FSC to Revise US Stewardship Standard

FYI… US-wide standard, all lands. However….

“This draft includes the “base indicators” for Principle 1 through Principle 10, and associated
annexes, that will be applicable to almost all certified Organizations, but does not include the
Scale, Intensity, and Risk Indicators (i.e., SIR Indicators: family forest indicators and plantation
indicators), nor the supplementary requirements for US Forest Service lands. These additional
materials will be consulted through a separate first public consultation, and then all materials will
be combined for the second public consultation in 2021.”


Public Consultation Open for Revised FSC US National Forest Stewardship Standard

Thursday, 15 October 2020

On October 5th, FSC US opened a 75-day public consultation for the first draft of a revised FSC US National Forest Stewardship Standard.

Due in large part to the quality and rigor of our forest management standards, FSC is widely recognized as the world’s most trusted certification system. Draft 1 of the revised Standard offers further refinement of the respected existing standard for the United States, aligning it with the FSC Principles and Criteria Version 5 and the International Generic Indicators.

Our goal is to deliver a standard that is both best-in-class and achievable by streamlining the existing standard and addressing a number of priority issues, identified below. To help achieve this goal, we will need clear, actionable input from an informed and diverse set of stakeholders during this consultation.

Guided by the FSC US Board of Directors (the Standard Development Group) and a technical working group of experts, the Standard reflects the social, environmental and economic values that underpin FSC’s approach.

While much of the Draft 1 revised Standard remains consistent with the existing US Forest Management Standard, the Standard Development Group identified a set of priority issues to address in the revision process, including:


  • Climate Change
  • Indigenous Peoples’ Rights, Local Communities’ Rights, and Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC)
  • High Conservation Value Areas, Representative Sample Areas, and the Conservation Area Network
  • Forest Workers
  • FSC US Regions and Regional Requirements


FSC US will be hosting a series of three webinars related to the priority issues.

Visit https://www.engage.us.fsc.org/ to register for the webinars, review the Draft 1 revised standard, read the supporting overviews about the consultation and priority issues, and access the consultation platform to comment.

The public consultation closes on December 18, 2020.

If you have questions, please email them to [email protected].

21 thoughts on “FSC to Revise US Stewardship Standard”

  1. I think certification should be denied until the use of timber temps are reduced. We need skilled people to fill permanent seasonal positions in timber but, Congress and the Forest Service both don’t want this. The rank and file don’t want to talk about it, either. The dirty secret is that one doesn’t need ANY experience in forestry to be the one selecting which trees live and die.

    • I have seen where the summer help marked the trees. I am all for more people employed full time in timber by the FS. There should be money budgeted for it with all this talk of fuels reduction.
      I didn’t know that FSC certified any lands or products for the FS or BLM. The federal rules governing the harvest of timber from federal lands goes way beyond anything required by FSC on private and tribal lands.

  2. In reviewing some of these materials, I think FSC fundamentally misunderstands the role of our National Forest (not “Forest Service lands”), which are held in trust for the American people. I have long advocated for non-certification of our national forests since the start of the FSC process because our forests serve a different role, and their management is governed by laws rather than some sort of marketing label, which is what FSC is. It makes sense to have such as certification system for private lands to increase transparency and accountability to ensure buyers of forest products can feel good about where their lumber and other products come from. But our national forests must serve a different role and should not be a marketable product to be certified. In fact, our national forests are not even managed for timber any longer, which is now only as a by-product of restoration and “forest health” management, as the Forest Service describes it. The value of our national forests to sequester carbon, provide primary wildlife habitat, recreation, clean water, and other non-commodity values eclipses all other potential commodity products derived from our forests by a wide margin, economically and as ecosystem services. An FSC label on product from national forests will only encourage more exploitation and degradation.

    • Rene.. how would an FSC label encourage “more exploitation and degradation” exactly? If timber as you state is “only a byproduct”. Wouldn’t it just be a question of whether the “byproduct” is labelled or not?

      • Sharon, even I admit that I use forest products, but I don’t want them coming from our national forests, which should play a different public role, which private timberlands cannot and do not. When I bought the redwood and fir for our home addition I was assured that it would not come from national forests because it carried an FSC label. That would change if national forest lumber gets certified by the FSC, and I could no longer be assured that what I bought does not come from a national forest. Because it’s a marketing label, it is, by default, used to create more demand, and more demand for products from our national forest is likely to result in more logging. Most Americans don’t even know that the federal government is logging our national forests and confuse them with national parks; and many of us oppose commercial logging on our national forests altogether. In our view, there should not even be a “byproduct,” which is really only a term I use for what the Forest Service does … logging under the guise of restoration and/or forest health treatments. The NFMA, NEPA, ESA, and other laws should determine the management of our national forests and not some marketing label.

