American Tree Farm System receives international approval by PEFC

Mathew Kearney

Mathew Kearney

Aug 7, 2008 – American Tree Farm System

WASHINGTON , August 7, 2008 (press release) – Family forest owners in the U.S., who own nearly two-thirds of the country’s forestlands, today cheered the international approval of the American Tree Farm System® (ATFS) by the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification schemes (PEFC). PEFC is an international, independent, non-profit, non-governmental organization, founded in 1999 which promotes sustainably managed forests through independent third party certification. ATFS is the oldest and largest forest conservation, certification, and advocacy program in the United States. The 67 year-old program is sponsored by the American Forest Foundation.

Family forest landowners welcomed the endorsement by PEFC for certifying sustainably produced wood, a step that will open the door to new green markets for wood that is sustainably produced on their land.
The Geneva-based Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification schemes (PEFC) made the announcement after a 14-month rigorous review designed to provide assurance to purchasers that certified wood and paper products are in fact produced from sustainably managed forests.

For some U.S. companies like NewPage Corporation whose North American operations include a mill in Rumford, Maine, this change could not come soon enough. “We sorely needed this endorsement in order to satisfy our customers who are demanding that our pulp and paper come from certified forest operations,” said Tony Lyons, Director of Fiber Supply at the NewPage Rumford Mill. He added that the market dynamics for sustainably produced wood have changed dramatically over just the last two years. “We can't meet the demand, and that's a shame when qualified forest owners are standing ready. This fixes that problem.”

“This is fantastic news for conservation-minded family forest owners who are struggling to survive in tough economic times,” said Laurence Wiseman, President and Chief Executive Officer of the American Forest Foundation, the parent group of ATFS. “PEFC approval is the key to connecting more of the good operators to the rapidly growing marketplace of green manufacturers, distributors, retailers and consumers.”

Forest landowners who voluntarily commit the extra time and expense to produce wood sustainably under the ATFS system will now qualify for access to the international markets that they never had before. Traditional markets for U.S. wood have been shrinking as more foreign wood gains control into those markets, and Wiseman believes this endorsement step will help U.S. growers.

The United States is permanently losing 1.5 million acres per year of family forestland to development. Many people mistakenly assume that forestland they see is owned by either the government or large paper
companies, when in fact 60 percent of all the wood harvested in the U.S. actually comes from family forestlands. For many of these small forest landowners, achieving some economic return on their property is essential if they are to avoid the pressures of development.

Jo Pierce is a sixth-generation family forest owner in Cumberland County, Maine who walks the talk. Not only does he spend much of his time teaching other landowners how to manage their forest
sustainably, his own operation won the national ATFS Tree Farmer of the Year award in 2007 for his conservation practices. A pioneer in this area whose grandmother first enrolled the family's forestland in the volunteer ATFS program in the 1960's, Jo credits his great, great grandfather who reportedly once said “Take care of the land first, and it will take care of you.”

Many communities depend on private forests to provide benefits including water purification, clean air, recreation, wildlife habitat and education. Eighty percent of all rain that falls east of the Mississippi River falls on family-owned forests where it is purified, stored, and released into aquifers.

“By joining the largest forest certification system in the world, the American Tree Farm System is creating new markets for American growers,” said Ben Gunneberg, Secretary General of PEFC International. “The demand for sustainably-procured wood is rapidly increasing because more businesses and more consumers are stepping up to the plate on issues like climate change. PEFC endorsement means that more American growers can now serve this rapidly growing market. ”

Only about 10 percent of the global wood market currently comes through forest certification systems. Now with ATFS, PEFC has 500 million certified acres. At this size and growing rapidly, PEFC is by far the largest global program for certifying sustainable forests. Canada, Norway, Finland, Spain, Brazil, the Malaysian Republic, and many other European countries are among those with PEFC-approved forest certification systems. This is the second such approval for the U.S., with the first being the Sustainable Forestry Initiative.

The American Tree Farm System was first launched in 1941 as a private initiative to address concerns that America’s forests were being cut at unsustainable rates without reforestation. It now represents more than 90,000 family forest owners in 45 states, most of whom manage woodlots of less than 100 acres. ATFS is the largest private forest conservation and forest restoration initiative in the history of the U.S. “The number of certified family forests landowners in the system has doubled over the past four years, and this shows the tremendous growth potential in this area,” said Bob Simpson, Senior Vice President for the American Forest Foundation.

For more information contact Bob Simpson, Senior Vice President, Forestry at 202.463.2458 or

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