In 2003, Maryland Department of Natural Resources had its first forest certification audit on the Chesapeake Forest Lands. Currently, through independent, third party annual audits, we have over 200,000 acres of Maryland state forests now certified as well-managed according to the two major internationally recognized forest certification systems for public land, Forest Stewardship Council® and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative® standards. The FSC® and SFI® are independent organizations.
Beginning in 2011, the Forest Service began revising the long-term sustainable management plans for all three of the State Forests in the Western Region. The initial framework follows the sustainable management plan format established for the State of Maryland’s Chesapeake Forest on the Eastern shore. The Department's goal is to have the updated sustainable forest management plans receive dual third party certification under both the Forest Stewardship Councils (FSC) and Sustainable Forestry Initiatives (SFI) standards and guidelines.
Throughout the course of the next two years, broad resource assessments were carried out identifying the various management units and features located on the forests including identification and mapping of High Conservation Value Forest Areas (HCVF), much of which was formerly identified as the State Forests “Special Management Zone”. Within the HCVF are located a broad range of Ecologically Significant Areas (ESA). These areas typically contain rare, threatened or endangered species and their critical habitats. By spring of 2011 initial drafts of the Forest’s Sustainable Management Plan were developed and shared with stakeholders for initial comment and review. The plans were submitted to both the FSC and SFI organizations in the spring of 2011, at which point audits had been completed on all three of the western state forests. Following the audits, draft plans and audit findings were presented to the State Forests Citizen Advisory Committees for review and comments. The Draft Sustainable Management Plans were made available for public comment fall of 2011. Revisions and updates to the Sustainable Management Plan were completed in April of 2019.
Each year the State Forests Management Program is audited for compliance to the standards set forth by the Certifying Organizations. Any shortcomings in the programs identified during the audits are identified in Corrective Action Reports (CARs) and/or observations identified as needing improvement in order to be “certified” as sustainably managed forest lands under the internationally recognized FSC and SFI standards. These corrective actions vary from simple formal documentation of routine practices, to more complex policy and procedure development involving various stakeholders and partners. The program requires that all these items be addressed before the next annual audit, with some needing more immediate attention. State Forest staff time and field operations are adjusted and redirected to assist in addressing any Corrective Action items in the course of the next year.
For more information about Forest Certification on Maryland’s State Forests click here.