The 192 million acres of forests in the National Forest System represents over a quarter of the nation’s forests. Gifford Pinchot played an instrumental role in the expansion of this vast system of U.S. forest reserves, and the formation and mission of the U.S. Forest Service responsible for its stewardship. How these lands are cared for, to what purposes they are dedicated and who benefits, are paramount concerns of the Pinchot Institute. Building on a decade of research on the applicability of forest certification on public lands, the Institute conducted a groundbreaking series of studies examining management practices on U.S. National Forests.
The study helped better understand whether the adoption of independent third-party certification standards could improve the stewardship of national forests. Private and public forestlands have used certification programs to provide assurances to the public and purchasers of forest products. The U.S Forest Service is in many ways a special case – responsible to the people to provide a broad range of benefits – among which is the sale of forest products.
The case studies evaluated five national forests, through simulated audits using standards of the Forest Stewardship Council and Sustainable Forestry Initiative. The study indicated that the selected national forests measured up well against these widely-accepted standards of sustainability. However, according to auditors' reports all of the case study forests would need to better implement their own plans through adjusting priorities or better deployment of existing resources. In only a couple of instances would compliance with existing certification standards induce reconsideration of current policies.
The two-year study, which was requested by the Forest Service, is the latest in a ten-year series of Pinchot Institute studies to evaluate the applicability of forest certification programs on public forestlands.