Last week I talked about carbon credits and how they are a possible method to provide alternative funding for certified forest management. I thought I'd look quickly at some of the other funding options for certification programs.
Eco-tourism is one option that some companies are utilizing. While this is often quite popular with tropical forests, I would consider some of the "multi-use" programs in North America and elsewhere to be a form of this as well. A company might set up a tourist program to view birds or animals or even their logging operations, or open up the forest for hunters and fishermen or campers. Fees for alternative-use visitors can help offset some of the extra costs of certification.
Forest byproducts such as nuts or fruit harvest and syrup or rubber collection are also a possible source extra income. After the trees no longer produce their nuts or sap, they can have a second life in someone's home. Many woodworkers prize the fruit trees for their figure and hunt down bits of pear and apple wood. Companies in Asia are experimenting with palm oil or coconut wood flooring and I have even seen flooring and other products produced from mango and durian trees. So developing a byproduct industry can help finance a long-term forest plan in a variety of countries and species.
Outright grants and gifts are often necessary to help a company to start the certification process. Environmental and industry organizations often give grants or provide training or personnel to certification projects. Colleges and universities often send students to do studies-helping with forest inventories, biomass calculations, or water analysis, for example. Without this outside support, it would often be difficult for companies in many developing countries to afford certification, and sometimes it is even necessary to provide long-term support to a certified forest.
And of course we can have governmental certification. Some governments create their own national or state certification program, while others join an existing international program such as FSC, PEFC, or SFI, and certify their public lands or even arrange for the majority of their forestlands to be managed as a group and achieve statewide or national certification. Government-financed certification takes the burden off of individual companies and landowners and can make a region very attractive for investment.
However all of this begs the question-can certification stand on its own? Does almost all certification simply require external funding, or can it eventually be financed by the market itself? Will consumers ever recognize the value in certified production and be prepared to pay for it? Or will the majority of certification always require additional income streams simply to survive?
No easy answers.