A mail survey of forest landowners revealed that landowners are concerned about certification costs and have distinct preferences about who they trust to administer a certification program. Landowner workshops revealed that landowners are interested in having their land certified, and the Tree Farm System is the preferred system. Certification publications were developed for several audiences. This study better framed certification-related issues from various perspectives. Tables, figures or graphs mentioned in this report are on file in the Southern SARE office. Contact Sue Blum at 770-229-3350 or [email protected] for a hard copy.

Project Objectives:

We conducted a combined research and outreach effort on the potential for certified forest products in Louisiana and Mississippi. The goal of this two-year effort was to a) determine the current and future acceptance of forest certification systems among major retailers, and b) help PNIF landowners make informed decisions about whether or not their lands should be certified, and by what system(s). Products and results from this effort can than be used in other southern states. Specific research objectives included: 1. Identifying current certification systems accepted by major retailers; 2. Determining if major retailers will recognize additional certification systems; and 3. Determining PNIF landowner familiarity with and knowledge of forest certification. Specific outreach objectives included: 1. Conducting 7 workshops for PNIF landowners on forest certification; 2. Preparing a forest landowners guide to forest certification for southern states; 3. Enhancing landowner access to markets for certified forest products; and 4. Developing and implementing instruments that will measure outreach effectiveness. Portions of Sections V and VI below are excerpted from Perera (2008).


The purposes of this project are to 1) better understand current and future acceptance of forest certification systems by major home retail centers, and 2) better inform private, non-industrial forest landowners of certification so they can make decisions on which certification system, if any, is appropriate for their forestland. The United States currently contains only 6 percent of the world’s forest area and 8 percent of the total wood volume, but is the largest producer of industrial roundwood in the world (UN-FAO 2001). The South produces about 55 percent of the total U.S. harvest. If it were a separate nation, the South would produce more forest products than any other country in the world (Prestemon and Abt, 2002). The South is often referred to as the “woodbasket of the nation.” Forestland is a significant family asset, and a major contributor to the economies of southern states. In 1997 the wood products sectors contributed over 770,000 direct jobs to the southern economy, $120 billion in total industry output, and over $40 billion in gross regional product (Abt et al. 2002). The 215 million acres of forestland in the South are more than any other region. Ownership of southern forestland is dominated by private, non-industrial forest (PNIF) landowners, with 4.9 million landowners owning 71% of the forestland in the South (Birch 1997, Conner and Hartsell 2002). Income from timber harvesting goes directly into family bank accounts. This income helps build new homes, repair older homes, purchase new cars and trucks, finance college educations, provide retirement income, and improve the quality of life for urban and rural residents. Non-timber products including pine straw, hunting leases, and agro-forestry serve as additional revenue streams. Forests also provide many amenities to landowners and the public including recreational value, aesthetic enjoyment, wildlife habitat, and high quality water. Over the past two decades there has been a shift away from a commodity-oriented approach to forest management toward a more bio-centric (commodity and non-commodity) approach. A recent Southern SARE project surveyed forest landowners in four south-central states and found that the most frequently cited reason for owning land was “as an asset for my children/heirs” (Measells et al, 2005). Managing these forests on a sustainable basis for the many benefits they provide will have positive impacts for individuals, families, communities, and the region. Managing southern forestland for timber production is an attractive investment strategy. Siry (2002) found that the internal rate of return from forestland in the south central U.S. varied from 9.8 to 13%, with the higher rates of return associated with more intensive management. Because the South is more rural, less educated, and has a lower median household income than the rest of the nation, forestland ownership is the best economic opportunity for many PNIF landowners. For this goal to be realized, landowners need to adopt sustainable practices that benefit both current and future generations and provide access to developing markets. A recent development in forestry has been the rise in “forest certification.” These are forests that are grown, managed, and harvested using accepted practices that meet the needs of current and future generations. The idea behind certification is to “use market-based incentives to encourage sustainable forest management practices” (Zakreski et al., 2004). The emergence of forest certification has led to different systems throughout the world. To be credible, each certification system should address each of five areas (Zakreski et al., 2004): 1) governance – diverse representation that oversee standards, initiatives, and dispute resolution; 2) standardization – participation by multiple stakeholders to review, approve, and update standards; 3) accreditation – this separate body reviews the certification body, its standards, and audit procedures; 4) verification – the most credible format is “third-part certification” in which an independent auditor evaluates an organization’s adherence to independently established standards; and 5) tracking and labeling – this is the “face” of certification, and allows buyers to connect sustainable forest management practices to products (labeling). Tracking (chain-of-custody) permits tracking of a forest product back to its source. Certification is a multi-faceted process involving retailers, consumers, producers, mills, environmental