Timber Producer Certification and Regulation in the U.S.

American Forest and Paper Association (AF&PA) Logger Training

The American Forest and Paper Association (AF&PA) is proposing a program of logger training and monitoring (AF&PA 1994). This will coordinate with a program to promote the most rational policies of timber cutting, not only on the land of its members, but also on all forestlands.

Association membership would be contingent on training of 100% of company-employed loggers by January 1, 1996, and training of 100% of independent contractors by January 1, 1998. Monitoring and compliance would be implemented in several ways. Member companies would be required to file annual reports on how they complied with program requirements, including logger training. AF&PA would compile these reports annually and distribute them publicly. The annual report would be audited by a group of "forestry experts". Public comment on how members performed would be facilitated through the establishment of an 800 number in each state. State "forestry experts" would have the responsibility of responding to public concerns.

Maryland Logger Certification Program

Maryland provides an example of mandatory, governmental logger licensing. This regulation is part of a program to control nonpoint-source pollution under sections 208, 404, and 319 of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (Hawks et a]. 1993). Regulation was enacted in part to control nonpoint-source pollution in the Chesapeake Bay buffer area.

Timber harvesting requires permits at the local, county, and state levels. State regulation of harvesting includes requirements for a sediment and erosion control plan, subject to Soil Conservation Service approval, and an additional buffer management plan for harvesting near a stream. Enforcement is done by the Maryland Department of Environment.

Logger re-licensure is required every three years. Training in water quality and best management practices regulation is supplied by the Maryland Forest, Park and Wildlife Service. Approximately 750 foresters, loggers and landowners attended the sessions from 1984-1993. Enforcement of the licensure requirement, however, is lax.

Logger licensure, best management practices training, and enforcement by the Maryland Department of Environment were estimated to cost $83,300 per year (Hawks et al. 1993). Total program cost, which includes service foresters, was $586,300 in 1990. Annual timber harvest volumes range from 180 to 340 million board feet in the state.

Virginia Monitoring and Voluntary Compliance Program

The Department of Forestry (DOF) administers Virginia's water quality protection program. The voluntary program incorporates inspection of logging operations for best management practices (BMPs), education, water-quality monitoring, and a complaint-response system (Hawks et al. 1993). Inspection of harvests during and after logging are performed by county foresters who report their observations to the logger, landowner, and DOF.

The educational program on BMPs is for foresters as well as loggers. The DOF-Cooperative Extension Service sponsored program had attendance of more than 2,600 people in 1990-91. Monitoring of logging operations determined a use rate of 90% for BMPs as opposed to a 42% rate before the program. The water quality monitoring program allows Virginia to determine progress in meeting quality standards. To do this, the state established the baseline quality from 1978 through 1988 data, and now monitors current sedimentation and erosion rates.

Total cost of the 1990 program, which includes education, research and demonstration, technical assistance, and enforcement, was $890,000 with harvests of 1.7 billion board feet of average annual harvest. Failure of loggers to file notification of harvests, non-compliance on "registered" jobs, and lack of immediate penalties for non-compliance make it difficult to estimate the actual success of the program.

Montana Logger Accreditation Program

The Montana Logging Association (MLA) began its accreditation program in the spring of 1994 (Ellingson 1994), graduating 75 loggers (Pers. commun, K. Olsen, Montana Logging Association, Kalispell, 1994). Directed by a steering committee composed of independent loggers, the two-phase program consists of stewardship training and monitoring. Phase one is five days of training in water quality, harvesting, and inventory for stewardship values provided by the Montana Extension Service. Phase two will be audits of logging operations by teams of landowners and natural resource professionals. Both phases are expected to be conducted yearly, with continuing accreditation contingent on continuing education requirements and a successful audit. MLA is currently establishing an independent board to hear disputes and to consider cases for accreditation removal when audits are unsatisfactory. Participation is not limited to MLA's 600 members.

