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Market Access and Forest Stewardship:   How Sustainability Certification and Renewable Biomass Mandates Threaten Nonindustrial Private Forests



From an economic perspective, the size and limited growing stock value of most small private forests mean the costs of certification frequently outweigh the potential gains.55 As such, mandating sustainability certification creates an incentive for nonindustrial private foresters to sell their standing stocks quickly, to less discriminating buyers, or to consider selling their property altogether.56 This reality stands in stark contrast to the claims of price premiums and marketability made by certification advocates.


For many nonindustrial private forests, mandatory sustainability certification represents a restriction rather than an enhancement of market access and profitability. Certification adds significant cost to the forestry operations and, in some instances, unacceptable hardships and disincentives for private forest landowners.57 The unfortunate irony is that mandatory sustainability certification could reduce the environmental and amenity values that flow from nonindustrial private forests.


Renewable without the Mandate

In addition to the sustainability certification, renewable biomass mandates pose a hidden threat to nonindustrial private forests and the public goods they produce. In particular, the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) creates an unfair advantage for industrial forest owners by excluding most nonindustrial private forest by-products from the government mandated biofuels market. This exclusion undermines the competitiveness of the biofuels market, closes a potentially lucrative revenue stream to private nonindustrial landowners, and discourages forest management practices that enhance a private forest’s environmental and economic value.


Renewable Fuel Standard and Woody Biomass

The Renewable Fuel Standard of the EISA mandates an increasing volume of renewable fuel be blended into the nation’s transportation fuel supply.58 The total amount of biofuels that must be added to gasoline by 2022 is 36 billion gallons, of which 21 billion gallons must be derived from non-cornstarch products such as woody biomass.59










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