organizations, societies, and certification systems. Certification exists to ensure stakeholders that an agreed-upon set of standards were used to produce forest products. The standards vary considerably depending on the certification system used. Standards exist to protect soil, water, forest productivity, wildlife, biological diversity, and other critical indicators while allowing for the sustainable production of forest products. Helping landowners understand this issue and take appropriate action is critical. For PNIF landowners, the decision whether or not to seek certification is based on a variety of factors including 1) cost to the landowner, 2) perceived benefits (current or potential access to markets, “it’s the right thing to do,” etc.), 3) concerns that the landowner may lose the ability to use the land as he sees fit, 4) ease by which the landowner can achieve certification, and other factors. The five major certification systems in the U.S. are 1) Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), 2) Sustainable Forest Initiative (SFI), 3) ISO 14000, 4) Tree Farm, and 5) Green Tag. The first three are typically used with large ownerships, and are more complex and costly. The last two are designed for smaller landowners, are less complex, and are less expensive to implement. Each certification system has its advantages and disadvantages. Major wood products retailers, specifically Lowe’s and Home Depot, have committed to providing “certified forest products” to consumers. Home Depot’s Wood Purchasing Policy states in part that “the Home Depot will give preference to the purchase of wood and wood products originating from certified well managed forests whenever feasible”. It is unclear which of the five major certification systems will ultimately be accepted by major forest products retailers. However, a survey of certified forest product retailers in 1998 found that 86% of those surveyed expected an increase in sales volume for certified forest products (Humphries et al. 2000). The market for certified products in the U.S. is expected to grow between 100 to 150% per year, according to Price Waterhouse Coopers (Dixon, 1999). Moffat (1999) found that almost 17 percent of U.S. timberland was enrolled in one of the five major certification systems in the spring of 1999. By the summer of 2002, this total grew to almost 30 percent (Moffat and Cubbage, 2001). Industrial holdings constituted most of the certified acreage, and small NIPF holdings constituted the smallest share. Certification can be an opportunity for PNIF landowners, but landowners must plan and act years in advance to capture this potential opportunity. Large industrial ownerships (Weyerhaeusaer, Plum Creek) are committed to having their forestland certified through one or more of the existing certification systems. In the South, the SFI and ISO 14000 certification systems are preferred by industrial landowners. These firms, with significant land holdings in the South, are committing substantial financial and human resources forest certification endeavors. Their reasons for becoming certified are 1) they feel that the market for certified forest products will develop and are positioning themselves to take advantage of this opportunity, 2) they see certification as imminent, but want input to develop a system that makes sense for North America forests, laws, and society, or 3) both of the above. Private landowners in general are not as familiar with certification issues as the forest industry. Also, many PNIF landowners are concerned about costs associated with becoming and remaining certified. As a result, most landowners are either unfamiliar with certification or are unsure which certification system is most appropriate for them. Much of the available information on certification targets industrial landowners, state ownerships, or larger non-governmental organizations. Only recently have certification programs targeted PNIF landowners. This is unfortunate, given that 71% of the forestland in the East is in PNIF ownership. Because of 1) the economic impact of forestry in the South, 2) the dominance of PNIF ownership, 3) the long investment horizon of forestry compared to traditional agricultural crops, 4) anticipated increase in certified products, and 5) uncertainties over different certification systems, PNIF landowners need information now so they can act to take advantage of future markets for certified wood. Sustainable Agriculture Relevance The basic concept of sustainable development as defined by the Brundtland Commission Report (WCED 1987) is “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” Sustainable development links the environment, society, and the economy. Southern agriculture is socially, economically, and ecologically diverse (Welsh and Ingram, 1997). Forestry is a vital component of southern agriculture, and forest products rank among the top three agricultural crops in all of the thirteen southern states (Hubbard 1999). Southern forests provide a variety of ecological benefits, including 1) reducing soil erosion, 2) maintaining high water quality, 3) providing habitat for many wildlife species, and 4) conserving biological diversity. Southern forests provide many social benefits as well, including jobs both directly and indirectly related to forest products, and commodities such as pulp and paper, solid wood products, and furniture. Amenity values include the use of forestland for hiking, fishing, hunting, bird watching, other recreational or aesthetic pursuits. Forest Sustainability has been defined a number of ways. Perhaps the most comprehensive is the following from The Dictionary of Forestry (Helms, 1998): “the stewardship and use of forests and forest lands in a way, and at a rate, that maintains their biodiversity, productivity, regeneration capacity, vitality, and potential to fulfill, now and in the future, relevant ecological, economic, and social functions at local, national, and global levels, and that does not cause damage to other ecosystems.” Forest certification is important because it is a mechanism to independently determine if the forestland in question is being managed on a sustainable basis. Certification serves as the “stamp of approval” that the forestland is properly managed relative to the standards used.


