20 Years of FSC: Keweenaw Land Association

When Keweenaw Land Association received the first US Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certificate in 1994 from the Rainforest Alliance, FSC was considered controversial. Today it’s standard business practice with more than 30,000 certificates covering forest management and chain of custody issued globally. Keweenaw celebrated 20 years of FSC certification with the Rainforest Alliance in 2014. We spoke with this pioneering landowner about their longstanding commitment to responsible forest management.


When was Keweenaw started and what are its operations today?
Keweenaw’s origins are linked to the building of a shipping canal in the Keweenaw Peninsula of Michigan in the late 1800’s, following the Civil War.  As payment, the company acquired 400,000 acres of land. Today, the timber company is the fourth largest landowner in the State of Michigan.

The focus on forest management didn’t happen until the 1950’s, ‘when the company realized that they could generate income from managing the land for timber production on a sustained yield basis’, says Brian D. Glodowski, President/CEO.  ‘We operated passively, selling stumpage until 1992 when the company embarked on an active management program and began directly marketing the timber to various veneer and sawmills as well as pulp mills in the region.’

Keweenaw employs 17 full-time employees and contracts with many local logging firms, truckers and road builders, contributing to the local economy.

Why have responsible forestry practices and third-party certification been important to Keweenaw over the decades?
For Keweenaw it has simply been about improving productivity and cementing shareholder confidence in the company’s sound forestry management.

Company officials say Keweenaw’s responsible forestry practices began in the early 1950s ‘to maximize the value of timberland assets over the long-term.’ In the early 1990s, the Board recognized the value of third-party review of the operation in obtaining feedback for systems improvement and as confirmation of their good practices to their shareholders.

As Glodowski explains: ‘We were determined to ensure that our sustainable annual harvest was much higher than previous harvests. And to assure our shareholders that we were practicing sustainable forest management, we sought an independent third party to audit our forest management practices.’

What has Keweenaw gained from FSC certification?
‘The benefit is to be able to provide assurance to our shareholders that we have had an independent third party (Rainforest Alliance) review our management practices and certify that we are not over-harvesting our forests,’ says Glodwoski. FSC certification does more than just verify sustainable harvest rates, it is also a mark of environmentally sound, economically viable, socially beneficial operations.

How has Keweenaw changed in the last 20 years, and as the FSC certification has evolved?
Glodwoski: ‘We have not changed our approach to the way we manage our timberlands.  Our management activities are much the same today as 20 years ago, and have proven successful in achieving our goal of managing the timber resource on a sustained yield basis and improving the quality and quantity of standing timber.’ Over that time, the company has grown in size from managing 123,000 acres of productive timberland to 168,000 acres today.

While there have been changes to the FSC certification over that time – with the tightening of requirements and re-interpretation of standards – ‘Keweenaw has taken it all in stride, stuck with the system and adjusted with minimal problems’, says Kara Wires, the Rainforest Alliance’s Forest Certification Coordinator. Dan Pubanz, an FSC auditor who has audited Keweenaw’s operations over the last 10 years, confirms this commitment to certification: ‘The company has always been forthright and transparent during the audit process, always provided requested data, and appeared to have good relationships with their stakeholders.’

What is Keweenaw’s approach to sustainability now and into the future?
Glodowski says that they will continue to manage their timber on a sustained yield basis, just as they have been doing since the 1950s. ‘Keweenaw is committed to managing our lands in a manner that assures that we will have a healthy forest over the long-term.  We have a very dedicated staff of foresters that believes in this approach and they work hard every day towards achieving that goal.  The results are that our forests today are healthier and have more standing timber than 20 years ago when I started with this company.  It is gratifying to be able to go back to a stand of timber that has been harvested 2 -3 times over a person’s career and actually see the results.’

Aside from their outstanding forestry management, Keweenaw’s environmental accomplishments include stream protection and habitat for goshawks and wolves. ‘The company also contributes financially to the local community (beyond just business economics) and is viewed as an important part of the social fabric of the area’, says auditor Pubanz.

Celebrate your FSC certification this FSC Friday, 25 September 2015.

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