The program arose over the past five years at the request of loggers who were being contacted to implement landowner's Stewardship Incentive Program plans. MLA members also perceived a need to define professional logging as it was being defined for them in unflattering terms (K. Olsen pers. commun. Montana Logging Association, Kalispell, 1994). Loggers requested training from the Montana Extension Service, which had been conducting the Stewardship training for landowners (Bob Logan pers. commun., Montana Cooperative Extension Service, Missoula, 1994). Stewardship training for landowners is tied to MLA accreditation since only landowners who passed Extension Service stewardship training may serve on the audit teams; and continuation of certification as stewardship advisors for landowners is dependent on their participation on at least one audit team per year. In this way MLA addressed the need to have trained lay people to do the monitoring. MLA will solicit recommendations and offers for continuing education from the Montana Extension Service and conservation organizations. Program costs are not yet available because phase two has not yet been implemented.

Michigan Logger Education to Advance Professionalism

The Logger Education to Advance Professionalism program (LEAP) is being conducted in Michigan and seven other states with the support of the USDA Extension Service, the USDA Forest Service, National Association of State Foresters, and forest industry. The program began five years ago as the University of Vermont—Extension System's "Silvicultural Education for Loggers Project". Almost half of Vermont's loggers have completed the course and received certificates of recognition and listing in a directory. Vermont's state forester credits the Silvicultural Education for Loggers Project with most of the decline in complaints for water-quality violations from 50 in 1989 to 22 in 1992 (McEvoy 1993). Foresters who evaluated graduates of the program also gave positive or very positive marks to the logger's performance.

LEAP was initiated in Michigan in March of 1994 "to increase the understanding of participants with respect to ecological principles applicable to forest types and associated wildlife in the region; increase participants' understanding of silvicultural prescriptions; identify problems and solutions in the application of silvicultural prescriptions and heighten awareness to practices that contribute to a poor image of logging and what can be done to prevent environmental degradation" (Koelling and Lantagne 1992). Support for the program comes from Michigan State University-Extension, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, USDA Soil Conservation Service, Michigan Association of Timbermen, Timber Producers Association of Michigan and Wisconsin, Michigan Forest Resource Alliance, Champion International Corporation, Mead Publishing Paper Division, Menasha Corporation, Weyerhaeuser Company and Michigan Technological University. Representatives from these organizations compose the steering committee.

The program consists of two evening sessions and two all day field trips. Participants study forest ecology, emphasizing tree reproduction, establishment, and growth; silvicultural practices, such as thinning and clearcutting, and forest water quality, and the need to follow good logging practices. In its current pilot year, 136 loggers completed the LEAP program and received certificates (pers. commun. D. Lantagne, Michigan State University Extension, 1994). To date, there is no organized marketing of the certificate by loggers.

Program costs were $45,000 for 1994, which included significant one-time costs. The 1995 program is expected to cost $28,000. Currently, loggers pay no tuition.

Certifying Sustainable Forest Products—"Green Certification"

Market-driven certification for products produced from sustainable forests or with sustainable forest practices is receiving increasing attention. Wood-products firms which are considering green certification are anticipating demand, the extent of which is unknown. Demand for consumer products produced under sustainable conditions would create derived demand for certified timber producers, and thus, the need to certify production.

Forest Stewardship Council

The goal of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is to establish principles and criteria for certifiers. The Council perceives the potential for a multitude of certifiers, creating confusion and uncertainty as to claims with consumers. The FSC met in Toronto in October 1993 to ratify a charter. One problem that the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is addressing is the potential confusion created if many agencies decide to certify timber producers. Principles and criteria include:

  • Forest management operations shall respect all applicable laws of the country in which they occur and comply with all FSC principles and criteria.

  • Long term tenures and use rights to the land and forest resources shall be clearly defined, documented, and legally established.

  • The legal and/or customary rights of indigenous peoples to own, use, and manage their lands, territories and resources shall be recognized and respected.

  • Forest management operations shall maintain or enhance the long-term social and economic well being of forest workers and local communities.

