Over a decade ago, as forest certification was only beginning to garner attention as a potentially useful tool in advancing sustainable forestry, the EOMF embraced the modest goal of recruiting 20 forest owners in the pursuit of Forest Stewardship Council® certification based on the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Standard. In 2003 the EOMF received a FSC certificate from SmartWood (now Rainforest Alliance) that covered an area of 1,700 hectares. In January 2008 the EOMF was re-certified by SmartWood (now Rainforest Alliance); this FSC certificate was valid until January 2013. The EOMF was pleased to receive its third Five-Year Certificate from Rainforest Alliance in March 2013. From this modest start, the EOMF has become a forerunner in furthering the application, uptake and sharing of forest certification approaches and tools.
Today, the EOMF manages a successful and growing Group Forest Management Certificate for private land owners in southern Ontario. As of March 2015, the area now certified under the Forest Certification Program totals over 83,650 hectares. This consists of:
- 10,466 hectares in private lands owned by 136 forest owners representing two distinct groups: the Ontario Woodlot Association and Boisés-Est;
- 69,086 hectares comprised of 13 Community Forests and forest lands managed by local conservation organizations;
- 2,025 hectares of private commerical forest; and
- 2,073 hectares in private lands owned by 9 forest owners, managed by independent Forest Managers.
Forest owners, regardless of ownership, must adhere to three basic requirements for inclusion in the EOMF certificate:
- Each must have forest management plan;
- Each must sign a Memorandum of Understanding with the EOMF; and,
- Each must pay an annual contribution fee based on an ownership matrix.
The increase in the FSC-certified land base over time, coupled with the trend by customers for FSC-certified product, has served as an impetus for local forest industry players to seek chain of custody certification. The EOMF is playing a central role in mentoring forest industries interested in pursuing chain of custody certification. In total, six local sawmills and one pulp mill now have the ability to market and sell their forest products as FSC-certified.
The EOMF is also leading the way in the certification of maple syrup, one of many non-timber products deriving from eastern Ontario’s forests. The FSC-certification of maple products represents a first for Canada. Seven maple producers in the EOMF area are now able to market and sell their products with the FSC stamp of approval.
The Forest Certification Program is managed by a Certification Working Group (CWG). This working group has representation from the EOMF, the private landowner community, the maple syrup producing industry, Community Forests and government. The working group meets quarterly to provide program direction and guidance and to oversee the management of the FSC certificate. The Certification Working Group operates under a set of core principles for the Forest Certification Program; these principles are as follows:
- Evaluate all forest certification systems and apply the most applicable system;
- Provide affordable access to forest certification for private and community forests;
- Use existing forest resource managers for implementation; and
- Strive for financial self-sufficiency for the Forest Certification Program.
Currently there are two Certification Working Groups - one in eastern Ontario and a newly formed CWG in southwestern Ontario.
Private Forest Owners in the EOMF: Providing a Framework for Responsible Management
In Ontario, forest owners generally lack the technical knowledge and skills to implement forest operations on their land. These forest owners therefore seek and pay for professional services such as forest management planning, tree marking and harvest operation monitoring. They represent a collection of individuals lacking the necessary structure for forest management or timber sales support. In other jurisdictions, marketing boards or cooperatives assist forest owners with forest management and the marketing and sales of their products. Such ‘support networks’ do not exist in Ontario. The EOMF viewed the Forest Certification Program as an opportunity to bring forest owners together in a common cause – the pursuit of responsible forest management and broader sustainability goals – by providing a much-needed framework for forest management guidance and support.
The EOMF has been described as an ‘honest broker’ in the community. The organization has gained the trust of forest owners and has patiently developed and nurtured the relationships that have resulted in the growth and success of the Forest Certification Program. Forest owners are willing to harvest their properties knowing that there is a framework for management through the FSC principles and criteria, and that a trusted and respected local organization is playing a lead role in the effort. Wood from these sustainably-managed, certified forests is now making its way to market; without the Forest Certification Program framework and the EOMF’s guidance, it is safe to say that these forests would not have met such thorough standards of responsible and sustainable management and could well have fallen victim to disreputable, profit-maximizing businesses. And, importantly, local forest industry is welcoming wood from FSC sources and the demand for FSC certified product is growing.
In addition to serving as a framework for supporting responsible forest management, the Forest Certification Program has a strong education and training component. Each of the two forest owners groups – Ontario Woodlot Association and Boisés Est – has a strong commitment to forestry-focused workshops and training sessions. Forest health, forest operations, carbon sequestration, issues of taxation, flora identification and ecological goods and services offer a sample of some of the topics delivered at such workshops and training sessions. The Forest Certification Program has created a social network of sorts, and strong friendships have emerged throughout the two forest owner groups.
For more more information about the “who, what, why and how” of certifying your woodlot under the EOMF’s Forest Certification Program visit Your Pathway to Forest Certification.