Why do we need Certification?
The wood products industry has been under intense scrutiny in recent years as environmentalists, consumers, landowners, and policy makers have sought to achieve a balance among production, the stability of resource-based economies, and the long-term sustainability of our nation’s forests. A number of initiatives have resulted, and the focus has primarily been upon land management, production practices of wood products industries, and the safety of individual loggers.
The Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), and Canadian Standards Association (CSA) certify that wood products industries are managing their lands in a manner that will not jeopardize the availability of forest resources for future generations. The International Standardization Organization (ISO 14001) certifies production practices, ensuring that mills are operated in a safe and efficient manner. State-specific logger training programs certify the technical and safety skills of individual loggers working in wood harvest operations in the Northern Forest region.
While these initiatives have led to improvements, one element of the wood products industry remains largely unmonitored. Wood harvesting companies, ranging from sole proprietors to large-scale businesses with multiple employees, have perhaps the greatest direct impact on the health of the forest ecosystem. Their operations supply raw material for wood products industries, but they also have the potential to conserve or compromise water and soil quality, wildlife habitat, biodiversity, and forest aesthetics.
Recognizing the need to certify natural resource harvesting companies, the Professional Logging Contractors of Maine began to develop the Master Logger Certification (MLC) Program in January 2000. A draft MLC document outlining the certification requirements was written and widely distributed to wood harvesters, forest products industry representatives, and policy makers during the spring and summer of 2000. Their feedback was incorporated into the document, and the MLC program was prepared for the piloting process. The first cohort of MLC companies began the certification process in January 2001 and were certified on July 31, 2001. Subsequently, in 2005, an independent non-profit organization – the Trust to Conserve Northeast Forestlands – took over the administration of the MLC program, creating the conditions for MLC’s status as a third-party certification system. Shortly thereafter, the MLC program in Maine combined efforts with the Southern New England MLC program to create the NEMLC program, serving harvesting companies in six Northeastern states (ME, NH, MA, CT, RI, VT and NY). NEMLC continues to collaborate with MLC programs in Atlantic Canada (New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, PEI), Wisconsin, and Minnesota.
Read more about TCNF’s certifications
Who is on the Certification Board?
The NEMLC Certification Board represents the multiple interests in and values of the Northeastern Forest. Members have been state representatives, retired and current loggers, retired forestry practioners, academics, business consultants, and representatives of environmental, social justice, and regional development organizations. Members have expertise in one or more areas of natural resource management and rural economic development. To be eligible, NEMLC Certification Board members must not stand to receive any personal or corporate financial gain from the forest products industry or their participation on the NEMLC Certification Board.
The functions of the NEMLC Certification Board are:
Reviewing company applications and reports
Discussing applications and reports, coming to consensus decisions, and directing NEMLC staff as to their decisions or need for further information.
Guiding the NEMLC program in continuous improvement and contributing to program policies and procedures.
Current NEMLC Certification Board Members
Professor Emeritus of Forestry
Old Town, ME
Fort Kent, ME
Anil Raj Kizha
Assistant Professor Forest Operations, University of Maine
What are the different types of certification?
The Trust to Conserve Northeast Forestlands (TCNF) is engaged in several activities designed to enhance the credibility of the Northeast Master Logger Certification Program and create additional market opportunities for participants in the program. Descriptions of these activities are provided below.
SmartLogging – For Loggers
The Maine Master Logger Certification Program (MLC), the first third-party logger certification program in the country, has earned the first SmartLogging certification and will be audited annually by the Rainforest Alliance to ensure continued compliance with a rigorous set of environmental and social standards. SmartLogging is intended to complement Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification and recognize responsible harvesting practices. Loggers that meet the Maine Master Logger Certification standards will also meet the SmartLogging requirements.
Maine MLC pursued SmartLogging certification as a way to increase overall credibility of the program by subjecting TCNF policies and procedures to a credible third party review. This certificate also establishes the Maine Master Logger program in the global marketplace by demonstrating practices that meet an international standard in an increasingly international system of commerce. Rainforest Alliance and the SmartWood program bring this global recognition to the Maine Master Logger Certification Program and ensure that as similar harvest certification programs are created around the US there is an established precedent for a high standard of timber harvesting practices.
The Trust’s Controlled Wood Policy – FSC Forest Management Group Certification: For Landowners
TCNF administers an FSC-certified group of family forest landowners throughout Maine. Under this group arrangement, natural resource professionals can inexpensively gain access to FSC certification for their landowner clients. TCNF is the administrative body that holds the FSC certificate and has overall responsibility for compliance with the FSC Northeast Regional Standard. The involvement of a Master Logger in the harvest of member properties will help ensure compliance with the FSC Standard and provide a consistency of practice across all properties.
The TCNF certified group has been formed to provide low-cost access to FSC certification for landowners, consulting foresters, and Master Loggers throughout the state of Maine. The FSC Standard is an internationally recognized framework of forest management that acknowledges a commitment to high environmental standards, social responsibility, and economic sustainability. The certified group is appropriate for properties of all sizes. The primary benefit of FSC certification at this time is an assurance to landowners that forest management meets a credible and independent high standard. In the short term, the financial benefits from premiums found in a certified marketplace should be considered a secondary outcome if achieved at all. In fact, increased market share is the most likely economic benefit. However, FSC-certified markets are increasing throughout the region and entry into the pool at this time will allow landowners and the Master Loggers harvesting the wood to take advantage of markets as they develop.
FSC Chain of Custody and Controlled Wood Group Certification: For Wood Processors or Handlers
TCNF serves as an administrator for a group Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and Controlled Wood Chain of Custody certification. FSC Chain of Custody certification allows Master Logger companies to purchase FSC-certified material (stumpage), harvest the wood, and haul to FSC Chain of Custody certified mills or brokers. Chain of Custody certification requires little change from current Master Logger practices, particularly in Maine where a legal requirement for the use of “Trip Tickets” is in effect. TCNF addresses the administrative and annual reporting requirements established by the FSC and audited annually by SmartWood. Under this program, the Master Logger Company is required to contact TCNF to verify the FSC status of the forest where you will be purchasing wood. At this time, only companies with 15 or fewer employees may participate in this group (companies with 16-25 employees may participate if you have a turnover of less than $1,000,000 in revenue). Enrollment in the program is required through TCNF and consists of agreeing to and signing an acknowledgement form and consenting to the possibility of an annual site visit by SmartWood. The MLC company must also maintain documentation on the volume of purchases and sales made of FSC certified material. TCNF will assist any larger MLC company that wishes to pursue FSC certification by providing all the documentation necessary to complete this process. FSC Controlled Wood certification allows Master Logger companies to represent the material harvested and sold as meeting the Controlled Wood definition established by the FSC. Controlled Wood is needed by FSC-certified Chain of Custody processors that are selling products that consist of a mix of FSC-certified and non-certified material. For practical purposes, generally all wood harvested under the MLC program will meet this Controlled Wood definition. The FSC standard requires that non-certified materials exclude the following broad categories of wood:
a) wood harvested from forest areas where traditional or civil rights are violated
b) wood harvested from non FSC-certified forest areas having high conservation values which are threatened
c) wood harvested from genetically modified (GM) trees
d) illegally harvested wood
e) natural forest that has been converted to plantations or non-forest use
TCNF has conducted a risk assessment of the Northeast against the categories listed above. Since the categories are defined globally, TCNF has determined that Master Logger harvested wood in the Northeast meets this requirement. SmartWood has audited and approved this claim. MLC companies wishing to use this designation will be issued a certificate number by TCNF and will be required to maintain the same type of documentation as required for FSC Chain of Custody certification described above.