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  • Michael Dunn
  • Richard Vlosky


Materials and methods:

The research component of this project consisted of two mail surveys following the Tailored Design Method recommended by Dillman (2000). One survey was designed for major home retail centers, and the second survey was designed for private, nonindustrial forest landowners. A mail questionnaire approach was chosen because we perceived it to be the most cost-effective method of data collection. The method affords a high degree of anonymity and is less limited by rigid time constraints that can impede the effectiveness of other survey methods. The questionnaire primarily used scale questions that measure constructs or major “concepts.” The scales of measurement were nominal, ordinal, and interval. In addition, 5-point scaling questions, anchored by 1 = strongly agree to 5 = strongly disagree and by 1 = very important to 5 = very unimportant, were employed to measure the respondent’s level of agreement with various questions addressing certification. The questionnaires also contained fixed response questions and open-ended questions, which allowed respondents to express thoughts and ideas not covered in the fixed format questions. Each questionnaire was pre-tested with a sub-set of 20 representatives from the sample and revised accordingly before the final mailing. Mailing procedures followed the Tailored Design Method (Dillman, 2000), and included a pre-notification postcard, the first questionnaire mailing with a postage paid return envelope, a reminder postcard, and a second mailing to first mailing non-respondents. Cover letters that accompanied the questionnaires were personally signed by the principal investigator to ensure the credibility and confidentiality of respondents. Home Retail Center Survey Over the fall of 2005-spring 2006 period, a mail questionnaire was sent to the 500 largest home center retailers in the U.S. based on gross sales in 2004 (Appendix A, Figure 1). The mailing list was purchased from Home Channel News. After single-family housing construction, repair and remodel applications of wood sold primarily through home center retailers accounts for the second largest demand market. It is critical to survey this population, as home centers have been the primary driver of certification from the demand side of the equation in the United States. We developed a mail questionnaire to determine the current and potential future forest certification systems acceptable to these companies. In this component of the study, we determined trends in home center forest certification strategies, certification systems accepted and under consideration, certification criteria important to these retailers, and other related trends in the home center arena. Because of the dominance of Lowe’s and Home Depot in the retail market, understanding current and future participation in certification by these companies was critical to the success of this study. This required communicating the objectives of the survey with key company personnel to ensure their participation in the survey. These and other companies were assured that survey results would be summarized in such a manner as to maintain confidentiality of all responses. Such assurances of confidentiality allowed us to gain the best understanding of their perception of certification, its current and future applications in their business, and possible trends that may affect PNIF landowners. Dr. Vlosky coordinated this effort. Landowner Survey A second survey was developed for PNIF landowners (Appendix A, Figure 2). The purpose of this survey was to determine their familiarity with and knowledge of forest certification. This survey was also coordinated by Dr. Vlosky at LSU. Various forest landowner magazines have published articles on certification and its possible effect on landowners, but it is unclear how well landowners understand this complex and evolving issue. Information gained helped us determine actions landowners were willing to take if certification becomes a requirement for marketing certain forest products, the expense they would be willing to incur to become certified, and their values that influence the selection of a certification strategy. This survey was pilot tested, revised, and mailed to 1,200 PNIF landowners each in Louisiana and Mississippi, randomly selected from tax roll information. Follow-up letters were mailed to non-respondents two weeks after the first surveys were mailed. Landowner Workshops Seven landowner workshops on forest certification were conducted in Louisiana and Mississippi, 3 and 4 workshops, respectively. Dr. Dunn coordinated workshops in Louisiana, and Dr. Hughes coordinated workshops in Mississippi. Workshops utilized either an indoor or a combined indoor/outdoor format focusing on the basics of forest certification for PNIF landowners and consulting foresters that work with and advise landowners. The indoor portion of the workshop included an overview of forest certification, a comparison of the forest certification systems, status and trends of certification among retailers, potential markets for landowners, and costs associated with certification. Information obtained from the research component of the project was provided to all participants. The field part of the workshops involved applying different certification systems on the ground and a discussion of forest practices deemed acceptable or unacceptable by different certification systems. Costs to become and remain certified, challenges faced by landowners, direct or indirect benefits of certification, and other aspects were highlighted on the field portion of the workshop. This format was selected because a recent Southern SARE survey of landowners found that combined indoor and outdoor workshops were the preferred format landowners had for educational programs (Measells et al., 2006). In addition to the workshops, articles were published in appropriate trade journals, newsletters, websites, refereed journals and other venues to maximize information dissemination to a variety of audiences. The target audience for this portion of the project consisted of private landowners and foresters who work with landowners. The forest certification workshop is the mechanism to get the research information, different perspectives, landowner guide to certification, and in-field experience to the landowner and his/her forester. We used several means of letting landowners and forester know about the workshops. Direct mail has proven to be more important than other techniques in informing landowners of such workshops (Hughes et al., 2005). We obtained tax rolls for counties and LA and MS, and used these tax rolls to identify forest landowners. Each landowner received a personal letter from an Extension Agent with a brochure attached describing the forest certification workshop. We mailed to landowners with 30 or more acres of forestland, as research shows that many small landowners have their property for residential purposes and do not intend to manage their land. In Mississippi, there are active County Forestry Associations (CFAs) in all heavily forested counties. Landowner letters, described above, were also sent to CFAs members to inform them of an upcoming workshop. The MSU Extension Forestry web site contains an up-to-date listing of all educational courses. We posted workshop information and details on this web site. We also used traditional techniques of news releases to daily and weekly newspapers, local radio, and local TV stations. Louisiana utilized similar techniques, although there is no centralized list of registered foresters. Landowner groups were notified, the LSU Ag Center posted the workshops on their web site, and traditional publicity techniques described above were used. Landowner Guide and Web Site During the last year of the project, a publication titled “Private Landowner’s Guide to Forest Certification in the South” was developed. This guide involved all PIs, presented an overview of forest certification, and compared each major certification system. The Guide included selected information discovered during the research component of the project. The Guide is available through both LSU and MSU, is made available to other land grant institutions in the South, and is also available online. The intent of the Guide is to allow landowners to make informed decisions on whether or not certification is right for them, and if so, to help them select the most appropriate system for their needs. By providing workshop participants with the research-based information, the Guide, and an opportunity to address the issue of forest certification from diverse aspects, landowners will be in a better position to "capture" future markets for certified forest products. LSU and MSU jointly developed a forest certification web site. This web site contains a variety of publications developed from the proposed project that target PNIF landowners. The site includes the “Private Landowner’s Guide to Forest Certification in the South,” announcements for upcoming certification workshops, photos of past workshops, a variety of resources useful to landowners and foresters relating to certification, and a list of links to other sources. We do not endorse or favor any certification system, as this decision is best made by an informed landowner. LSU’s web site will be accessed through the LSU Ag Center’s Environment and Natural Resources site (www.lsuagcenter.com). MSU’s web site will be accessed through the MSU Extension Forestry web site (www.msucares.com).

