As recreational land buyers look at properties, they may run across references to how certain properties are certified to Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) or Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) standards. This certainly sounds good, but does it matter to a land buyer?
The answer is yes. These certifications are basically like a seal of approval, giving a land buyer confidence that the property has been well cared for. And this means the timber on the property has been well-managed, which increases the value of the property you are buying.
Across the U.S. and Canada, 280 million acres are certified to the SFI forest management standard, the largest single forest standard in the world.
There is also a significant amount of North American acreage certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. Approximately 167 million acres are certified by the FSC in the U.S. and Canada.
The two certifications vary in some ways, but overall, the goal is the same – to verify that the timberland is cared for in a way that is environmentally and socially responsible.
As examples of how the certification-related rules ensure that a property is well-managed, there are restrictions on the size of clearcuts, along with requirements to reforest areas within certain timeframes after timber harvests. Also, stream and creek areas are protected from erosion, because timber adjacent to such waterways is harvested differently.
Getting certification isn’t simple or easy, with verification by third-party auditors along with requirements to have processes in place for constantly improving the landowner’s forestry practices.
In addition, there is another certification that land buyers should know about – the American Tree Farm System (ATFS) certification, which is available for small private landowners. ATFS can be a good option for a buyer to pursue after buying a property from a larger landowner that has SFI or FSC certification. More information about the ATFS certification, which is in place on more than 22 million acres around the U.S., is available on the ATFS website.
How timber is managed should matter to land buyers for a number of reasons. Managing timber responsibly helps improve the quality of wildlife on a property, it helps ensure that the timber is well-established for future growth, and it reflects an overall focus by an owner on quality land management, providing peace of mind for the land buyer.
So, while there are certainly many well-managed recreational properties for sale around the country that are not certified, it can help a buyer’s confidence knowing that certification is in place.
Written by Pete Prutzman, President of Kingwood Forestry Services, Inc. in Arkadelphia, Arkansas, part of the Potlatch Preferred Broker Network. Pete is a registered forester in Arkansas and Oklahoma, and is the current president of the Arkansas Forestry Association.
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