When a pair of forest caretakers in British Columbia wanted to commit to the highest possible level of stewardship over the woods they oversee, they turned to Ecotrust Canada and FSC®.

WHEN IT COMES TO embracing the conservation economy—one that respects local communities and places social, economic, and ecological outcomes on an equal footing—Doug Makaroff and Frank Varga are right in there.

They live hundreds of kilometers apart and have never met one another, but both are committed to the highest available level of protection for the forests under their care.

For his part, Makaroff’s company, Living Forest Communities, is developing Elkington Forest, a residential project north of Victoria, on British Columbia’s Vancouver Island. Eventually, the property will include 97 homes clustered in residential “hamlets” tucked into a small portion of the 400 acres of privately owned forest.

The tree cover is much more than a backdrop for a marketing brochure. It’s a working forest certified to the most stringent standard in the world.

“If you want to be credible with sustainability, some form of a third-party certification is absolutely essential,” says Makaroff. “And when it comes to forestry, there is only one that has teeth—there really is nothing else—and that is FSC®.”

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Doug Makaroff, president of Living Forest Communities (left) with Barry Gates, caretaker of Elkington Forest. Image from “A tour of FSC certified woodlots in British Columbia, Canada,” (video) by FSC International.

Frank Varga, general manager of the Burns Lake Community Forest, about 150 KM east of Prince George, B.C., feels the same way.

A Real-Deal Approval Seal

The Forest Stewardship Council® is a global NGO based in Bonn, Germany, and active in dozens of countries. An FSC® stamp on a piece of lumber guarantees to its end user that the wood was responsibly harvested, with attention paid to a wide range of triple-bottom-line factors such as wide stream setbacks and full recognition of Indigenous rights and title.

Elkington Forest is one of nine BC tracts operating under FSC® BC Small and Low Intensity Managed Forests Operations Standard, which is managed by Ecotrust Canada.

This week, that number grew by one as Burns Lake Community Forest announced plans to seek certification under the program.

“For Burns Lake Community Forest, FSC certification benefits range from improved revenue and market opportunities to improved community relations,” says Frank Varga. “It supports developing and strengthening our relationships with First Nations, and formalizes strong governance and policies.”

As a certified FSC® Group Manager, Ecotrust Canada is able to help woodlots, community forests, like that in Burns Lake, private landowners, such as those who own Elkington, First Nation tenures, and First Nations Woodland Licences reach certification.

Membership with the group allows forest managers to brand their wood as FSC® certified and enables them to sell to the growing number of certified sawmills, manufacturers and distributors.


A Gap That Needed Filling

Ecotrust took on the Forest Stewardship Council® program in 2000 after realising that an opportunity existed to provide landowners, First Nations, and others with a strong science-based forest certification program.

“We realised there was a missing opportunity in our communities, that there was a structure out there that we could help provide for smaller operations and landholders,” says Satnam Manhas, a registered professional forester, and Ecotrust Canada’s Forest and Ecosystem Services Program Manager.

“We said, ‘This is an easy tool for us to be part of, it’s got a very credible label, and it meets our triple bottom line requirements,’” says Manhas.

There are other competing standards, but none are nearly as credible, says Manhas.

“FSC® covers how you manage your forests, the things you need to consider, the performance indicators you have to meet, and then when you have all that, there’s a stamp that goes through from the forest all the way out to the end user,” he adds.

Beyond the FSC® Forest Management Group, Ecotrust Canada has more than 35 companies operating under the umbrella of its FSC® Chain of Custody group of potential buyers. Economic Development Project Manager Racheal Weymer leads that program, and we’ll check in with her in a future posting.


Header image: The Elkington Forest, on Vancouver Island. Photo: Garth Lenz.