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In the U.S., assurances are in place to verify that our forests are sustainably managed and climate smart through a mosaic of overlapping and mutually reinforcing local, state, and federal environmental laws and regulations, state-approved forestry best management practices (BMPs), and third-party forest management and wood fiber sourcing certification programs.

These measures ensure we replant after harvest; “old growth” and other sensitive sites are conserved; and carbon benefits are balanced with other environmental benefits like biodiversity, soil health, and water quality.
Key Elements of Climate-Smart Assurance Systems

Third-Party Forest Certification Programs

Forest certification programs provide independent assessments of forest management practices through audits and on-the-ground verifications to determine sustainability. Auditors interview personnel, review forest operations, and inspect conservation measures to ensure compliance with sustainability standards. Forest certification programs require adherence to specific sustainable forest management protocol and compliance with laws and regulations.

Three prominent forest management certification programs in the U.S. are:

Certifies 300 million acres of forests worldwide, including 63 million acres in the U.S.
Certifies 450 million acres worldwide, including 35 million acres in the U.S.
Certifies 20 million acres of family-owned and small-scale woodlands in the U.S.

Some privately-owned working forests are sustainably managed and do not have a certification, often because cost or complexity are barriers for smaller landowners. The mutually reinforcing system of assurances in the U.S. enables these forest owners to sustainably manage their forests, even if a specific working forest acre does not hold a forest certification.

State-Approved Forestry Best Management Practices

State forestry agencies develop Best Management Practices (BMPs) that outline recommended and mandatory practices for sustainable forest management. BMPs are implemented by those who operate in the forest and address water quality protection, erosion control, wildlife habitat management, and other locally appropriate factors during all phases of forest management. 

The National Association of State Foresters has examined Best Management Practices developed and used by each state and has found that forestry professionals nationwide use BMPs when and where they are needed 92 percent of the time. States typically develop these compliance programs from either proprietary certification standards or public legislative and regulatory processes. 

Environmental Laws and Regulations

Local, state, and federal environmental laws and regulations establish legal assurances protecting water, air, and wildlife.

These laws address various aspects of forest management, such as water quality, wildlife habitat conservation, and biodiversity preservation.

Wood Fiber Sourcing Certification and Due Diligence

Wood fiber-sourcing certification programs and due-diligence systems ensure responsible sourcing practices and mitigate the risk of irresponsible suppliers entering the supply chain.

Programs like the SFI Fiber Sourcing Standard and the FSC Controlled Wood Standard promote responsible forestry and reduce the risk of unsustainable sourcing.

These assurances allow for three basic assumptions about private working forests:

Harvested sites are replanted.
“Old growth” and other sensitive sites are conserved.
Carbon, water, wildlife, and economic benefits are balanced through sustainable management planning.

Climate-Smart Builders and Architects

Is the wood I’m using a truly “renewable” resource? How do I compare the carbon benefits of wood to alternative materials when designing my project? Get answers to your questions in our Builder & Architect FAQs. 

Climate-Smart Sustainability Leaders

Does using wood harm the forest? Are harvested sites replanted? Get answers to your questions in the Sustainability Leader FAQs.