Certification Growing in Aitkin County



Private woodland owners invited to participate in new project



Aitkin, Minn. Oct. 5, 2006– Nearly 10 years ago, the forests managed by the Aitkin County Land Department became FSC-certified. This year, private landowners in the county are being offered the same opportunity for their own woodlands. The Aitkin County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) is offering a group certification program to make it easier for woodland owners in the county to have their forests certified and to market certified products. One of the landowners already participating is Roger Howard, former Land Commissioner for Aitkin County.

"I was part of the decision to get the county lands certified, and now I'm doing it for my own property," says Howard.


Landowners with at least 10 acres of forestland in Aitkin County are eligible for the program. To qualify for certification landowners should have a forest stewardship plan. The SWCD can help develop this plan and help landowners identify management activities that will meet their goals for wildlife, recreation, water quality, forestry, and other objectives.



"We've been looking at certification for a while and it seems like now is the time to make it happen," says Dennis Thompson, SWCD Forester. "Certification and the markets for certified products have really been growing."



Gary Bradford, a landowner with property just south of Aitkin has had his forest FSC-certified for a few years. Gary is also President of the Northwoods Forestry Cooperative that helps with forest management and marketing.


"Certification has helped make me a better manager, and I like what I see happening in my woods," says Bradford. "I wish I'd started some of these things 20-years ago, but better late than never."



Funding from the Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund as recommended by the Legislative Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCMR) and a grant from the Natural Resources Conservation Service – USDA are helping support the SWCD's group certification project. Dovetail Partners, a non-profit that works on sustainable forestry issues is providing technical assistance.



"A group certification program like what the SWCD is offering means landowners have the help of the SWCD in getting into certification and accessing the potential benefits," says Kathryn Fernholz of Dovetail Partners. "Landowners don't have to figure it all out by themselves. Group certification makes it quicker, easier, cheaper."



Certification is entirely voluntary and landowners often have many different reasons for choosing to participate. Some landowners areinterested in the marketing benefits, some landowners want to improve their management for wildlife and other objectives, and some landowners like the extra assistance from the forester in implementing their management plan.


"If you're already interested in taking care of your land for the wildlife and all the other benefits, you might as well get certified and get some marketplace recognition for your efforts as well," says Howard.



Landowners interested in participating or learning more about the SWCD's program can contact Dennis Thompson at 218-927-6565.