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DNR to pursue forest land certification

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has announced that it has begun the process to secure certification of its forest lands by the end of 2005. Forest certification, little known five years ago, has become the "gold standard" for private and public organizations that manage forest lands. While there are several different certifications systems in effect, each require forest managers to plan, implement and document its management goals, strategies and activities to meet an extensive and demanding array of ecological and social criteria. "To achieve certification, a forest land management organization must be a leader in the best science, the most transparent management system and processes and consistently deliver the specified results," said Gene Merriam, DNR Commissioner. To be certified, an audit team affiliated with the certifying organization reviews the organization's policies and business practices, and does intensive review of field activities to ensure that the organization's policies and plans are consistently carried out in the field. Once an organization is certified, annual audits are conducted to ensure ongoing compliance with standards and criteria. Failure to continue to meet these standards can result in decertification. While a number of options exist for achieving certification, the DNR is seeking dual certification under both the Forest Stewardship Council and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative systems. "Though it is will be more demanding, by achieving certification under both systems we will establish the highest level of credibility among all our stakeholders," Merriam said. "Also we will demonstrate and insure that Minnesota is among the best in North America in its forest management systems and practices." With more than 4.5 million acres of forested lands, the state of Minnesota would become the largest landowner in the United States to achieve forest certification.

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