        • So, you are saying that logging trees with an average diameter of 15 inches is a horrible tragedy, on Forest Service lands in the Sierra Nevada (where there are still 30-80 inch pines scattered around the landscape, protected from logging)? FYI 10 inch diameter trees are merchantable as logs.

          • Hi Larry, I have been working on Sierra Nevada forest protection for the last 12 years, so I do know about it. If the Forest Service were to follow the science and only thin to for ecological restoration or to prepare areas for prescribed burning, they would never need to take any trees over 8-10 inches in diameter. But there are no loggers or mills are interested in anything below 12 inches in diameter. So the Forest Service continues to plan their thinning treatments so they can sell larger trees, still allowing the removal of trees up to 30 inches in diameter for fuel treatments and thinning for forest health. This is because they don’t have the money to follow the science and fell only smaller non-merchantable trees, which can be treated along with prescribed burns for restoration. So yes, removing trees from the Sierra Nevada with an average of 15 inches in diameter (probably more like 24 inches in diameter on average) is tragic.

            • What happens when all the 10 inch trees on an acre double in size? Doubling their diameters to 20 inches increases their basal area 4 times! Now, if those 10 inch trees were already at the uppermost limits of the acre’s carrying capacity (i.e., already at the uppermost limits of the land’s ability to sustainably maintain those trees in a healthy state), then doubling the diameter means 3/4s MUST BE REMOVED to stay within the land’s carrying capacity. (Middle school math — area = pi times radius squared) The concept of carrying capacity seems to get lost in any discussion of forest management. If people do not remove those excess trees, then nature (via competition for sunlight, water, and nutrients) will remove them with drought, insects, disease, and, eventually, fire.

              • Yes, it’s called natural processes, and forests have evolved and thrived with fire and even need fire. Forests self-thin themselves in order to balance nutrients, sunlight, and water. The only thing different now is climate-induced drying and a longer fire season. All this human manipulation of fuels will do nothing in the face of climate change, so we need to solve the large problem. Besides, areas that have been logged fare much worse overall than natural forest areas. See Bradley et al. 2016 (Bradley, C. M., C. T. Hanson, and D. A. DellaSala. (2016) Does increased forest protection correspond to higher fire severity in frequent-fire forests of the western United States? Ecosphere 7(10):e01492. 10.1002/ecs2.1492), available at https://bit.ly/302GIQB

                • Today’s Sierra Nevada forests were never ‘unmanaged’ and ‘natural’. Ever since the last glaciers receded, humans have managed Sierra Nevada vegetation. The desire to have a pre-human landscape in a world dominated by not-so-bright humans is a foolish one.

                  BTW Hanson is an unreliable source of information.

            • Other eco-groups are just fine with cutting excess small merchantable trees in the Sierra Nevada. The lack of litigation against such projects tells that story. Of course, not every 29.8 inch diameter tree is getting cut. Tree spacing is important to both forest health and fire resilience. We only have to look at Yosemite National Park to see the results of the “Whatever Happens” mindset. Letting endangered species habitats burn isn’t a good idea. Letting old growth burn is cruel to species which needs it.

              Yes, loggers and lumber mills have to take those 10-12 inch trees along with the other trees to be thinned. The mills and the loggers don’t get to choose which trees to cut. Again, what is wrong with thinning trees that have an average diameter of around 15 inches (SHOW us the evidence of the 24 inch number you plucked out of the air, please), which are growing beneath bigger and better trees? Those trees are also called “ladder fuels”, which you want to preserve, as fuel, for the next inevitable destructive and horrible firestorms.

              • Yosemite is indeed a good example of what works. Just compare the Rim Fire area inside Yosemite with that in the adjacent Stanislaus NF, which burned much more severely through areas that were previously logged. Fires will happen regardless of where our California forests are, and they won’t be stopped by thinning. Many of the fires this summer burned right through previously thinned areas, especially the Creek Fire and were driven by fire weather and not fuels. The NPS, especially in Yosemite, has done a great job of both setting prescribed burns and letting natural fires burn, and of course they don’t salvage log afterwards, leaving legacy structures for many species. From an ecological standpoint those areas are thriving, and the older forests, even with ladder fuels, can withstand a fire even much better. Just look at the Rim Fire area just past the Yosemite entrance on Oak Flat Road. It burned in a mosaic pattern and most of the large trees survived.

                • Most of the National Forest part of the Rim Fire was burned before. (I know this from seeing it in the early 70’s, as well as working near Cherry Lake, in late 2000 ) If you look at Google Maps, you’ll see that Yosemite old growth took a big hit. I also have pictures shot near Hogdon Meadow, showing the terrible old growth mortality. The Park Service even set up sprinklers to reduce fire intensity in the Tuolumne Sequoia Grove. Then, there’s always that exposed granite in Yosemite that resists wildfires, too.

