Orrin Quinn, manager of our FSC® certification program, is checking in daily with news and views from the FSC® General Assembly currently being held in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia. Day 1 saw hundreds of people from several nations relaying their experiences with FSC® certification around the globe.

FSC® representatives and certification managers from Russia to Bolivia, Canada to India, Tanzania to Sweden, and plenty of other far-flung places, spent the day exchanging knowledge on the challenges FSC® certification faces and mapping a path for a sustainable future in forestry.

Ecotrust Canada took part in three discussion groups on Day 1:

  • Environmental Risk Assessments for the Tropics;
  • Smallholder and Group Certification Experiences and Opportunities; and
  • Indigenous Peoples Caucus

New tool to make environmental risk assessment easier
Run by the first-ever FSC® Executive Director Timothy Synnott, the ‘Environmental Risk Assessments for the Tropics’ session showcased a new tool to assist small and community managed forests in the tropics with the challenging task of completing an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). An essential requirement for FSC® certification, EIAs require forest managers to assess the environmental risk of harvesting timber, and can be very time consuming and expensive. It is hoped this model will reduce costs and streamline the process.

Ecotrust Canada’s take

  • Once we have established its adaptability to the temperate and boreal forests of Canada and the US, this could be a valuable tool for our program.

Challenges of group certification shared
The ‘Smallholder and Group Certification Experiences and Opportunities’ discussion showcased three projects – in the US, India and Honduras – each currently at different levels of development. The US groups, located in the Pacific Northwest and Wisconsin, have been very successful and gained considerable momentum; Honduras and Indian Groups, however, report being hampered by several challenges, such as the slow process in approving national standards, lack of benefits to land managers, issues with the certification of plantations, and the need for greater dissemination of information. Despite the challenges, these groups are confident that FSC® certification is the right standard to enable sustainable forest management and will continue on this path.

Ecotrust Canada’s take

  • We were able to share our own thoughts on the challenges provided by FSC® International’s recent policy to increase the sampling needed by certification bodies, a change which essentially triples the certification costs for community forests.
  • We stressed that community forests are a very low risk as compared to privately managed forests – auditing rates should reflect this.
  • As a result of this sharing, we are collaborating with an FSC® group in Sweden facing similar challenges and FSC® International has committed to reviewing its sampling requirements, with a view to adjusting its policy.
  • We are excited to work with FSC in this, as it will potentially allow us to offer a lower cost model for community forests within British Columbia.

Heated discussion chaired by BC’s Larry Joseph
The Indigenous Peoples Caucus brought together several Indigenous leaders (from Mexico, Honduras, India, Canada, Russia, New Zealand, Brazil, Chile, and more) to share experiences and concerns in ensuring indigenous peoples’ rights are maintained in FSC® certified areas. Heated discussions around the role of Aboriginal peoples in the FSC® Social Chamber ensued; the end result of which was a motion to create an Aboriginal Advisory Committee to ensure the standard meets its objectives. The discussion was chaired by Larry Joseph, a member of the Frog Clan of the Wet’suwet’en Nation in BC.

Ecotrust Canada’s take

  • Mr. Joseph’s involvement in directing FSC® International has proven invaluable and we fully support his interest in representing the Social Chamber North on FSC® International’s Board.

In other news, Orrin Quinn was interviewed for the latest issue of the FSC General Assembly newsletter. Read it here.

More news from Malaysia tomorrow.