Research results and discussion:

Retail Center Survey Of the top 500 home retail center surveys distributed, 132 usable surveys were completed and returned, a response rate of 26%. Nearly one-third (32%) of the respondents were headquartered in the South, 27% in the North Central U.S., 23% in the Northeast, and 18% in the West (Appendix B, Figure 1). Respondents were divided segmented into large, medium and small companies according to their 2004 total sales (Large; sales of $ 200 million or more, Medium; sales of $ 51-199 million, Small; sales of $ 50 million or less). Fifty-six percent of respondents are small scale with 2004 sales of $50 million or less. Medium scale companies accounted for 36 percent of the respondents. Large scale companies accounted for only 6.5 percent of the sample. Similarly, 90 percent of respondents had 500 or fewer employees in 2004. On the other end of the scale, 6 percent of respondents had sales of $200 million or more and about 10 percent of respondents had more than 500 employees in 2004. A majority of the companies (78 percent of the respondents) had more than 100 employees in 2004. Most respondents sold numerous wood products, with molding and millwork, softwood lumber, softwood plywood, and treated wood products carried by 91 percent of respondents (Appendix B, Figure 2). Wood products contributed significantly to the revenue of most companies (Appendix B, Figure 3). For 79 percent of respondents (n=121), wood products accounted for over 50 percent of the total sales in 2004. Only 7.4 percent of the respondents said wood products comprised less than 20 percent of their sales in year 2004. Respondents purchase wood products from a variety of suppliers. Allowing for multiple responses, the U.S. brokers or wholesalers was the main purchasing channel for wood products for 93 percent of respondents followed by direct international manufacturers, and international brokers/wholesalers at 27 percent and 26 percent of respondents respectively. Fourteen percent of respondents purchase wood products from U.S. brokers/wholesalers and 13 percent make purchases directly from the U.S. manufacturers (Appendix B, Figure 4). Respondents were also asked to provide information on the origin of wood products they sell. Again, allowing for multiple responses, 93 percent of respondents said wood products they purchase are from sources in North America, followed by South America and Europe. Africa and Oceania were the least ranked geographical regions of origin for wood products sold in the U.S. by leading home center retailers (Appendix B, Figure 5). Using a 3-point scale (1=Not Important at All; 2=Somewhat Important; 3=Very Important), respondents rated the relative importance of criteria they use to select wood product suppliers (Appendix B, Figure 6). Fair prices, product quality, and consistent delivery ranked at the top (2.9) closely followed by product availability (2.8), high level of customer service (2.7), and the need for supplier representatives to speak English (2.7). Ironically, certification or eco-labeling was ranked last from the list of 21 criteria. According to study results, 33 percent of respondents (n=42) sold certified wood products and, of the 67 percent that did not sell certified products, 19 percent said they planned to do so in the future. Nineteen percent of respondents that were selling certified products have obtained COC certification while 60 percent have not, and 21 percent said they did not know. Annual wood products sales (Spearman R= -0.487, p=0.001) and number of employees (Spearman R= 0.643, p=0.001) showed somewhat strong and significant correlation with participation in certification/obtaining COC certification; large scale retailers tend to obtain certification. Respondents were also asked about their company’s approximate percentage of certified wood products sales of their total wood products sales. For the 32 respondents that answered this question, on average 38 percent of the company total wood product sales (by value) are certified. Respondents were asked why they entered the certified wood products market (Appendix B, Figure 7). The most cited reasons (29 percent of respondents) were “it was the only product available” and “improve company image.” This was followed by customer demand, increase sales volume, and business owner commitment to environmental issues. Pressure from environmentalists, avoidance of business risk, and seeking increased profits were least ranked reasons. Identifying current and future certification programs acceptable to home center retailers was a prime objective of this study. For the 41 respondents who sell certified products, FSC certification is the most accepted and preferred scheme followed closely by SFI certification (Appendix B, Figure 8). Green Tag, PEFC and Tree Farm certification programs were ranked next for both acceptance and preference. We also examined cost aspects of certification. When asked about the premium paid for certified wood products relative to non-certified alternatives, 50 percent of respondents (n=21) said they do not pay anything extra for certified wood products, and 30% pay 1-5% more (Appendix B, Figure 9). Eleven percent of respondents said they pay more than 10 percent for certified wood products relative to comparable non-certified wood products. Kruskal-Wallis test statistic further indicate that price premiums paid for certified products by retailers do not differ with company size (p = 0.669). About 13 percent of certified wood products retailers (n=5) have requested that wood suppliers become certified. No respondent experienced unexpected costs due to participating in certification while 5 percent of respondents said they experienced unexpected benefits. When asked about certification promotion, 11percent (4 respondents) of certified wood seller respondents said that their company actively promotes its products as certified to customers. Twenty-nine percent (n=11) said their certified products carry an eco-labels, 55 percent said they do not and 16 percent were unsure if their certified wood products carry an eco-label. Finally, we were interested in home center retailer perceptions of past and future demand for their certified wood products sales. Sixty-two percent of certified wood products retailers (n=26) have experienced a moderate or significant increase, and no respondent experienced a decrease in sales of certified wood products over the past 5 years (Appendix B, Figure 10). A majority (69 percent, n=29) anticipate a moderate or significant increase in certified wood sales in the next 5 years. Three percent said they expected sales would decline somewhat and no respondent thought certified wood sales would decrease significantly. Landowner Survey Of the 2,400 surveys mailed, 457 were either undeliverable or inappropriate due to respondent being deceased, no longer owning forest lands or their unwillingness to participate in the survey. There were 231 and 226 unusable surveys from Louisiana and Mississippi, respectively. The total number of usable surveys received was 592, for an overall adjusted response rate of 30.5 percent. The total number of usable surveys represents 307 NIPF landowners from Louisiana (adjusted response rate of 31.6 percent) and, 285 NIPF landowners from Mississippi (adjusted response rate of 29.3 percent). Adjusted response rate was calculated as follows. Adjusted Response Rate = Usable Surveys / [Total Sample – (Undeliverables + Unusables)] % Surveys were received from landowners across Mississippi and Louisiana counties/parishes. Appendix B, Figures 11 and 12 illustrate the number of responses received from Louisiana and Mississippi landowners, respectively. These are based on mailing addresses and do not represent the location of the property. Two-tailed t-tests were used to identify whether the mean responses of Louisiana and Mississippi landowners differ from each other significantly. There were no statistical differences found between Louisiana and Mississippi respondents for any of the questions asked in the questionnaire at a 0.05 significance level. Accordingly, results are combined for all respondents. Over 76 percent of the respondents were males. Annual 2004 income was less than $75,000 for 63 percent of respondents, and nearly 53 percent were 65 years or older. Eighty-two percent are married and 56 percent have a college (BS) or advanced degree (MS or PhD). Seventy-six percent of respondents resided in the respective state where they owned forestland and the balance were absentee owners, residing in other U.S. states. General Profile Over the past 10 years, respondents have acquired total forestland area of 180,234 acres while disposing 396,627 acres in the same period. This corresponds to a total acquisition (n=558) of 323 acres, and 707 acres sold (n=561) per respondent. The general tendency of NIPF landowners is to dispose/sell their lands rather than to acquire. Ownership and Management Approximately 66 percent of the respondents owned less than 200 acres of land. Only 2 percent owned 5,000 acres or more (Appendix B, Figure 13). Eighty two percent of the respondents (n=569) individually owned forestlands. This includes 57 percent of individual or joint spouse ownerships and 25 percent of