Sustainable Lumber and Wood Products

Tamara Downs Schwei
Dovetail Partners, Inc.

Minnesota’s forests are vital to the state economy and environment. The Minnesota wood products industry provides employment to rural communities and serves markets throughout the world. As global trade in forest products grows, forest certification has emerged as a mechanism for consumers to identify wood products produced from sustainably managed forests.

Forest certification gained momentum in the 1990s, when public and private interests came together to ensure the long-term health of the forest sector and the forests themselves. The international Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and the U.S.-based Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) were developed as a result of the interest in a comprehensive certification system.

Forests managed by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and an increasing number of county-managed, industrial and privately owned forests in the state have achieved FSC or SFI certification. With nearly eight million acres certified, Minnesota has more certified forestland than any other state in the nation.

Forest certification helps improve forest management, protect water resources, expand market opportunities and enhance the health of local fish, wildlife and plant habitats. The forest certification standards address these forest management areas and also consider social and economic factors such as indigenous peoples and workers rights. The certification auditing process inspects forest management operations to ensure that the standards are being met. Forest managers seeking certification must complete a third-party review of their practices and are subject to annual audits conducted by independent auditors from an accredited certification body.

Forest certification systems are being implemented around the world. The five largest systems operating in North America are the FSC, SFI, ATFS, CSA, and PEFC. For a comparison of these systems, visit

Forests that are managed in accordance with the certification standards are recognized as “certified forests.” Wood and paper products from these forests are sold as “certified wood products.” National green building programs such as LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) recognize FSC-certified wood as an important component of an environmentally designed building.

As more forests become certified and market demand grows, certified wood products are increasingly available from a variety of businesses. Nearly 50 different companies in Minnesota manufacture and market certified products. Retailers and distributors sell a variety of lumber, paneling, and decking products. Numerous local paper and printing companies also offer certified products. The online Forest Certification Resource Center Search Tool in the Resource Box provides a list of certified forests and products and retailers and distributors who are selling these products.

What you can do:

  • Look for the certification labels when you are shopping for wood and paper products or printing services.
  • Request locally produced lumber and wood products.
  • Use the online Forest Certification Resource Center Search Tool to find a local retailer or distributor and learn more about the benefits of certified wood.
Read Up

Certification of Forest Products: Issues and Perspectives, by Island Press, 1996.

Confronting Sustainability: Forest Certification in Developing and Transitioning Countries, by Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies Publication Series, July 2006.


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Dovetail Partners, Inc.
528 Hennepin Ave
Minneapolis, MN

Minnesota Forest Resources Council
2003 Upper Buford Circle
St. Paul, MN

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