Forest Specialist Jari Peltonen is mainly responsible for the company's own forests, and his office is located in Keuruu in Central Finland. As UPM's forests have been FSC® certified for several years now, Peltonen has had time to learn how to plan a stand to be harvested in compliance with FSC requirements.
“Planning FSC certified stands is not always easy, but the work has helped me understand why FSC certification is so popular globally: it takes nature values into consideration more extensively than the PEFCTM standard”, Peltonen says.
Map and field work
Planning a stand to be harvested begins by opening the forest plan and deciding on a suitable site. The areas that will require special attention due to FSC certification can be determined by examining a map. If small waterways are present, buffer zones will be needed, and if there are mires in the area, their hydrological conditions will need to be reviewed.
The majority of the planning work is performed in the field. The planner ensures that all the necessary information is up to date, further defines the borders of forest compartments and determines which habitats are to be preserved. The job requires a good understanding of both the forest and the standard because drawing the line is not always straightforward.
“In the Suomenselkä region that we operate in, mires with natural and near-natural hydrological conditions are the most common sites that need to be excluded from forest management operations. Sometimes determining what is natural or near-natural is pretty difficult even for a specialist”, Peltonen laughs.
Other sites that are always preserved in FSC forests include forest compartments rich in deadwood, herb-rich forests with deadwood, moist herb-rich forests, wooded flood meadows, spruce-dominated kettles and low-productive and non-productive lands.
Benefits in years to come
The FSC standard lays down specific rules on what can be done in certified forests, but according to Peltonen it also provides forest owners with some leeway, which usually makes it easy to apply the standard to practical forest management. The average number of retention trees should, for instance, be at least ten per hectare, but a skilled planner can choose the best location for these trees quite freely.
“Leaving a group of retention trees near a buffer zone by a water body or next to a forest compartment with deadwood is a good idea”, Peltonen says.
When a planner returns to the office after examining a site, the plan for the stand to be harvested is ready and all that remains to be done is the actual wood trade transaction. Contractors are provided with exact instructions to ensure that the drafted plan is implemented in accordance with the standard.
For forest owners, FSC certification can mean a better profit. There are also environmental benefits that will manifest themselves in future years in the form of greater forest biodiversity and the improved state of water bodies.
Some 400,000 hectares of UPM-owned forests are FSC certified, and private forest owners can join UPM's FSC group certification scheme. The scheme (FSC C 109750) currently covers over 120,000 hectares of Finnish forests.
Photograph: Ari Mäkelä