joint children, siblings and extended family ownerships other than family corporations. About 30 percent of the respondents (n=591) ranked timber production as the most significant reason to own timberlands (Appendix B, Figure 14). The second most important reason for NIPF landowners to own forestlands is “as a property to pass on to their heirs”. This was closely followed by recreational purposes, land investment, and to enjoy the privacy that forest lands can offer. The “other” category mainly included reasons such as “a land/estate inherited from parents” and for mineral and oil rights. Eighty percent of the respondents harvested timber products during the time they have owned forestland. Saw-logs was the main product harvested (58 percent) by NIPF landowners from their timberlands followed by pulpwood (48 percent), chip-n-saw (21 percent), and fuel wood (15 percent). Out of 562 respondents, the majority (73 percent) did not have a written forestry or wildlife management plan for their property while 57 percent have taken some form of advice from a forestry professional in managing their forests. Of the 27 percent of respondents who have management plans, 86 percent said that the management plan was prepared by a forester or other forestry professional while the remaining 14 percent said that they prepared the management plan themselves. The Need and Impetus for Certification Respondents were asked about their perceptions of the need for forest certification on forestland by ownerships. Respondents gave top priority to national and state forests followed by tropical forests as forests that need some form of certification (Appendix B, Figure 15). About 40 percent of the respondents believe certification is necessary on private lands. However, the landowner’s lowest level of agreement is with the need of certification on private forestlands. The level of agreement to the question on the role of forest certification in sustaining health of different forest ownerships also followed more or less the same response pattern. Landowners strongly agreed with statements that forest certification can help sustaining the health of public forests (score, 4.1 of 5), and state forests (score, 4.1). The least agreement was with private forestlands (score, 3.5). Respondents were also asked to rank their level of agreement regarding the impetus for certification in the U.S. on a 5 point Likert scale (Appendix B, Figure 16). Nearly 65 percent of the respondents consider environmental organizations as the main driving force behind certification in US. This group is closely followed by forestry organizations, certifiers and certification consultants. Only 30 percent believe certification is demand driven which was ranked last. Understand and Knowledge of General Certification Issues Questions were asked to reveal landowner’s knowledge on certification and Appendix B, Table 1 summarizes the responses. Forty seven percent of the respondents admitted that they understand the concept of forest certification well or to some degree. More than 56 percent felt certification could improve the forestry profession in the U.S., whereas 37 percent thought consumers are willing to pay price premiums for certified wood products. High number of “neither disagree nor agree” responses to these statements may suggest that respondents are not sure how consumers in the market place would react given the choice between certified products and non-certified products. Such responses to most statements also indicate the little knowledge landowners have of certification. It is possible that the understanding of certification concepts is greatly influenced by respondent demographics. Therefore, appropriate statistical tests were performed to investigate these relationships. According to independent sample t-tests, the gender of respondents had no significant influence on their understanding of certification issues at α = 0.05 significance level. The education level of respondents was weakly and nonsignificantly correlated to the understanding of various certification issues/concepts at α = 0.05 significance level. Other demographic variables such as age also showed a non-significant correlation with understanding of certification issues at α = 0.05 significance level. However, the income level showed a rather weak, but significant correlation with ‘adoption of sustainable practices on their lands’ (Spearman R = 0.123, p=0.013), belief of consumers paying a premium for certified products (Spearman R = -0.184, p=0.00) and trust of environmental claims made by wood product suppliers (Spearman R = 0.115, p=0.02) at α = 0.05 significance level. Since the assumption of normality was met, independent sample t-tests were employed to examine whether the understanding of certification concepts seem to be influenced by previous interactions with forestry professionals/organizations, and getting advice from them for forest land management activities (Appendix B, Table 2). General Attitudes of NIPF Landowners on Certification Only 18 percent of the respondents viewed certification as an unworkable concept at present. A considerable proportion (45 percent) of respondents believes forest certification will add an unnecessary level of regulation on private lands. When asked whether the federal or state laws make certification unnecessary, majority indicated a neutral response. Appendix B, Table 3 summarizes additional responses of NIPF landowners regarding attitudes about certification. According to the results, over 40 percent have a somewhat positive perception of forest certification and believe that it can promote sustainable forestry. However, nearly 50 percent of respondents said they are skeptical of the public willingness to support certification and further elaborated that they believe that consumers are confused by the proliferation of certification programs. The questionnaire also looked at the desired and actual levels of involvement of the forestry community in the certification process. Mean level of agreement for statements “The forestry community should be involved in the certification discussion” and “The forestry community has been adequately involved in the certification discussion” on a 5 point scale were 3.5 and 3.0 respectively. Two-tailed t-test was used to compare the means. A statistically significant difference between mean responses (p=0.000 at α = 0.05) suggest that there is a large gap between the need of forestry community to be involved, and the actual level of involvement. Level of Trust to Administer Forest Certification The respondent’s level of trust for various entities to implement and monitor certification in the U.S. rated based on a 5 point scale of agreement. Private landowner organizations and approved professional foresters by certification organizations are the most trusted parties by NIPF landowners to administer forest certification (Appendix B, Figure 17). Interestingly, environmental NGOs which were recognized by respondents as the main driving force for certification were the least trusted entity to administer forest certification. Landowner Willingness to Pay for the Costs of Certification When asked about NIPF landowner willingness to allow certifiers to freely check their forestry operations (n=554), 28.7 percent were against it. About 46.5 percent has somewhat neutral perception on this regard. This suggests that respondents are generally not averse to having certifiers monitor their forest management activities. Cost of certification is a concern for NIPF and industrial forest landowners alike. Certification programs are voluntary, and landowners often have to incur the costs associated with modify and implement programs to become certified. Results of the present study show that majority of respondents (77 percent) are unwilling to bear any cost of certification while 13 percent of the respondents are willing to pay between $0.5 to 1.00 per acre (Appendix B, Figure 18). However, the amount that landowners are willing to pay to become certified showed no statistically significant correlation with their income level (Spearman R = 0.235, p=0.369 at α =0.05). Since the assumption of normality was not met by the data set in this case, non-parametric Spearman’s correlation test was employed. Landowner Workshops Workshops were conducted for forest landowners, foresters, agency personnel, and others interested in forestry. In Louisiana, 3 evening workshops were conducted to reach the widest possible number of participants. Each workshop had a consistent format. Following a meal, presentations were made to participants on the following topics: 1) basics of forest certification, 2) overview of the recently-conducted retail home center and landowner surveys, 3) certification systems available to landowners, 4) cost/benefits of certification, and 5) market demand for certified products. In Mississippi, 4 daytime workshops were conducted, allowing for a field visit to a locally certified Tree Farm. The program was similar to the Louisiana workshop described above, with an added presentation on the process by which a landowner becomes certified. Workshops were conducted in Lafayette, Chickasaw, Lamar, and Pearl River Counties. A total of 112 people attended the Mississippi workshops.

