Third-party certifier SCS Global Services has announced that Uttar Pradesh Forest Corporation (UPFC) — which manages all aspects of forestry operations within the State of Uttar Pradesh, located in northern India bordering on Nepal — has met all of the requirements necessary to earn certification for responsible forestry under the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) standard.
The Forest Management Certification encompasses 13 forest divisions covering a total forest area of 349,296 hectares. This area represents roughly 40 percent of the FSC-certified forest area in South Asia.
The SCS audit team, consisting of seven professionals representing a variety of disciplines, completed a 6-day field and office audit of the forest management operations as part of the assessment. The interdisciplinary team collected data, analyzed records, conducted interviews with staff and key stakeholders and carried out a stakeholder analysis.
In each of UPFC's forest divisions, the principle silvicultural practice for natural forest areas is conservation, with removal of only dead, dying and decayed trees, SCS says. Planned harvests are practiced only in designated plantation areas. Areas containing rare, threatened or endangered species are recognized as sanctuaries and national parks where any form of extraction is prohibited.
UPFC has implemented a reliable system to avoid mixing certified and uncertified materials. The Uttar Pradesh Forest Department begins by marking trees before the timber is harvested to guarantee that the logs contain the same markings as the stumps, thereby supporting traceability. UPFC manages the timber harvesting process. Once the trees are felled, the timber is stored in separate timber depots to prevent mixing.
UPFC employs over 2,000 people directly, and is indirectly responsible for a large number of additional jobs such as transporters and loading workers. FSC certification assures that these workers are treated fairly, and in addition, recognizes the customary use rights of local communities, SCS says.
Forests certification systems are gaining popularity, but a report released in January by the forest conservation NGO ForestEthics found that the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) certification program has serious flaws in comparison to FSC. ForestEthics analyzed publicly available audit reports from the past 10 years and concluded that SFI is dramatically less transparent and audit teams were smaller and took less time for the audit process than FSC. More than half of the SFI reports were missing pertinent data and SFI rarely required logging companies to take any additional action to improve operations.
FSC certification has become the recognized and trusted sustainability standard for wood, pulp and paper and the forests that produce them — and the organization is strict in ensuring certified products and woodlands continue to meet the criteria required to maintain their certification.