THERE was a large attendance of private forest owners at the recent public information evening on ‘Getting your Forest Certified,’ hosted by the Forest Owners Co-Operative Society (FOCS) at the Riverside Park Hotel, Macroom.
Forest certification has become a pressing issue for private forest owners. Members of FOCS expect that their forests will be certified to FSC standard within two years. They are currently engaged in a pilot project, with the support of the Forest Service and in association with, the Meath-based, North Eastern Forestry Group (NEFG), that will result in member forests being certified to the highest industry standard.
FOCS chairman Tim McCarthy welcomed everyone and outlined the history and operations of the co-operative. John Casey, a forest advisor with Teagasc, based in Mallow, gave a brief outline of why certification is becoming so important to forest owners.
West Cork Forest Service inspector Eugene Curran explained the origins and development of timber certification, first introduced to counter the destruction of environmentally-valuable rainforest. It is a means of assuring consumers that a wood or paper product comes from forests managed in accordance with strict environmental and social standards.
Conor McSwiney of GP Wood sawmills gave the industry view: Markets for processed timber demand certification. All large processors and users of wood products in Ireland subscribe to certification.
At present, up to 30% of logs can be sourced from uncertified forests, to meet the least-stringent certification requirements. This percentage is set to reduce while on the other hand the volumes of logs coming from private forests is set to increase significantly.
Industry needs private forests to be certified and group certification is the only viable option. He stressed the advantages of forest owner groups, also as an efficient interface between the industry and the owners.
Karl Coggins, assistant principal of the Policy Section in the Forest Service, outlined the pilot project on timber certification that that was launched late last year with the intention of developing a template for efficient certification of private forests, through group certification schemes. A sample of member forests, from both FOCS and NEFG, is being used to create the nucleus for the development of two large certifiable groups. This will lead to the establishment of two certification groups, north and south, develop a template and delivery system for FSC certification and provide a gateway to certification for private owners throughout the country.
He also outlined another Forest Service pilot project aimed at developing and supporting forestry Knowledge Transfer Groups (KTGs), like those operating in the beef and dairy sectors. These KTGs will be a vital support to the growth of group certification and general awareness of good forest management.
FOCS member Michael Greaney, from Cloyne, is a participant in the pilot project. He spoke of the fantastic achievement for FOCS and NEFG to be selected for the project, highlighting the fact that they must have met the initial standards of the Department. Any process benefiting private owners accessing the market, getting the best price possible, as well as adding value to the plantation, would get his utmost respect and support. Forestry is a relatively new enterprise for most private owners. The advantages of joining a co-op or producer group is the wealth of knowledge shared with like-minded people.
The fact that it was difficult to get clear answers to questions from the floor, about what exactly is required from forest owners, highlighted the need for the pilot projects to develop a clear and concise forest management template, appropriate to certification and develop the awareness of owners for its implementation.
FOCS has experienced foresters, marketing and sales personnel and provides a full range of forestry services to its members from establishment, 10-year management plans, felling licence and supervision of felling and sales. For information, see www.focs.ie