“We were beginning to lose a lot of timber on that tract from sheer age,” says Bob. “From a financial standpoint, you can sit there and watch the trees die, or you can replant and have a continuing source of income.”
Today, the Torranses’ harvest strategies take into account the long-term best interests of both landowner and land: Both tracts are certified by outside audit firms as meeting Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) standards. The FSC, which WWF helped create in 1993, is considered by many to be the gold standard of forest certification for environmental, social, and—increasingly—economic reasons.
For a tract to become FSC-certified, a landowner must comply with 10 principles and up to 57 criteria, the latter of which vary according to size. The goal—whether it is for an owner of 80 acres in southwestern Arkansas or a cooperative of teak forest plots in Indonesia totaling more than 11,000 acres—is to provide market-driven incentives for engaging in responsible stewardship of the forest. Increasingly, consumers are looking for the FSC logo when buying wood products, according to Linda Walker, manager of WWF’s Global Forest & Trade Network.
“There is increasing awareness, especially among young people, of the power of their buying decisions. The FSC certification mark helps purchasers promote responsible forestry. On the producer side, it is a way for people like the Torranses to be recognized as landowners who are implementing best management practices that will sustain their forests for the long haul,” she says. “With projections of 9 billion people on the planet by 2050, forests will face increasing pressures to supply fiber, food and fuel. We believe that well-managed forests are essential to meeting these demands while also providing critical wildlife habitat, ecosystem services and climate benefits.”
Bob Torrans concurs, saying that FSC-certified timber makes economic sense and will continue to grow in popularity among both small and large landowners.
“The consumer is driving this demand on everything from to-go coffee cups to copy paper,” he says. “If they don’t see the FSC logo on the product, the little hands that we’re raising—the children and grandchildren— they’re not going to reach for that product.”
Bob and Jean both belong to the Four States Timberland Owners Association, which is managed by Domtar. The association enables small and large landowners to take advantage of FSC’s Family Forests Program—to aggregate holdings with other members of the association in order to become FSC-certified.