Taking our Small Woods work to the next level

Our radical Small Woods Standard is going to face the ultimate challenge – so we’re renewing our call for those willing to share their views – or even to host a forest test.

SavernakeForest (© Max More)© Max MoreIn our last update on the FSC UK Small Woods Project, we told you that we were going to end up producing not one but two standards. One, a modified version of our existing national standard, will be fed into the UKWAS revision process. The other will be a far more radical standard, in line with the original vision for the project.


“When we first started this work, we deliberately opted for a UK only trial, not registered with FSC International,” says Dr Owen Davies, our Forest Standards Manager. “That’s because we wanted to be free to break some of FSC’s rules, and didn’t want our thinking to be constrained by feeling obliged to produce the sort of standard FSC would normally approve. Now, though, we feel that there is a growing appetite for more innovative solutions to the challenges of bringing smallholders into certification, and we think the time is right to take our work to the next level.”

So we’re going to take the plunge, and formally register a standard development process with FSC International. That means our radical, rule-breaking standard will face the ultimate test – will it be approved for use as a national forest stewardship standard?

To be a credible contender for FSC approval, our Small Woods Standard must undergo rigorous public consultation and forest testing – and that’s where you come in. We need the views of a wide range of people and organisations with different economic, environmental and social interests in UK woodlands. If you’d be willing to support our work and provide your views on the draft standard, or if you have a wood up to ten hectares in size you’d be willing to put forward for testing the standard, please complete this very short survey.

We’re very fortunate that our work on this standard is being supported by Coed Cymru, the Community Woodlands Association, Llais y Goedwig, the RSPB, the Small Woods Association, and the Woodland Trust.

“I believe that this standard has a lot of potential to make certification more relevant and accessible to small woodland owners,” says Small Woods Association CEO Ian Baker. “In combination with a supportive certification group scheme structure, it could unlock opportunities for owners to demonstrate the quality of their management – including to buyers of their products in some cases – and to help secure their legacy of stewardship.”

If you have any comments or questions about this project or FSC forest management standards in general, please contact Owen at owen at fsc-uk point org.

If the standard does get approved, what might that mean for FSC in other countries?

This is speculation, of course; we have no idea whether FSC International will approve a standard which strays so far from FSC’s norms. But what is absolutely clear is that, even if the standard is approved, there is no suggestion that it might be suitable for use anywhere other than in the UK. What might be considered more widely applicable is the overall approach – identifying the lowest risk forests in a country, and developing a standard to address only the main challenges and opportunities in those forests, within the framework of FSC’s Principles. In this way, it’s possible that our work could inspire a whole new generation of standards specifically adapted to small woods in countries all around the world. We can dream!

What do we mean by a Small Woods Standard?

FSC national forest stewardship standards contain the full text of the Principles and Criteria, and indicators to test certificate holders’ compliance with every Criterion. We’re trying something rather different; focussing on what we believe are the lowest risk woods – provisionally those up to ten hectares in size – we’re trying to identify the opportunities and risks specific to those woods in the UK context, and to fit indicators tailored to those opportunities and risks into a loose framework of paraphrased Principles. For example, our initial rough draft includes the following text for Principle 1:

Ensure everything you do in your woodland is lawful and, as far as possible, protect your woodland from the unlawful actions of others.

1.1 You hold any relevant legal permissions for your work, such as a felling licence, and give any formal notification required by the law.

Legal permissions might also be needed in relation to planning, environmental impact assessment or construction regulations.

1.2 You take reasonable measures to prevent people from carrying out illegal activities in your wood, and if illegal activities do occur you take reasonable measures to stop them.

In serious cases, this might involve working with the police or other authorities.

1.X [There is no evidence that you are failing to comply with any other legal requirements related to woodland management.]

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