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American Forest Foundation receives $1.5M for sustainability program


March 5, 2020
By American Forest Foundation

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The American Forest Foundation (AFF) announced it has received a total of $1.5 million in funding over three years from the Dutch Biomass Certification Foundation (DBC) to proceed with a comprehensive sustainability assurance program. The project will include two concurrent and complementary workstreams and delivers on DBC’s objective to promote and accomplish certification among small forest owners in North America.

First, the Dutch funding will contribute to further building tools and technologies to engage small forest landowners in sustainable forest management and growing certification, including expansion of the American Tree Farm System (ATFS) certification among small forest owners (defined as less than 500 hectares or 1,200 acres) in the U.S. South. ATFS is approved as compliant with elements of the Dutch biomass sustainability requirements, or ‘SDE+’ that apply to family forests. This work will help expand the certified land base for the long-term delivery of fibre into the Netherlands and beyond. AFF’s engagement of family landowners in key sourcing areas prepares them for active management and potential certification to other applicable SDE+ approved schemes, including Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), thereby supporting certification expansion to all systems.

Second, AFF will use DBC’s investment to spearhead a longer-term project to develop a risk-based approach (RBA) to sustainability risk assessment, verification, and mitigation, following the Dutch ‘Verification Protocol.’ According to the protocol, a biomass producer can demonstrate compliance with applicable SDE+ sustainability requirements using an RBA for small forest lands by following the procedures through the end of 2022.

AFF has designed these two pathways to support and leverage each other. For example, the engagement of family landowners through the use of innovative, pivotal tools, including landscape management plans (LMPs), AFF’s WoodsCamp landowner engagement systems, and critical partnerships with ATFS State Committees and other local partners to grow ATFS certification may also support mitigation for areas of specified risk identified in an RBA.

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“Building on our organization’s core strengths and our experiences from successful DBC-supported projects over the past few years, we are thrilled to receive this additional funding to continue our work,” said Tom Martin, president and CEO of AFF. “It is an ambitious endeavour, but we are ready to take on this strategic, multifaceted, and long-term body of work. We continue to capitalize on our previous momentum and expertise, key learnings, and the built infrastructure, to directly address the Dutch requirements, while also providing a supportive framework for other sectors of the forest products market.”

“Having engaged in and tracked the processes linked to SDE+ over the last five years, we understand the complexity the legislation presents for all actors in the supply chain, including family landowners, pellet producers, and energy generators,” said the Project Leader Sarah Crow, senior director, Sustainability Solutions at AFF. “With these complexities in mind, AFF is strategically positioned to support a comprehensive solution for achieving conformance with the SDE+ framework for fibre originating in family woodlands in the U.S., and building a scalable sustainability assurance system that can be scaled across the sector.”

“The DBC has a strong relationship with AFF and has had much success in growing forest certification among small forest holdings in the U.S. through their partnership,” said Peter-Paul Schouwenberg, chairman of the DBC Board of Directors. “We are pleased to fund this next chapter of work, which will not only increase certification in the U.S. but also provide the path for the Netherlands to receive sustainably-sourced and SDE+ compliant fibre for our renewable energy needs.”