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Australian Forest Certification
Forest certification is a voluntary process by which the planning and implementation of on-the-ground forestry operations are audited by a qualified, independent third party against a pre-determined standard designed to ensure that operations are environmentally sustainable and socially acceptable. Forest operations found to conform to the standard are issued a certificate, which can then be used to demonstrate the legality and sustainability of their wood products. An additional independent process, called chain-of-custody certification, can be employed to track wood products from a certified forest through processing to the point of sale - such as a hardware store or a furniture shop.
Forest certified in Australia, 2003-04 to 2006-07
Forest certification schemes typically require that forest management practices conform to standards that are much higher than those stipulated by law and government regulations. They encourage forest growers and timber merchants to display their sustainability credentials, usually involving the logo of the certification scheme, when marketing their products. The area of certified forest in Australia has grown rapidly to cover over nine million hectares of native forests and plantations by September 2007 (see figure).
Forest certification is carried out in Australia by several private organisations against standards set by one of two existing certification schemes: the Australian Forest Certification Scheme (AFCS) and the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). The AFCS uses the Australian Forestry Standard, which was developed via a nationwide process involving representatives of the Australian community, industry and government. The FSC uses two 'interim' standards - the Rainforest Alliance-Smartwood Interim Standard for Australia and the Soil Association-Woodmark Interim Standard for Australia - based on standards developed internationally. Both schemes also issue chain-of-custody certificates.
In addition to forest and chain-of-custody certification, most multiple-use public forests and some private forests are managed in accordance with codes of forest practice as well as environmental management systems (EMSs) certified externally to an International Organization for Standardization or AFCS standard. An EMS is a tool for managing the impacts of an organisation's activities on the environment and provides a structured approach to the planning and implementation of environmental protection measures. Forest management agencies with certified EMSs in place include Forests NSW, Forestry SA, Queensland's Department of Natural Resources and Water (Forest Products) and Forestry Plantations Queensland, Western Australia's Forest Products Commission, Victoria's Department of Sustainability and Environment, and Forestry Tasmania. Several large private forestry companies also have EMSs in place.
Crawford H (2006). A Review of Forest Certification in Australia. Forest and Wood Products Research and Development Corporation, Melbourne.
MIG (2008). Australia's State of the Forests Report 2008 Montreal Process Implementation Group for Australia, Canberra.