Joshua C. Dickinson III
Senior Associate and Founder, The Forest Management Trust
Dr. Joshua C. Dickinson is a graduate of the United States Naval Academy where he received a M.S. degree in engineering. He later was awarded his Ph.D. in geography at the University of Florida and subsequently completed post doctoral work at the University of Georgia in ecology.
For the past 30 years Dr. Dickinson has been a consultant in natural resources management and forestry, working in Latin America, Africa, Asia and the United States. In 1985 he and his wife founded Tropical Research and Development, Inc. a consulting firm that had projects in 66 countries. In 1992 Dr. Dickinson founded the Forest Management Trust, a non-profit organization whose objective is to promote sustainable forest management practices in the tropics and in the southern Appalachians and the southeastern coastal plain. Currently Dr. Dickinson also is Chairman of the Forest Stewardship Counsel (FSC) program in the United States and a member of this organization’s board. The FSC is a world wide organization that provides third party certification of good forest management practices. In addition the organization promotes consumer use of wood products from forests that follow the rigorous standards prescribed by FSC. There are 72 million acres of FSC certified forests in the world of which 13 million acres are in the United States.
Foresters, environmentalists and others have devised several plans for managing forests throughout the world. One plan sets aside 10 percent of the forests exclusively for preserving the trees. This plan was attractive for management of publicly owned or unique forests but was not applicable for 90 percent of the world’s forests. Another plan called for the boycott of lumber from certain tropical forests. A number of domestic and foreign municipalities adopted this plan. The boycott plan was ultimately found to violate certain international trade agreements, restrict trade and even depress the value of tropical forests in some countries thus hurting local economies.
In 1993 a group of scientists, environmentalists, economists and forest owners assembled to devise a plan for good forest management that would sustain ecosystems and address the need to generate both income and profit for owners. The new organization was designed to develop and promote scientific management programs that permit forests to approach sustainability and at the same time become profitable operations. The organization was called the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and became fully active in 1997. The FSC is an international organization committed to good management of all forests. There are now extensive acreages of tropical, temperate and boreal forests throughout the world voluntarily committed to the program.
The FSC program is divided into three parts to address environmental, social and economic factors and it is further subdivided to deal with problems specific to northern and southern forests. The program has been fully described in a publication entitled “Principles and Criteria for Forest Stewardship.” The principles and criteria discussed are applicable to all tropical, temperate and boreal forests. More detailed standards are prepared for use at national or local levels by accredited certification organizations. Forest owners seeking certification must have their properties inspected by an accredited certifying organization. The certifying organization first determines if the forest is potentially certifiable. If it is certifiable the inspector then works with the owner to develop a management plan that meets FSC standards. As long as the forest meets the prescribed standards, all wood produced may be labeled and sold as FSC certified lumber.
In 2002 there were 72 million acres of FSC certified forests worldwide of which 13 million acres were in the United States and 2.4 million acres in Pennsylvania. Approximately 60 percent of the FSC certified forest acreage is in northern Europe. In the United States most certified forests are in the Northeast and Northwest. There have been 2400 certificates issued for certified forests in 60 countries and 11 organizations have been accredited to perform the certifications and subsequent inspections. Wood from certified forests is used in 8000 different product lines.
A major effort has been made to get large domestic and foreign retailers, such as Home Depot, Lowe’s, Ikea and others to commit to the sale of FSC certified wood products exclusively. Commitments have been made but can only be carried out if an adequate supply of certified wood becomes available. A number of furniture manufacturers now use certified lumber exclusively. Promotional programs have recently been directed to consumers urging that wood products be purchased only if they display the FSC certification seal.
The FSC certification program is only a part of the program needed to approach worldwide forest sustainability. Worldwide consumption of forest products needs to be reduced. During the past 30 years wood consumption in the United Stated has increased as homes have increased in size by 44 percent even though occupancy has declined 20 percent. Thirty percent of the wood used in the United States is for paper. If the United States reduced its per capita wood consumption to European levels 15 per cent of our forests could be saved. The use of wood continues to be more attractive environmentally than other structural materials because the amount of energy to produce a unit of concrete, steel or aluminum is 6, 300 and 1400 times respectively greater than that required to produce a unit of wood.
Forest owners or managers interested in learning more about forest certification should contact the Forest Stewardship Council at 1155 30th NW, Suite 300, Washington, D.C. 20007 or their web site a www.fscus.org.
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