Participation Summary

Educational & Outreach Activities

Participation Summary:

Education/outreach description:

Thesis: Perera, Priyan. 2008. Non-industrial Private Forest Landowners and Home Center Retailers’ Attitudes and Perceptions of Forest Certification. M.S. Thesis, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge. 113pp. Refereed Publications: Perera, P., R.P. Vlosky, G. Hughes, and M.A. Dunn. 2007. What do Louisiana and Mississippi nonindustrial private forest landowners think about certification? S. J. Appl. For. 31(4)170-175. Perera, P., R.P. Vlosky, M.A. Dunn, and Gl. Hughes. 2008. U.S. home center retailer attitudes, perceptions, and behaviors regarding forest certification. Forest Products Journal 58(3):21-25. Hughes, H.G., M.A. Dunn, R.P. Vlosky, and P. Perera. 2008. Private landowners’ guide to forest certification in the South. Mississippi State Univ. Extension Service Pub. 2447. 20pp. Available online at: http://msucares.com/pubs/publications/p2447.pdf Non-refereed Publications: Vlosky, R.P., P. Perera, M.A. Dunn, and H.G. Hughes. 2008. What do Louisiana nonindustrial private forest landowners think about certification? Louisiana Agriculture, LSU Ag Center, Baton Rouge. Available online: http://www.lsuagcenter.com/en/communications/publications/agmag/Archive/2008/Winter/What+do+Louisiana+nonindustrial+private+forest+landowners+think+about+forest+certification.htm Perera, P., R.P. Vlosky, M.A. Dunn, and H.G. Hughes. 2008. U.S. home-center retailer attitudes, perceptions and behaviors regarding forest certification. Entrepreneur. Available online at: http://www.entrepreneur.com/tradejournals/article/177361972.html Education and Outreach Programs Seven education and outreach programs conducted as part of this project, three in Louisiana and four in Mississippi. Programs conducted in Louisiana were all evening programs of approximately 2.5 hour duration, and were conducted indoors. The Mississippi programs were conducted during the day and consisted of a combined indoor/outdoor format. Evaluations were distributed at two of the three Louisiana programs, and at all Mississippi programs. Because program formats were different between states, evaluation instruments were not identical and therefore are shown separately (Appendix C, Tables 1 and 2). Louisiana programs: Programs were conducted during 2007 in Monroe, Baton Rouge, and Alexandria on Jan. 19, June 26, and July 24, respectively. Participant evaluations reveal that: • 94% rated the presented material as Superior (46%) or Adequate (54%); • 62% felt the course length was Adequate; • Instructors were rated as either Very Informed (85%) or Informed (15%), and 100% indicated that the instructors Communicated Clearly; • When asked how the workshop influenced them: o 92% learned new information; o 77% are better prepared to make certification decisions; and o 46% indicated the workshop reinforced existing knowledge; • Total economic value to participants was estimated at $29,100; and • Total forestland owned by participants was 6,165 acres. Mississippi Programs: Programs were conducted in 2007 in Lafayette, Pearl River, Chickasaw, and Lamar Counties on July 12, July 13, August 9, and December 7, respectively. Participant evaluations reveal that: • 96% viewed the workshop as either Very Beneficial (72%) or Somewhat Beneficial (24%); • 84% indicated that the workshop met their expectations; • 93% of participants either learned a lot (50%) or have a better understanding (43%) of forest certification; • The 112 participants owned 16,874 acres of forestland, managed an additional 360,021 acres, and valued the information received at $270,500.

