American Tree Farm System certifies 782,489 acres of private Alabama forestlands, increasing state's sustainably-managed forests to 30% or 6 million acres
September 21, 2011
– The American Tree Farm System® (ATFS), a program of the American Forest Foundation (AFF), announced today that 782,489 acres of privately owned Alabama forestlands have been certified by AFTS for their sustainable management practices. The certification of thousands of acres-representing 1,313 different forest properties-was possible thanks to an innovative pilot project involving the Alabama Forestry Commission, the Alabama Forestry Association, Alabama Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) Implementation Committee and ATFS. The certification of so many acres makes Alabama a strong competitor to meet increasing global demand for certified timber.
The newly certified forestlands give Alabama forest owners access to timber markets not available to them before, and will help the state keep timber-related jobs in a highly competitive global market that increasingly demands certified wood.
"This project gives a huge boost to Alabama's ability to complete in the global market for certified timber," says Bob Simpson, Senior Vice President of Forestry at AFF. "ATFS Certification gives Alabama forest owners new bragging rights. They are telling the world that they're managing their forestland in a way that has been internationally recognized as sustainable and credible. Certification assures that the forests behind the Tree Farm sign are being cared for in a manner that's sustainable over the long term. Certified wood keeps the forest and paper industry strong, competitive and viable, not just in Alabama, but globally."
"It's a real passion of mine to do everything possible to provide forest owners with the opportunity for third-party certification," says Alabama State Forester Linda Casey. "Third-party certification is of key importance. Markets are very tight right now. There's a glut of fiber on the market, and pulp, paper and sawmills have a lot of choices. Their customers want the third-party certified wood that ATFS guarantees."
Thanks to this project, all Alabama forest owners who are part of the state's "Treasure Forest" program are now eligible for ATFS certification. A risk assessment conducted by Price Waterhouse Coopers and paid for by the SFI implementation committee determined that the forest management practices required by Alabama's Treasure Forest program would also meet the strict standards for Tree Farm certification. "We invested in this project because we wanted to have a larger basket of certified wood for our customers, and to make people more aware of the value of certification," says Sam Hopkins of the Westervelt Company, who chairs the SFI implementation committee. "With demand for certified wood increasing, this helps us maintain desirable markets."
"The Alabama Forestry Association is committed to growing the practice and certification of sustainable forestry principles," says Chris Erwin, Director of Education and Outreach at AFA. "With the completion of this project, Alabama will have six million acres of certified forestland. Thanks to the hard work of the Alabama Tree Farm Committee and the Alabama SFI Implementation Committee, approximately 30 percent of Alabama's 22 million forested acres will now be certified as sustainable."
With the completion of the project in Alabama, and three other pilot projects in Mississippi, Louisiana, and Maine, ATFS plans to work with state foresters across the U.S. to certify more privately owned forest acres. "We hope Alabama's success will inspire other states to encourage private forest owners to take the step of seeking ATFS certification."
The American Tree Farm System® (ATFS), a program of the American Forest Foundation, gives people the tools they need to be effective stewards of America's natural heritage by keeping their forests healthy and productive. These woodlands are vital to our country's clean water and air, wildlife habitat, recreational activities, and producing the jobs, wood and paper products we all need.