Forestry Certification Training for Agency Field Staff

Project Overview

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

Annual Reports


  • Additional Plants: trees


  • Crop Production: forestry
  • Education and Training: networking, workshop, technical assistance
  • Farm Business Management: new enterprise development, value added
  • Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity, habitat enhancement, wildlife
  • Production Systems: holistic management
  • Sustainable Communities: sustainability measures

    Proposal abstract:

    The Pacific Northwest is experiencing the most rapid decline of private timber lands of any US region (WA DNR, 2001). The trend of conversion to non-forest use, driven by rising real estate values, uncertain regulations, structural changes in the industry, and rapid population growth, threatens communities with the loss of vital services these forests provide (carbon sequestration, clean water, flood control, habitat, etc). Much like disappearing family farms, loss of these family forest lands has significant impacts on rural economies with increased poverty and long term job deterioration, yet many timber businesses still participate only in declining large scale commodity markets and are not yet taking advantage of product diversification and marketing/branding opportunities provided by sustainable forest certification. At a time of floundering commodity timber prices and declining rural economies, market data shows Forest Stewardship Council certified wood products growing steadily. There has been an increase in FSC Chain of Custody businesses from 600 to 3400 in the last two years as well as a doubling of the overall certified wood products market in each of the last two years (1-2 and 2-4 percent,, 2009). Although the economic downturn has greatly impacted timber prices, certified wood markets have been the least impacted and in some cases the only timber sales avenue during this trying time. Recent FSC certification of WA Dept. of Natural Resources lands and future Oregon state lands creates an anchor for small landowners to participate in these markets. Just as there is a knowledge gap for small forest landowners of certification there is also great need and opportunity to educate state and local forestry professionals on FSC certification requirements, the assessment process, markets, and how to connect to certified mills and manufacturers. This project proposes a series of six workshops designed to address these needs through an FSC markets and assessment training to better allow forestry professionals in Washington and Oregon to educate landowners and provide technical expertise to access certified wood markets. These workshops will be designed to prepare WADNR, ODF, NRCS, Extension, conservation districts, NGO’S and others who work with family forest landowners to meet the needs of these new and changing markets. Workshops will include 10-15 attendees and will address current markets for FSC wood products, FSC chain-of-custody policies and procedures, certification standards, field assessments and audit procedures for small woodland owners. State, federal and NGO forestry professionals, those on the ground in rural areas, are best able to meet the 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 $50/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 this project. This project will lead to 60-90 forestry professionals with increased knowledge and ability to provide technical assistance, an additional 200 landowners being educated by workshop attendees, 50 new FSC certifications within the project period, and 25 landowners selling wood products into the certified market.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Activities and methods:
    Sustainable forestry certification like FSC presents an excellent opportunity to combine sustainable agriculture techniques with emerging markets and economic opportunities. With some larger state and private lands recently becoming certified, many new market opportunities have opened up for small landowners, primarily through additional mills and wood products manufacturers also becoming FSC certified in order to process the increasing volume of FSC certified logs. Sustainable forest management also meets many regional and local goals by maintaining working forestland and providing improved water quality, wildlife habitat, and clean air. Yet many of the professionals who work directly with landowners are not aware of the intricacies of these new markets, nor the requirements of the certification process, and therefore are unable to provide the relevant technical assistance to landowners who need it.

    In order to address this service gap, NNRG in partnership with WADNR and Sustainable Northwest will conduct a series of six two day FSC markets and assessment trainings. The training will cover certified wood markets, follow the protocols of the Rainforest Alliance’s SmartWood auditor training program, the largest FSC certifier in the world, and discuss the opportunities and risks of certification. Participants will be trained in both the field and classroom on how to consistently assess forest management plans and properties against the new FSC U.S. National Standard. The training will emphasize FSC’s protocols and policies for smaller forests, especially operations under 2500 acres.

    Trainings will also provide networking opportunities with other professionals who are working at various levels of the certified wood supply chain, as well as provide case studies of landowners who are currently FSC certified and selling FSC wood products. Follow up will be provided to workshop attendees to ensure they are able to bring this information back to their constituents and to address local market needs and concerns.

    This project will use and adapt existing curriculum for FSC assessment training, markets, and market needs and present it to a new audiences within Washington and Oregon. This training series will allow 60+ state and private resource professionals to understand forest certification and be able to educate the landowner they work with on markets, risks, and benefits. These trainings will also serve as networking opportunities for those involved to connect with others in the sustainable forestry and family forestry fields and to share their experiences and knowledge. These trainings will also provide vital opportunities for attendees to make market connections and coordinate harvest plans with local green builders and other certified wood buyers.

    The primary outcome of this project will be a group of approximately 60-90 agricultural professionals who are conversant in FSC forest certification requirements, processes, chain of custody, milling and manufacturers, and certified wood markets. These professionals will be able to advise small forest landowners on the risks and opportunities associated with certified marketing and management and provide educational and technical services to those landowners.

    Other measureable outcomes include:
    1. increasing the number of landowners requesting additional information on FSC certification to 200 by project end
    2. increasing the number of landowners who become FSC certified due to interaction with a forestry professional who attended one of the trainings resulting in 50 new certified small forestlands by project end
    3. increasing the number of landowners who sell FSC certified logs or wood products following interaction with a forestry professional by 25 by project end

    Evaluation of this project will be based on workshop attendance, workshop evaluations, and follow up with workshop attendees. Over the three year project period (workshops plus evaluation) we expect to train 60-90 forestry professionals in Washington and Oregon. Follow up evaluations will be designed to measure the increase in understanding of certified wood processes and markets. We expect these professionals to convey FSC certification related materials and provide services to 200 forest landowners. We expect at least 50 new landowners to become certified over the project period which will be measured through Northwest Certified Forestry membership and FSC certification records. Although small landowners rarely conduct significant yearly harvests, we also expect approximately 25 FSC certified landowners to sell products to the certified market over the project through connections fostered by workshop attendees. We also expect at least 8 new partnerships to emerge between NNRG and workshop attendees which will be measured through follow-up surveys and interaction with NNRG staff. Partnerships will increase efficiency of attendees and NNRG to meet deliverables and continue the project into the future through joint landowner visits and future workshops, etc.

    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.