American hardwoods are legal and sustainable in line with all relevant international standards, according to the recently revised Seneca Creek ‘Assessment of Lawful Harvesting & Sustainability of U.S. Hardwood Exports’, as well as the Technical Review Panel commissioned by the American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC), to validate the Seneca Creek results. Together, the revised Seneca Creek study and the Review Panel conclusions provide a credible, comprehensive and fully up-to-date assurance that U.S. hardwoods are legal and sustainable, and do not need to be certified.
The updated Seneca Creek study concludes that the ‘data and information compiled for the report provides evidence that U.S. hardwood supply chains meet all current due diligence standards as legal and sustainable’. The study also states that ‘the analysis presented in the report can serve as an alternative to forest management and chain of custody certification for purposes of demonstrating low risk of illegal or unsustainable hardwood sourcing from the United States’. These are the conclusions of the Seneca Creek team comprising experts in U.S. hardwood forest management and related policy and regulation.
The team was led by Alberto Goetzl, a leading natural resources economist, with input from: Dr Gary Dodge, a consultant biologist who has worked closely with FSC; Scott Berg, a forest certification expert with years of experience preparing companies for certification under SFI, PEFC and FSC; Dr Stephen Prisley, a leading U.S. expert in forest inventory analysis who is currently the Principal Research Scientist at the National Council for Air and Stream Improvement; and Jazmin Varela and Trevor Cutsinger, both of The Conservation Fund, amongst the largest environmental NGOs in the U.S. with a strong focus on practical measures to conserve forests.
The study confirms that all U.S. hardwood-producing states are at low risk of sourcing illegal hardwoods, according to the requirements of the EU Timber Regulation (EUTR), Australia’s Illegal Logging Prohibition Act, Japan’s Goho Wood program, and the due diligence and risk assessment requirements of the certification programs operating in America. Drawing on clear, robust evidence from the U.S. Forest Service Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) Program, the study demonstrates that forest growth continues to exceed removals in the hardwood forest sector and that forest area is stable.
The study shows that measurable gains have been made in the effectiveness and compliance with Best Management Practices legislation in all hardwood producing states, and there is widespread use of trained loggers throughout the U.S. hardwood producing region. Every hardwood-producing state now has a logger training and/or independent certification program, which have contributed to substantial increases in the levels of logger training and professionalism. There has also been a rise in the area of conservation easements (agreements of landowner with government or environmental agency to implement conservation measures). At the same time, the Lacey Act amendment has strengthened scrutiny and control of illegal timber in trade.
Seneca Creek: a model for risk assessment
For added confidence and to ensure a broad perspective, AHEC brought together a highlevel technical panel to fully review the updated Seneca Creek study. The panel was chaired by Emily Fripp, an expert in EUTR, forest certification, and timber procurement policies, and included Ann Bartuska, formerly the USDA Chief Scientist who now leads the Land, Water, and Nature Program at Resources for the Future, a U.S. NGO; and Katie Fernholz of Dovetail Associates who has more than 20 years’ experience advising the U.S. forest industry focusing on operations and certification in the non-industrial private forestry sector.