  • Forest management operations shall encourage the optimal and efficient use of the forest's multiple products and services, in order to ensure economic viability and a wide range of environmental, social and economic benefits.

  • Forest management operations shall maintain the critical ecological functions of the forest and minimize adverse impacts on biological diversity, water resources, soils, nontimber resources, and unique and fragile ecosystems and landscapes.

  • A management plan consistent with the FSC principles and appropriate to the scale of operations shall be written, implemented, and kept up to date, clearly stating the objectives of management and the means of achieving them.

  • Regular monitoring should be conducted that assesses the condition of the forest, yields of forest products, chain of custody, and management operations and their social and environmental impacts.

  • Plantations should complement natural forests and reduce pressures on them.

  • Certifying organizations must maintain rigorous, consistent, and independent evaluation procedures, which include peer-review process incorporating local or national views of the country in which the operation is located; input from governmental and non-governmental organizations involved in forest management; and legal, social, ecological, and economic perspectives (Synnott 1993).

Scientific Certification Systems, Inc.

Scientific Certification Systems, Inc., (SCS) is a private, "neutral scientific organization" which verifies claims of green producers. The organization is currently scoring the work of participating forest operations. One effort involves a producer supplying the building materials for the retailer Home Depot. Home Depot will market the certified product within store displays and information (Eisen et al. 1993).

Recognizing that sustainability is a goal not a state, SCS scores are based upon how well operators are trying to reach this goal. The top ten percent of operators whom SCS certifies receive the top designation of "state of the art" or "well managed". SCS uses a set of three criteria-one relating to reforestation rates, one relating to impact of operations on ecosystem elements such as habitat and watershed, and one relating to social and economic benefits. A range of professionals compose an SCS evaluation team-foresters, wildlife biologists, hydrologists, sociologists, resource economists, and others.

The SCS wants market-driven certification to replace government regulation of forest practices. If this does not happen, we will have a more confusing array of labeled services.


Much of the concern regarding the performance of loggers is directed toward forest practices in non-industrial private forests. Forty-seven states have some type of program aimed at non-industrial private landowners for improving timber harvesting methods and forty-six have programs for protecting water quality (Cheng and Ellefson 1993)2. While these programs may not directly target loggers, they are aimed at changing harvesting and related practices on these lands. Educational programs and technical assistance dominate state approaches to protecting water quality and improving timber harvesting (Table 3).

Program managers do not rate highly the effectiveness of government programs to protect water quality or improve timber harvesting (Table 4). Recognizing that these are managers' opinions rather than controlled evaluations, these ratings still suggest state dissatisfaction with regulatory programs related to forest practices. Technical assistance received the highest ratings from managers, followed by educational programs for timber-harvesting methods, and fiscal incentives for water quality protection.

Cost of Licensing

A problem with licensing occupations is that it restricts entry into the occupation. Consumers pay more for services; those who can't pay are forced out of the market. Consumers also bear opportunity costs though the limits to innovation that restricted entry imposes (Benham 1980). Applicants to practice bear costs of often unreasonable requirements for education, training, and experience.

While licensing boards' focus is screening entry, they usually do little to monitor and enforce standards (Shimberg 1982). This is expensive to do. Costs of licensing forest practitioners, loggers, and foresters in Michigan has been estimated at $2-4 million: the majority of this cost would be in governmental personnel to inspect harvests and, to a lesser extent, other forest practices. The costs of regulating and administering forest practices ranged from $767,000 in Alaska to $4,635,000 in California in 1984 (Henly et al. 1988). Costs of private-sector compliance added an additional $1 million in Alaska and $52 million in California.


2Cheng and Ellefson also studied programs to promote reforestation, protect forests from wildfires, insects and diseases, protect wildlife and rare and endangered species, and enhance recreation and aesthetic qualities.

The American Forest and Paper Association (AF&PA) is proposing a program of logger training and monitoring that will coordinate with a program to promote the most rational policies of timber cutting, not only on the land of its member, but also on all forestlands.

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