FSC certification achieved for southern forests

Tammy Waters, Manager, Communications & Government Relations, Ashdown Mill           

After a grueling two-year journey to achieve certification for private forestland owners in the Ashdown timber basin, the Wood Procurement team at Ashdown has reason to celebrate.

On November 28, the Domtar team and 55 individual landowners achieved Forest Stewardship CouncilTM (FSC®) Forest Management Certification, conferred by the Rainforest Alliance.

FSC is an independent, not-for-profit non-governmental organization established to support environmentally appropriate, socially beneficial, and economically viable management of the world’s forests. They are globally recognized by most conservation organizations as the “gold standard” for establishing and monitoring responsible forest management.

Success through partnership

Several years ago, Domtar chose to make FSC certified timber the preferred source for its wood fiber. The forests of the southern United States offer unique challenges in reaching this goal and the Ashdown area has been no exception.

To begin the certification process, Domtar formed the Four States Timberland Owners Association (FSTOA) in the fall of 2010. The association continually evolved through the process as the landowners and managers became more educated on the certification standard and developed methods to apply this standard according to each individual’s management objectives.

“The association is currently made up of 55 members owning over 70,000 acres (28,000 hectares) of forestland, and all are committed to the Principles and Criteria outlined by the Forest Stewardship Council to achieve the highest standards of forest management,” said Digger Pond, Forestry and Woodyard Manager. “We have an established and dedicated group of landowners that are embracing the FSC principles. They are fully supportive of Domtar’s commitment to responsible forest management.”

The Association has worked through the Rainforest Alliance on the certification process for almost two years. The Rainforest Alliance is one of the world’s leading FSC forest management certifiers and well-respected among the forestry industry.

John Cook, Group Manager for the FSTOA and Harvest Manager for Domtar, described this accomplishment as a double gold medal, “We have gained our ‘gold standard’ certification through the ‘gold standard’ certifier [Rainforest Alliance]. Our landowners now have an elite status among forestland owners in the south.”

Next steps

So what’s next for Ashdown? The team is not finished yet, in fact, they view this accomplishment as just the beginning. “It is not the end but the beginning for us to continue to expand the availability of FSC wood for Ashdown and FSC certified paper for our customers – for us, the sky is the limit,” added Digger. “In fact, the plans are to double the amount of acreage in 2013, with the overall objective to expand to our maximum capacity and eventually obtain 100% certification.”

“In 2011, Domtar announced a goal of 100% FSC for our fiber supply. With the Four States group certificate announcement, the team at Ashdown has shown a commitment to helping us achieve our goal. They have shown, through innovation and determination that the FSC group model can be applied and move considerable amounts of land towards certification. We look forward to seeing the model built at Ashdown being expanded upon and replicated throughout our system. Congratulations to the team at Ashdown,” stated Lewis Fix, Vice-President, Pulp Sales.

Stated Digger, “I can’t begin to tell you how proud we are of our team for stepping up beyond the regular call of duty and working so diligently to see this goal of forest management certification become a reality at the Ashdown Mill. Our efforts are making a difference by helping Domtar respond to customer demand for FSC certified products. We have raised the bar for private land certification in the south – a major achievement for the Ashdown team.”