                  The Creek Fire started out with almost no wind. You cannot point to fire-generated winds as an ‘extra’ source of intense fire behavior. Pictures show the plume going straight up, into a mushroom-shaped cloud. (Yes, once the fire was off-to-the-races, easterly winds came up)

                  Soooo, I guess we’ll see ya in court, eh? The Forest Service has social license to thin flammable forests. Just because thinning doesn’t stop wildfires under all conditions, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do them. We cannot implement prescribed burning without thinning forests first. We need more scope and more pace. (And no, were not talking rakes, brooms, or “floor cleaning”) “The science” says many things, and the Forest Service has to try and balance them all.

    • Actually, it would be good to increase demand for logs from thinning projects. Maybe even a new category of ‘sustainable products’ from Forest Service lands could increase the demand of wood products from National Forests, especially when they come from thinning projects.

  3. Might logging (yes, I actually used that 4-letter word) actually be a reasonable way to reduce fuels, thin the forest, reduce competition for water, sunlight, and nutrients and keep the forest within its carrying capacity; maybe even make a healthier forest? Along the way, it might employ a few people.

    There is a paper by Tom Bonnicksen where he talks about the mixed forests of the Sierras. We removed the Indian and their land management practices (fire) and we’ve been putting out wildfire for quite a long time. He says today’s forest no longer has openings of meadows and groves of seedlings, saplings, maturing, and old-growth – it is no longer “park-like”. Along the way, we’ve lost the gaps in the canopy that black oak (acorns were an important source of food for the Indian), ponderosa pine, sugar pine, and sequoia require. With an absence of fire, the forest now has a heavy litter layer that many of these tree species cannot germinate in. Instead, we are creating a forest with white fir in the understory; this is a species that can germinate in the litter layer that built up with the lack of fire. And, by the way, that understory of fir has created a forest of ladder fuels!

    To be sure, he says we have forest that is getting older, with fewer young trees, and with less biological diversity – it will become impressive but will also be “artificial”. The forest he envisions looks nothing like what John Muir saw and is nothing like the pre-settlement forest. Bonnicksen says we’ve so changed the forest that we’ve set it up for a catastrophic wildfire and the next forest will look like the plantations that so many people hate.,

    Might active forest management have a legitimate role in today’s forest?

  4. Larry: “Just because thinning doesn’t stop wildfires under all conditions, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do them.” But if defensible space will stop the same fires that thinning would stop, and more effectively at a lower cost and less harm to the environment (meaning where thinning is not ecologically beneficial), what is the argument for thinning for fuel reduction on public lands?

    • You know damn well that there are other purposes and needs for these thinning projects. Sadly, thinning projects in the southern Sierra Nevada are less needed, these days, due to overwhelming bark beetle mortality. With so many dead trees, there no longer is a need to thin out live trees. I’m pretty sure that the remaining live trees are probably the ultra-flammable incense-cedars. Forests like these, in the Giant Sequoia National Monument, are doomed to complete loss when the next fire burns.


      • Larry, take a look at the BAER map just published for the Sequoia Complex fire in the area just north of the googlemaps link you posted. Only 6% of the area burned at high severity (soils), and much of the area had just as many dead trees: https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/7240.

        Direct link to BAER map: https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/photos/CASQF/2020-10-13-1910-SQF-Complex-PostFire-BAER/picts/2020_10_19-

        No, these areas are not “doomed to complete loss when the next fire burns.”

        • A more important issue is how many spotted owl and northern goshawk nests were destroyed by wildfires in the Sierra Nevada, this year. How many pairs will have no nests, this year? How many frogs and salamanders perished? How many streams will suffer catastrophic erosion? How much of the old growth that survived the bark beetles have been incinerated? How many culverts will fail, this winter? How many roads will wash out, (like we saw after the McNally Fire?)

          Finally, how many actual groves of Giant Sequoia will disappear in future wildfires? Where is the ESA going to kick in and address the biggest issue regarding sequoias?

          • Instead of asking what was “destroyed,” I think the more useful is what is left. Enough frogs and salamanders? Enough spotted owl nest sites? Sequoia groves? At the point we can agree that we’re having “too much” fire with regard to those questions, then we could move to what to do about it.

            • Well, we can also tack that on to the existing massive beetle mortality, too. With over 550,000 acres burned in the southern Sierra Nevada, I’d say that we have a serious problem. Part of that problem is that most of the best options didn’t happen, and are no longer valid options. Since there won’t be any ‘extra’ money for forest restoration/management, it seems we are, truly, stuck with “Whatever Happens”. I guess we’ll see how well “passive restoration” works, when the ecosystem has collapsed.


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