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Context & History

Overview:  Forest Certification in Canada, Ontario and the EOMF

DSCN0259-73-800-600-80Forest certification is a process designed to encourage the sustainable management of forests throughout the world.  Independent auditors evaluate forest stands to determine whether their owners are complying with sound forestry standards. Owners who meet the required standards have their forests certified as “well-managed.”  This label provides assurance to both the woodlot owners and consumers of wood products that their forests are being well managed.  Typically, certification includes two components: certification of the sustainability of forest management activities; and, certification of forest products.

Canada has the largest area of independent third-party certified forests in the world and 40 per cent of the world’s certified forests. There are 161.1 million hectares (Dec. 2014) certified to the three sustainable forest management (SFM) certification programs used in Canada: the Canadian Standards Association (CSA); the Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC®); and, the Sustainable Forestry Initiative® (SFI®). Canada accounts for more than half of the certifications recognized by the global Program for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) schemes and a quarter of the FSC certifications worldwide. Sustainable forest management is widely accepted as management that maintains and enhances the long-term health of forest ecosystems for the benefit of all living things while providing environmental, economic, social, and cultural opportunities for current and future generations.

In Ontario, a total of 26,819,646 hectares of forest are certified under the three SFM certification programs mentioned previously. This figure includes forests owned by the Crown (province) and private forests across northern and southern Ontario.  In southern Ontario, 106,298 hectares of forest are FSC-certified through private and community ownership (Dec. 2014).  The Eastern Ontario Model Forest (EOMF) manages a Rainforest Alliance issued FSC certificate that currently covers over 83,650 hectares of private, community and urban forests (March 2015).

The Forest Stewardship Council

The FSC is an international, membership-based, non-profit organization that supports environmentally appropriate, socially beneficial, and economically viable management of the world's forests. The FSC has formulated a list of 10 principles and 56 criteria that must be met prior to a forest becoming certified.  The FSC does not certify forests but accredits third-party organizations to do so according to the established principles and criteria.  There are regional standards established for defined forest types and assessments are based on these standards.

The EOMF is certified based on the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Standards.  There is also tracking system or ‘chain of custody’ in place under which forest products carry a label of being certified.

Setting the Standards

The Draft Standards for Well Managed Forests in the Central and Southern Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Forests (GLSL) of Ontario provide guidelines for implementing the FSC Principles and Criteria in the GLSL forest region, and, as such, apply to the EOMF.  The Wildlands League, with the financial support of the Richard Ivey Foundation, coordinated the development of the GLSL Regional Standards.  These were field tested in June 1999 on Domtar Forest Products' Gilmour properties, south of Bancroft, Ontario.

The Beginnings of the EOMF Forest Certification Program: A Brief History

In 1999, FSC certification became a topic of interest in the EOMF region. The interest in forest certification originated from forest owners in the EOMF, as well as members and partners.  The question was this:  Was FSC certification an appropriate and viable forest management option for small, un-organized private and community forest owners in the EOMF region?  The EOMF’s particular interest in the FSC certification system reflected the following:

  • The FSC already had in place a set of draft performance-based regional standards for the central and southern portion of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Forest Region that had garnered considerable acceptance among forestry practitioners/operators.
  • The FSC was willing to work with us in developing an interpretation of these regional standards for use on private land and in partnering with us on a pilot project to test this interpretation.
  • The FSC was (and continues to be) an acknowledged market leader in forest certification with experience in private land certifications elsewhere in the world (e.g., in the US).
  • The cost of forest certification under other systems was likely to be prohibitive for forested areas less than 5,000 hectares in size.