Project Outcomes

Project outcomes:

This project has raised the visibility of the issue of forest certification in Louisiana and Mississippi. This is critical, as research results from this project illustrated that most landowners had little concrete knowledge of forest certification. It is still a fairly new and developing phenomenon. Landowners are often unaware that most forestland owned by the forest industry and by timber investment and management organizations (TIMOs) is certified, and that the demand for certified forest products is increasing yearly. Information from this project has been presented to statewide audiences in various formats including magazines, news releases, workshops, and various presentations to landowners and natural resource professionals. The workshops have resulted in more landowners expressing interest in having their land certified. Evaluations from the Mississippi workshops reveal that, of those with lands not currently certified, 41% “fully intend to become certified.” Of those wanting to become certified, there is a distinct preference for the American Tree Farm System. Of those interested in having their land certified, preferences were as follows: ATFS, 90%; SFI, 19%; FSC, 13%, and Green Tag, 6% (percentages exceed 100% because some landowners chose multiple certification systems). The preference for ATFS was due in part to the perceived high costs of other certification systems, whereas ATFS is available at no cost to the landowners. There are indirect costs such as having a written management plan, but this requirement applies to all certification systems. An additional factor favoring ATFS among landowners is that ATFS has a long history with helping private landowners in Louisiana, Mississippi, and other states. The first Mississippi Tree Farm was established in 1944. In 2008 the Tree Farm System in Mississippi increased significant growth. There were 172 new Tree Farms certified in Mississippi, and currently there are 100 pending applications. Some of this growth is likely attributable to the current project, but there is no mechanism to accurately assess this. The number of Tree Farms in Mississippi declined from around 5,000 in calendar year 2000 to a little more than 3,000 currently. Much of this decline occurred after the Standards of Sustainability were first enacted in 2004. Decline in enrollment was due to numerous factors including landowners not being able to meet one or more of the standards (such as having a written management plan), disinterest in the program when contacted to be recertified, or other reasons. A significant dichotomy exists between the certification preferences of home retail centers and private landowners. Home retail centers expressed preference, both currently and in the future, for FSC and SFI. The Tree Farm System was a very distant 4th place, behind Green Tag. Green Tag, with only 66,516 acres registered as of 5/13/08, has certified just 0.25% of the acreage that ATFS had certified by the same date. From a southern private landowner’s standpoint, Green Tag is not a realistic option, as only 4 of their certified tracts are in southern states. Landowners interested in certification and expressing a preference overwhelmingly chose ATFS as the certification system of choice. Our conclusion is that the word “green” in Green Tag has artificially elevated the standing of the Green Tag program among home retail centers.

Economic Analysis

At this point it is difficult to quantify the economic impact of forest certification in general and this project in particular. This is due to the combination of 1) a long-term investment horizon of most forestry enterprises, and 2) no current price premium to landowners for certified forest products. As such, landowners interested in certification are faced with potential costs but no economic return, at least in the short term. The main economic reason that a landowner would consider certification is access to markets in the future. Landowners that are certified will have access to more markets than those not certified. Access to more markets generally translates into greater return to the landowner, but this return is in most cases several years out given that most landowners harvest timber on an irregular and protracted time interval. Approaching certification from a “price-premium” standpoint for private landowners is ill-advised. While a price premium for certified wood may develop with time, there is little indication in our existing southern markets that this is happening. Forest industry representatives have clearly stated that they receive regular correspondence from their large corporate clients interested in certified forest products. Few of the forest industries still maintain both a land base producing trees and mills that manufacture products. Most have sold their land, and it will continue to fall to the PNIF landowner, as the largest forest landowner group in the South, to produce certified forest products. Existing, widely adopted certification systems should consider ways to enable mills to search for certified forests in their market area. Some systems, such as FSC, currently provide this service. We have recently experienced a phenomenon of local mills interested in lists of local Tree Farms, as they are a source of certified wood. This interest will likely increase, as the Tree Farm System a) signed a mutual recognition agreement with SFI in 2005, and b) was endorsed by PEFC as a source of certified wood in 2008. The mills need at least a portion of their wood from certified forests, and some anticipate that in the future all of the wood processed at their mill will come from certified sources. Such developments are likely to enhance the desire for certification among forest landowners.

