Topic 2: Certification of Forest Management


In the previous topic, you examined how to write a forest management plan, adaptive management, which involved planning, implementing and monitoring management actions. But what exactly are those actions? The most common is the extraction of wood from a forest, and a huge amount of work has examined the impacts of this. However, there are many other interventions that can take place in a forest.

Done well, management interventions improve the condition of a forest, steering it towards a defined objective. These objectives are normally described in a management plan, and consist of short-, medium-, and long-term goals. Actions are generally taken at the level of individual trees and stands, but occasionally landscape level actions may be taken. Examples of the latter include the massive re-structuring of plantation forests in the United Kingdom to improve their aesthetics and biodiversity values. In this topic, you will learn about some of the management actions that can be taken, starting with the development of a forest management plan. This is a critical document that outlines the desired future condition of a forest, and the actions that will be taken to achieve this.

The ultimate goal of a forest manager is to manage a forest sustainably. Increasingly, the purchasers of forest products and services are demanding that evidence be provided that a forest is being managed sustainably. The indicators provided by the Montreal Process and similar agreements provide some evidence of sustainable management of forests within a jurisdiction, but they cannot provide evidence that a particular forest is being well-managed. In particular, criteria and indicator schemes do not provide targets against which actual management can be measured.

In most countries, some attempt is made by the government to monitor the quality of forest management. This however varies in its effectiveness and governance issues, such as corruption or a lack of field staff, may result in inconsistent results. Consequently, with a few exceptions, the public has limited confidence in government-led compliance monitoring and effectiveness assessments.

Third party certification systems provide one means by which the quality of the management of a forest can be assessed. There are a number of different certification schemes, with two major groups: the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and the Program for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC). There is a great deal of rhetoric about the differences between these two schemes, but in practice they are very similar, and a significant number of forest areas have been certified to both standards.

Video Lectures

6.2.1 Certification systems

6.2.2 PEFC Sustainable Forest Management requirements


Textbook Reading:

  • Chapters 14 and 16 of the course textbook.
    Innes, J., & Tikina, A. (Eds.). (2014). Sustainable forest management: From principles to practice. London: Earthscan Publications. ISBN: 1844077241

Further Reading:

Examples of SFM Monitoring

  • Canadian Forest Products Ltd., Slocan Forest Products Ltd., Luisiana-Pacific Canada Ltd., & the Ministry of Forests Small Business Forest Enterprise Program. (2010). Fort St. John pilot project: Sustainable forest management plan #2. Retrieved from
    An example of a forest management plan that sets explicit targets for specific indicators is the one for the Fort St. John area in northeast British Columbia, Canada.
  • Forest and Range Evaluation Program, British Columbia (n.d.). Forest and range evaluation program. Retrieved from
    An example of a government program that monitors whether forest management is effective at meeting stated objectives is the Forest and Range Evaluation Program of the Government of British Columbia, Canada.
  • Department of Environment and Primary Industries, the State of Victoria. (2014, December 5). Monitoring compliance and auditing: Timber harvesting audits in Victoria’s State forests. Retrieved from
    An example of a more regulatory approach is provided by the State of Victoria, Australia, with details available at the above link.

Particularly Recommended

  • Nussbaum, R., & Simula, M. (2005). The forest certification handbook (2nd). London: Earthscan. ISBN10 1844071235; ISBN13 9781844071234

Other Suggested Reading

  • Brotto, L., & Pettenella, D. (Eds.). (2016). Forest management auditing: certification of forest products and services. London: Routledge. ISBN-10:1138816671; ISBN-13: 978-1138816671
  • Cashore, B., Auld, G., & Newsom, D. (2004). Governing through markets: Forest certification and the emergence of non-state authority. New Haven: Yale University Press. ISBN-10:0300101090; ISBN-13: 978-0300101096
  • Higman, S., Mayers, J., Bass, S., Judd, N., & Nussbaum, R. (2005). The sustainable forestry handbook: A practical guide for tropical forest managers on implementing new standards (2nd). London: Earthscan. ISBN-10:1844071189. Retrieved from
  • FAO (2006). Responsible management of planted forests: voluntary guidelines. Planted forests and trees Working Paper 37/E. Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Retrieved from
  • Gulbrandsen, L.H. (2010). Transnational environmental governance: The emergence and effects of the certification of forests and fisheries. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishers. ISBN-13: 978-1781007105; ISBN-10: 1781007101
  • Gupta, H.S., Yadav, M., Sharma, D. K., & Singh, A. M. (2013). Ensuring sustainability in forestry: Certification of forests. New Delhi: The Energy and Resources Institute. ISBN: 978-81-7993-495-1
  • Maser, C., & Smith, W. (2000). Forest certification in sustainable development: Healing the landscape. Boca Raton: CRC Press. ISBN: 1-56670-510-X
  • Rockwell, W., & Levesque, C. (2007). Forest certification auditing: A guide for practitioners. Washington DC: Society of American Foresters. ISBN-10:0939970953; ISBN-13: 978-0939970957
  • Tollefson, C., Gale, F., & Haley, D. (2009). Setting the standard. Certification, governance, and the Forest Stewardship Council. Vancouver: UBC Press. ISBN-10:0774814381; ISBN-13: 978-0774814386
  • Whitelaw, K. (2004). ISO 14001 Environmental systems handbook (2nd). Oxford: Elsevier. ISBN-10: 0750648430; ISBN-13: 978-0750648431. Retrieved from
  • Van Kuijk, M., Putz, F.E., & Zagt, R. (2009). Effects of forest certification on biodiversity. Wageningen, The Netherlands: Tropenbos International. ISBN:978-90-5113-090-4. Retrieved from
  • Vogt, D.J., Larson, B.C., Gordon, J.C., & Fanzeres, A. (1999). Forest certification: Roots, issues, challenges, and benefits. Boca Raton: CRC Press. ISBN-10:0849315859; ISBN-13: 978-0849315855


Module VI - Topic 2: Self-test

Quiz Description:

The following self-test quiz is designed to check your understanding of important learning concepts for this topic. The quiz contains ten multiple choice questions. There is no time limit for you to take the quiz and you may attempt to take it as many times as you like. After you click the Submit button, you will see your Grade, number of Correct Answers, your answers, and the Answer Key for each question.

Quiz Instructions:

While you are taking the quiz, we advise you not referring to any course materials. After you Submit your answers, you may self-reflect the missing points, review relevant contents as necessary, and retake the quiz again until you get the full points

Answer the following questions to see how well you have learnt in this topic: