If you’re the owner of a small piece of forest land, FSC certification may not be your first strategic business choice - unless the certification process is relatively straightforward and adapted to small-scale forestry.
In Latvia, the project “Smallholder Certification Project in the Baltics” is exploring innovative solutions which can facilitate certification even for the smallest properties.
The project has now developed a forest management standard applicable to Latvian forest properties below 30 hectares. The specific standard applies only in Latvia, where a pilot test is planned. However, the Latvian standard might form the basis for developing similar standards for other countries, as its key elements are universally applicable to small forest holdings.
Although the individual lots are small, we’re talking big in terms of total forest area: More than half of the forest land in EU belongs to about 15 million private forest owners. Very small forest properties are common in the Baltic area as well as in several other European countries.
Smallholders’ challenges considered
Based on the existing FSC framework, the standard represents a new approach by specifically considering the challenges surrounding FSC certification of very small forest properties. For example, it recognizes that the owners of such properties often lack resources to perform logging or to carry out proper control of logging companies’ work.
The standard implies that the responsibility and costs of fulfilling parts of the certification requirements can be transferred from the forest owner to loggers holding a valid SmartLogging Certificate. The SmartLogging certification program has been developed by the Rainforest Alliance and is already used for stand-alone certification of loggers.
About 80 pct of the forest properties and more than 60 pct of the private forest land in the Baltic countries are expected to qualify for using this new standard. So far, most of these operations have been virtually barred from FSC certification due to the special conditions of small-scale forestry.
Future use of the standard
When the public consultation process has been completed, the Rainforest Alliance is expected to adopt the standard as its interim SmartWood standard for forest holdings less than 30 ha in Latvia. Also, the results of the project will be used for providing feedback and recommendations for the FSC system.
The standard is based on the global FSC Principles and Criteria and on the draft Latvian FSC standard. In addition, FSC requirements for interim forest stewardship standards as well as for standard structure and contents have been observed.
About the project
Project title: Smallholder Certification Project in the Baltics
Project aim: The main aim of the project is to explore innovative approaches to FSC certification of very small forest operations.
Project partners: The project is jointly implemented by the FSC, Stora Enso and WWF. The Rainforest Alliance and NEPCon are conducting the field test.
Project duration: January through November 2008.