Laser Technology Takes on the Challenge of Forest Certification

by mphippen 11. October 2013 11:23

Laser Technology has the perfect tool and stands ready to prove it! With TruPulse 360 laser rangefinder at the ready the stringent standards dictated by FSC and SFI's exacting measurement requirements becomes a breeze, helping to audit how our forests are managed.

If you're like me, we agonize each time we see images of the California "Rim Fire" on the news. It has consumed more than 250,000 acres of the richly forested Sierra Nevada Mountains. There's something almost antediluvian about a forest that beckons us to enter and breathe the air. I'm certain of a primitive connection somewhere in our DNA cringing at the sense of loss while it burns.

Yet as terrifying as the 'Rim Fire' is, there is a far greater threat to the world's forests. Deforestation is running rampant in unregulated countries that either refuse to or lack the resources to enforce existing laws. This usually comes in the form of unsanctioned logging, cattle ranching and subsistence land-clearing. According to REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) a United Nations initiative, each year 13 million hectares of forest disappear!

Obviously the above number is unsustainable. Experts worldwide have come together to find ways to mitigate the plundering and have come up with a way that hurts loggers without a conscious economically. Certification of harvested timber and timber products indicate to the purchaser that the pulp for paper or wood used to make furniture came from companies utilizing responsible forestry practices. There are two certification bodies that offer to audit companies harvesting wood from the land. Both have the same goal, but go about it in very different ways. Having said this though, both utilize accurate data sets for auditing.

The Forest Stewardship Council or FSC is globally oriented and claims to "Enable businesses and consumers to make informed choices about the forest products they buy". Some of its members include leading environmental NGOs like WWF and Greenpeace. FSC offers two types of certification for two different purposes: Forest management (FM) and Chain of Custody (COC). Most think of FM as being the primary target, but COC is the best way to guarantee supply chain integrity. A log from one forest may travel through several companies on its way to becoming a finished product. Some COC companies include International Paper, Home Depot, and Kimberly Clark.

The Sustainable Forestry Initiative or SFI is primarily looking after North American interests and have comprehensive standards as well. Their mantra is to strive for a "Healthy, thriving, well-managed forest for today and future generations." With more than 240 million acres certified it claims the SFI management standard is the largest single standard in the world. Kathy Abusow, SFI's President and CEO insists "We go beyond our standard to promote responsible forestry in additional ways. Some of these even include 'fiber sourcing' requirements for all suppliers".

According to Abusow, "One of the cornerstones of the SFI Standard is the objective of requiring program participants who buy raw material direct from landowners to broaden the practice of sustainable forestry through the use of best management practices to protect water quality." Further, SFI says a Texas Forest Service study found that using best management practices was significantly higher, statistically speaking, when timber was delivered to an SFI-certified mill compared to a non-SFI-certified mill.

Okay Already...Both Standards Are Worthy...What's the Difference?

Here are few of the more visible differences between them in promoting responsible forestry:

FSC insists on never harvesting more than what can grow back naturally, as well as protecting biodiversity and endangered species. Old growth forests and shielding local streams are of primary concern, although it doesn’t have standards for planted forests which are continually logged. Conversely, SFI allows for large clear-cuts, some logging near rivers and streams, the use of pesticides and the conversion of old growth stands into tree farms. To this blogger, it appears that SFI promotes the idea of sustainable harvesting perhaps favoring the wood products industry while FSC leans toward environmentalism. Though the two standards have many differences, they aren't necessarily mutually exclusive. Many draw from both standards.

The one thing FSC and SFI have in common is to require an audit on all certified forests annually. FSC uses a third party audit while SFI uses "in house" audits both requiring GIS mapping, boundary and road mapping, as well as overall forest planning. Both demand high levels of accuracy and data integrity! So each organization would be well within their respective charters to insist their auditors use a TruPulse 360 in concert with a GPS unit. This perfect combination of technologies will allow them to safely, accurately, and efficiently carry out most, if not all, of their field measurement tasks.

If you haven't experienced the light & rugged TruPulse 360 family of lasers, do yourself a favor and call or email us for a practical demonstration.

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