top of page

FSC U.S. Monitoring & Evaluation Efforts 

What have we done and learned thus far? 

Monitoring Framework 

The “FSC US Controlled Wood National Risk Assessment: Monitoring & Effectiveness Evaluation Framework” was approved by FSC International in 2020. The objective of the framework is to: 1) provide evidence that the risk of sourcing unacceptable materials is decreasing within each specified risk area; and 2) gather monitoring data to evaluate the program’s effectiveness in producing on-the-ground changes in forest management.

The monitoring framework includes the following three tiers:

Tier 1: Coarse scale ecoregion assessment of forests associated with specified risks.
Tier 2: Wood basket identification and fine scale specified risk assessment.
Tier 3: Based on wood baskets identified in Tier 2, develop partnerships to characterize, assess, and monitor effectiveness for common mitigation options (e.g., education and outreach, procurement policy, and conservation initiatives).

FSC partnered with American Forest Foundation (AFF) in 2021 on monitoring activities associated with Tier 2 and Tier 3 assessments/data collection. Specifically, AFF conducted a pilot monitoring project in five specified risk areas in the US Southeast, including the Central Appalachian Critical Biodiversity Area, the Florida Panhandle Critical Biodiversity Area, Native Longleaf Pine Systems, Late Successional Bottomland Hardwoods, and Forest Conversion. This partnership brought substantial reach and learning capacity to the broader monitoring effort. 

Key Findings 

The underlying theme of the initial monitoring effort was baselining conditions and characterizing implementation from program inception (2018) through 2021. To support these themes, a vast amount of qualitative and quantitative monitoring data were collected. Together, the data provide various pieces of policy, implementation, socioeconomic, and ecological information that we have contextualized as contributing to “implementation monitoring,” or to “effectiveness monitoring.” 

Topline Key Findings 

  • Education and Outreach was the most common mitigation option. Most material delivered met the requirements and intent of this option and was delivered to a broad audience of supply chain actors. However, there are opportunities to improve these mitigation options. Most often, certificate holders engaged consultants to develop educational materials, often in collaboration with relevant environmental non- profits (ENGOs). 

  • Designing mitigation options with monitoring in mind could improve our ability to monitor the implementation and effectiveness of these actions. For, instance, conservation partners and recipients of risk mitigation information were often unable to associate mitigation efforts implemented by certificate holders with FSC. We already engage conservation partners to develop and distribute education and outreach material, for instance, on behalf of certificate holders, but the structure of these relationships could be greatly improved to standardize materials, to build better relationships with ENGOs and supply chain members (specifically landowners who normally require many touchpoints to change behavior), and to better track progress.

  • This monitoring effort produced valuable baselining information and effort characterizations that will also be used to inform Controlled Wood regional meetings and NRA revisions. In the future, we can strengthen comparisons to these baselines by seeking to produce or purchase finer scale ecological monitoring data (or more reliance on models) and by engaging with professional service providers to leverage more effective stakeholder surveying methodologies (e.g., preference quality insights over statistical rigor).

Implementation Monitoring 

  • Most Certificate Holder Survey respondents were sourcing from the Appalachian and Southeast regions, and most mitigation activity was directed at large High Conservation Value (HCV) ecosystems and critical biodiversity areas (CBA), as opposed to the finer scale risk areas for HCV species. Additionally, all HCV species and CBAs in Florida and California had fewer than 5% of survey respondents indicate implementing mitigation activities in these areas. Further investigation is needed to determine if the low sourcing pressure by FSC certificate holders is indicative of broader sourcing trends and what bearing that has on the specified risk status of these HCV.

  • Education and Outreach was by far the most implemented mitigation option, followed by Procurement Policies and Conservation Initiatives.

  • Quality of Education and Outreach material ranged from very high caliber to much lower caliber. Opportunities to ensure more consistently high caliber materials include enabling better connections between certificate holders, environmental NGOs, and consultants; encouraging more consultants or conservation partners to assist certificate holders; and developing more clear guidance on the required contents for Education and Outreach materials.

  • Conservation Initiatives may allow FSC certificate holders to further engage with important conservation partnerships that are managed by other large environmental NGOs and governments. However, these opportunities were most often only available to large organizations with greater wherewithal. Going forward, FSC US could allocate additional resources toward networking with conservation partnership managers to make these opportunities more available to smaller organizations.

  • Certification bodies likely could provide an excellent source of programmatic information that should be tapped in future monitoring.

Effectiveness Monitoring: 

  • Monitoring from this period focused on baselining ecological conditions and stakeholder perceptions on ecological conditions and mitigation option effectiveness.

  • High frequency ecological data sets for monitoring each specified risk normally do not exist. While the data collected for this period will serve as an adequate baseline for future monitoring, FSC US will need to purchase or develop better data sources for our unique monitoring needs. To do so, we may need to focus on:

    • further investigation of data models that are being used by organizations like NatureServe (i.e., for HCV species) and the US Forest Service (e.g., BigMap for monitoring HCV forest ecosystems)

    • identifying reliable metrics of HCV health that can be remotely sensed

    • building relationships with large environmental NGOs (e.g., American Forest Foundation, the Nature Conservancy, the Longleaf Alliance, the American Bird Conservancy, and NatureServe) to facilitate access to improved data

  • Our effort during 2021 to cast a wide net for stakeholder feedback can be improved upon. Via the methodology used, we had extremely low response rates from organizations who were not already very familiar with the controlled wood program. In the future, we may be able to garner more insightful feedback by simplifying survey content, working with professional service organizations to implement surveys, and/or by pursing a more qualitative survey approach that seeks less, but higher quality, feedback from the most relevant sources (e.g., on-the-ground forest management practitioners).

Conclusion and Next Steps 
  • Insights from this monitoring period will be leveraged to inform decision making at the upcoming Controlled Wood Regional meetings and the subsequent update to the US NRA (to be completed following revision of FSC-PRO-60-002a, the National Risk Assessment Framework).

  • An essential component of moving this monitoring program forward will be determining monitoring frequency.

  • Re-collection of this period’s ecological monitoring data should not be completed until 2026, since ecosystem change is a long process. During this interim period, we should immediately begin searching for or developing our own data sources and data models that meet our unique monitoring needs.

  • Surveys of certificate holders (implementation monitoring) and stakeholders (effectiveness monitoring) should be completed on short intervals (e.g., every two years).

A more detailed report is also availableFSC US Monitoring & Evaluation Report, 2020-2021

bottom of page