Farmer Adoption

As noted in Section VII, a significant percentage of participants intend to become certified. This is a process that can take several months or longer to arrange site visits, develop a management plan, and conduct the necessary review. At this point it is too early to document actual changes in behavior. As also noted in Section VII, there has been a recent increase in the number of Tree Farms in Mississippi, as well as in pending applications, and some of these are likely due to participants in workshops sponsored through this effort. The workshops conducted in 2007 reached approximately 300 landowners and forest managers. Our advice to landowners and managers was to consider whether or not forest certification was appropriate to their specific circumstances, based on existing and new information regarding certification.


Areas needing additional study

There are several areas in the certification arena that deserve further study. • What are ways that costs can be reduced, while maintaining the integrity of certification systems? It is clear that landowners are concerned, and rightly so, about the costs of certification. Identifying ways to reduce both direct and indirect costs of certification would enhance adoption. • What certification systems are accepted by major “green building” certification systems (i.e., LEEDs, Green Globe, etc)? The concept of green building has increased, and several systems exist to certify green building. While forest products currently account for only a minor part of the overall evaluation process, these systems differ in their approaches to forest certification systems that are accepted. • What is the impact of the current economic crisis on the adoption and use of certified forest products? The home retail center survey conducted for this project provided a “shapshot” prior to the current crisis. Will this crisis change home center attitudes regarding certification? • Will the growing and emerging area of “ecosystem services” (i.e., carbon sequestration) spur interest and participation in certification systems? Currently, most landowners interested in enrolling in a carbon sequestration contract register through the Chicago Climate Exchange (CCX) and must be enrolled in an approved forest certification system. In North America this includes FSC, SFI, and Tree Farm. • Can foresters, perhaps through using group certification, reduce per-acre certification costs and increase certified acreages? • What mechanisms can certification systems use to market participants in their various programs to mills needing certified wood? Literature Cited Abt, K.L., S.A. Winter, and R.J. Huggett, Jr. 2002. Chapter 10 (SOCIO-5): Local economic impacts of forests. in: D.N. Wear and J.G. Greis, eds., Southern Forest Resource Assessment—Technical Report. USDA For. Serv. Gen. Tech Rep. SRS-053. 635pp. Birch, T. W. 1997. Private forest-land owners of the Southern United States. USDA For. Serv. Resour. Bull. NE-138. 195pp. Conner, R.C., and A. J. Hartsell. 2002. Chapter 16 (HLTH-1): Forest area and conditions. In: D.N. Wear and J.G. Greis, eds., Southern Forest Resource Assessment—Technical Report. USDA For. Serv. Gen. Tech. Rep. SRS-053. 635pp. Dillman, D. A. 2000. Mail and Internet Surveys: The Tailored Design Method. Second Edition. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., New York, NJ. Dixon, A. 1999. Beauty and the Beasts. Timber and Wood Products Internatioanl. 389:42. Helms, J.A., ed. 1998. The dictiionary of forestry. Society of Amer. Foresters, Bethesda, MD. Hubbard, W.G. 1999. Economic impact of forestry and forest products in the South. Southern Perspectives 3(2)2-5, 16. Southern Rural Development Center, Mississippi State Univ., Starkville. Hughes, G., M.K. Measells, S.C. Grado, M.A. Dunn, J.O. Idassi, R.J. Zielinske. 2005. Underserved forest landowner workshops: Opportunities for landowners and extension. J. Extension [On-line], 43(4) Article 4FEA5. Available at http://www.joe.org/joe/2005august/a5.php Humphries, S., R.P. Vlosky, and D. Carter. 2000. Certified wood product merchants in the United States: A comparison between 1995 and 1998. Forest Products Journal. 51(6):32-38 Measells, M.K., S.C. Grado, H.G. Hughes, M.A. Dunn, J. Idassi, and B. Zielinske. 2005. Nonindustrial private forest landowner characteristics and use of forestry services in four southern states: Results from a 2002-2003 mail survey. S. J. Appl. For. 29(4) 194-199. Measells, M.K., S.C. Grado, and H.G. Hughes. 2006. Educational needs of southern forest landowners. J. Extension [On-line], 44(5) Article 5RIB4. Available at: http://www.joe.org/joe/2006october/rb4.php Moffat, S.O. 1999. Making sense of sustainable forestry: past actions, present conditions, and potential outcomes. Ph.D. Diss., North Carolina State Univ. Moffat, S.O., and F.W. Cubbage. 2001. Northwest forest practices regulation and forest management certification. Northwest Woodlands. Spring, 2001, pp28-31. Prestemon, J.P., and R.C. Abt. 2002. Chapter 13: (TIMBR-1): Timber products supply and demand. in: D.N. Wear and J.G. Greis, eds. Southern forest resource assessment. USDA For. Serv. Gen. Tech. Rep. SRS-53. 635 pp. Perera, Priyan. 2008. Non-industrial Private Forest Landowners and Home Center Retailers’ Attitudes and Perceptions of Forest Certification. M.S. Thesis, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge. 113pp. Siry, J.P. 2002. Chapter 14 (TIMBR-2): Intensive timber management practices. in: D.N. Wear and J.G. Greis, eds. Southern forest resource assessment. USDA For. Serv. Gen. Tech. Rep. SRS-53. 635 pp. United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. 2001. State of the world's forests 2001. UN-FAO, Rome. Welsh, R., and K. Ingram. 1997. Systems research methods handbook. Southern SARE online document at www.griffin.peachnet.edu/sare/documents/handbook.htm. World Commission on Environment and Development. 1987. Our common future. Oxford Univ. Press. Zakreski, S., S.C. Doak, and M. Evertz. 2004. Matching business values with forest certification systems. Metafore, Portland, OR. 31 pp.

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.