MFL landowners get new accreditation

Madison – Dec. 16 was an important date for Wisconsin’s woodland
owners enrolled in the Managed Forest Law. On that day, the
SmartWood Program of the Rainforest Alliance awarded Forest
Stewardship Council accreditation to more than 2 million acres of
Wisconsin’s privately owned woodlands enrolled in the MFL.

The latest recognition comes after the state’s MFL forestry
management techniques were designated as “sustainable” by the
American Tree Farm System in 2005.

Forest certification is a process that tells consumers that
timber (and products made from certified wood) has been grown and
harvested in a way that meets environmental and social standards.
The certifying agency is an independent third party (such as
SmartWood). The Smartwood seal of approval certifies that
sustainable forestry is practiced on the enrolled lands. A growing
number of companies and consumers have a preference for forest
products from “sustainably managed” forests. Wisconsin’s state and
county forests also have been certified in recent years

“The SmartWood certification of private forest lands enrolled in
MFL is significant economically as well as environmentally because
these private lands provide the majority of timber that fuels the
state’s forest products industry,” said DNR Secretary Matt Frank.
“Third-party certification not only benefits the landowners, it
provides a society-wide benefit, an assurance for the citizens of
Wisconsin that the state’s forest resources are well-managed and
will be available into the future.”

Paul Pingrey, DNR forest certification specialist, said that
certification is a kind of “seal of approval” for forest owners.
Owners with forest lands in MFL can expect additional benefits from
certification. A growing number of companies prefer wood from
certified lands, so these landowners will have more buyers. Loggers
cutting timber on certified land tend to be more careful because
auditors check their work. Carbon sequestration markets that pay
landowners premiums for ecosystem services also require forest
certification as a prerequisite.

The SmartWood award follows an audit of the MFL program that was
initiated last March. A team of experienced auditors selected
properties to visit in nine counties as a representative sample of
the approximately 41,000 private parcels enrolled in the MFL Tree
Farm Group. They looked for confirmation that the DNR and MFL
participants plan and conduct forest management activities that
incorporate measures for risks related to timber harvesting,
pesticide use, roads and trails, stream crossings, endangered
species protection, respecting Native American cultural sites, etc.
The reviewers contacted hundreds of stakeholders to appraise
whether the DNR carefully administers the MFL program consistent
with FSC standards.

Almost 3 million acres of privately owned forest land is
enrolled in MFL, a landowner incentive program that provides tax
benefits to landowners in exchange for owner commitments to
sustainable forestry management practices. The bulk of MFL land
(2.2 million acres) is owned by family owners who have voluntarily
chosen to participate in the MFL Tree Farm Group. The average size
of a parcel these individuals own is about 53 acres.

Bob Rogers, a member of the Wisconsin Council on Forestry, said
SmartWood recognition of the MFL Group is a breakthrough for
involving family forest owners in FSC certification. Since the
mid-1990s when the FSC certification concept began taking hold,
only 400,000 to 500,000 acres of family forest land nationwide had
been FSC approved. The addition of the 2.2 million-acre MFL group
represents a 500 percent increase, made possible by the innovative
approach by the DNR. The states of Indiana and Massachusetts also
are considering using their forestry incentive programs like MFL as
a nucleus for family forest certification based on the Wisconsin
model.

Rogers also said the MFL group is cost efficient. An individual
landowner seeking FSC certification independently might expect to
pay $5,000 to $10,000 in audit expenses over the 5-year term of a
certificate. The average 5-year audit expense for an FSC-certified
MFL Group parcel is less than $2.

He said formation of the MFL Tree Farm Certified Group and other
DNR forest certification projects has helped Wisconsin maintain its
position as the largest paper producer in the country. Wisconsin
lumber, flooring, and other solid-wood manufacturers are interested
in the development of the MFL Group since it will double the
availability of certified saw timber, compared to production from
public land.

For more information, visit the DNR’s MFL Web site at:
http://dnr.wi.gov/forestry/feeds/faqsFull.asp?s1=ForestTax&s2=MFL&inc=ftax
.

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