For this article, we are exploring two of FSC’s Principles together – Principle 7 and Principle 8. These two Principles are closely intertwined, covering requirements for management planning and the monitoring and assessment of the implementation of the plan.
© James Spencer - UnsplashA forest management plan is a fundamental component of responsible forest management. Management planning is a process of determining and conveying the vision and specific economic, environmental and social objectives for a forest area, the steps involved to achieve those objectives, and the means of measuring progress; it also involves adaptation when management is not delivering the desired outcomes.
Across the world, forests are managed in many ways depending on the vision for the forest, the local conditions and the specific objectives that have been set. FSC certification provides a consistent framework for the issues to be considered in planning and monitoring.
Principle 7 covers forest management planning consistent with the certificate holder’s policies and objectives, and the implementation and adaptation of the plan. The resulting plan must be sufficient to guide staff and inform stakeholders.
The full range of issues covered within the six Criteria under Principle 7 are:
- 7.1 Setting policies and objectives for management, which are environmentally sound, socially beneficial and economically viable, and publicising them.
- 7.2 Implementing a management plan consistent with the policies and objectives, that describes the natural resources of the forest area and explains how the plan will meet FSC certification requirements.
- 7.3 Including verifiable targets by which progress towards each management objective can be assessed.
- 7.4 Updating and revising the management plan to incorporate the results of monitoring and evaluation, stakeholder engagement or scientific and technical information, as well as responding to changing environmental, social and economic circumstances.
- 7.5 Making a summary of the management plan publicly available.
- 7.6 Engaging affected and interested stakeholders in management planning and monitoring processes.
- The monitoring and assessment of elements included in the management plan are addressed under Principle 8, including ensuring that monitoring outcomes are fed back into the planning process to enable adaptive management.
The full range of issues covered within the five Criteria under Principle 8 are:
- 8.1 Monitoring the implementation of management plan, including policies and objectives, progress with planned activities, and the achievement of verifiable targets.
- 8.2 Monitoring and evaluating the environmental and social impacts of the activities in the certified area and changes in its environmental condition.
- 8.3 Analysing the results of monitoring and evaluation and feeding the outcomes into the planning process.
- 8.4 Making a summary of the results of monitoring publicly available.
- 8.5 Implementing a tracking and tracing system for demonstrating the source and volume of all products that are marketed as FSC certified.
(For the full text of each Criterion, see the Principles and Criteria.)
For FSC Forest Management certificate holders, compliance with these requirements is assessed by independent certification bodies using the set of indicators adapted to national, regional or local conditions in the applicable approved forest stewardship standard.
What does this mean in the UK?
Indicators adapted to the UK context are contained in our national forest stewardship standard, familiar to most forest managers as the UK Woodland Assurance Standard, or UKWAS.
The most recent British Woodland Survey in 2020 found that the majority (69%) of did not have a UKFS compliant management plan in place (UKFS represents the government's approach to sustainable forestry, and is the basis for things like felling licensing and awarding grants). So, there is still some way to go before all woods are subject to the same level of management planning and monitoring, but for woods to be FSC certified, a high standard must be met.
There are detailed requirements set out under Indicator 7.2.1 [UKWAS 2.2.1] on the elements to incorporate in a management plan. Similarly, monitoring requirements are set out under Indicator 8.2.1 [UKWAS 2.15.1(c)], with examples of appropriate aspects to monitor. For example, for environmental impacts, the following aspects are listed:
- Impacts of operations on priority habitats and species, landscape or water and soils
- Impacts of non-native invasive species
- Impacts of grazing and browsing
Certification offers an independent check for woodland managers that they have considered these critical elements within the development of their management plan and that their work programme and planned operations reflect their management objectives. This clear steer might be particularly valuable for small woodland owners and community-groups managing woodlands.
“For me as a woodlotter, certification is about demonstrating professionalism, and while we might all prefer to be doing practical work out in the woods, planning and monitoring are key parts of professional management,” says Andy Brown, a woodlot licence holder in the process of seeking FSC certification. “Planning sets out where we're trying to go and monitoring shows us how successfully we're getting there - and maybe when we need to course correct! Together they are vital for keeping us on the right track."
Requirements are set to make sure the owner or manager assesses the actual and potential impacts of management on the condition of the woodland and adapts the plan accordingly:
The management planning documentation shall be reviewed periodically (at least every ten years), taking into account:
- Monitoring results,
- Results of certification audits,
- Results of stakeholder engagement,
- New research and technical information, and
- Changed environmental, social, or economic circumstances. [UKWAS 2.2.3]
The owner/manager shall take monitoring findings into account, particularly during revision of the management planning documentation, and if necessary shall revise management objectives, verifiable targets and/or management activities. [UKWAS 2.15.2]
There are requirements for the organisation to engage with affected stakeholders proactively and transparently in management planning and monitoring processes:
The owner/manager shall consult appropriately with local people, relevant organisations and other interested parties, and provide opportunities for their engagement in planning and monitoring processes. [UKWAS 2.3.1(c)]
Monitoring is also required to ensure that certified products can be traced back to the point of sale from the woodland, for example:
Information about all products sold is compiled and documented, including:
- Common and scientific species name;
- Product name or description;
- Volume (or quantity) of product;
- Information to trace the material to the source of origin logging block;
- Logging date;
- If basic processing activities take place in the forest, the date and volume produced; and
- Whether or not the material was sold as FSC certified.
This is crucial to the integrity of the chain of custody and any claims made on certified products.
Have your say
Do you have an opinion on what else should be included in the management planning process? Do we do enough to monitor the positive and negative impacts of forest management? Are processes of stakeholder engagement working? Should there be other considerations for certain types of woods and forest managers, such as small or community woods?
The revision of the UK national forest stewardship standard is well under way, and one public consultation has already been held in March-April 2021. We would encourage you to keep reading these articles and to take the opportunity to participate in the next public consultation in October-November 2021.
If you have any questions or comments about FSC’s forest management requirements in the UK, feel free to get in touch with Forest Standards Manager Dr Owen Davies (email@example.com) or Outreach Manager (Forests & Ecosystem Services) Amy Willox (firstname.lastname@example.org).