Announcing the Smallholder Access Program, an Innovative Approach to Responsible Forest Certification


The Smallholder Access Program seeks to make Forest Stewardship Council® certification more accessible to private landowners of 250 or fewer acres.

June 25, 2019, ASHEVILLE, NORTH CAROLINA—The Rainforest Alliance, Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), and a consortium of forward-minded forestry corporations announce the launch of the Smallholder Access Program. FSC, long considered the gold standard of ecologically-responsible, socially-conscious forest management, has worked to transform forestry practices globally for nearly 30 years through rigorous, science-based standards and a third-party certification system. Building off this experience, the Smallholder Access Program (SAP) is a two-year FSC pilot project designed to increase access to forest certification for woodland owners under 250 acres (100 hectares). The SAP will be available to landowners across Southern and Central Appalachia, encompassing parts of Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia. In its pilot phase, the SAP will be  limited to a total enrollment of 7,400 acres (3,000 hectares). The SAP aims to enrich the ecological health and economic productivity of the region, one of the world’s most vital wood baskets and a biodiversity hotspot.

Corporate partners in this innovative pilot include Avery Dennison, Columbia Forest Products, Domtar, Evergreen Packaging, Kimberly-Clark, and Staples. The SAP was developed by the Appalachian Woodlands Alliance—a project of the Rainforest Alliance—with the support of FSC US and FSC International’s New Approaches for Smallholders and Communities Certification program, and extensive input from corporate partners, academic research institutions, landowner groups, and forestry professionals.

Nearly 60 percent of the forestland in this region is privately owned, representing a critical resource for the forest products industry. But for many landowners who harvest timber from their property once every 40-60 years and rely on natural forest regeneration in the interim, the value of certification rarely justifies the costs and long-term commitment required. As a result, this landowner segment has historically persisted outside of forest certification programs, and the influence that they have on forest management decisions. For forest products companies in the region, this represents a missing and critical potential resource of FSC-certified fiber.

In response to this gap in demand and supply and the historic challenge of how to improve environmental outcomes on very small private forestlands, the SAP has established a set of critical indicators and uses rigorous auditing, specifically tailored to the realities of small family forests in the Southern and Central Appalachians. Over the next two years, the SAP intends to pilot a modified approach to FSC forest certification that makes sense for owners of small woodland parcels, improves access to responsibly-sourced wood from family forest owners, and enhances the ecological health of the woodlands of the Appalachians.

 “The SAP is an important step forward for the forest products industry,” said Paige Goff, Vice President of Sustainability for Domtar. “We at Domtar see it as an investment in the future of our forests, and an investment in forest communities throughout the south-central Appalachians.”

“This innovative pilot program promises to benefit small landowners in the region, our suppliers, and our customers,” said Jake Swenson, Director of Sustainability for Staples. “The SAP supports our efforts to source from responsibly managed forests and offer a wide array of certified products to our customers.”

“SAP is about enhancing landowner access to certification, but it’s also about perpetuating and spreading best forest management practices through a key region of the U.S.,” said Ron Heatherly, Forest Certification Program Manager of Evergreen Packaging. “We need programs like this for the sustainability of our businesses, our forests, and our communities.”

“It is time to make FSC more relevant for the wide array of family forest owners,” said Corey Brinkema, President of FSC US. “We are committed to reinventing our approach for this key landowner group, and the SAP provides a test of a model that we hope will yield fruitful results for forest health and landowners.”

“People depend on forests—for wood products, paper, fiber, and for jobs,” said Paul Davis, Certification Manager for Columbia Forest Products. “Columbia Forest Products sees the SAP as a key to assuring our supply of FSC-certified wood, and to perpetuating this people-forest relationship.”

“At Kimberly-Clark, responsible forestry practices is an important part of our sustainability strategy. We are proud to be a part of the Appalachian Woodlands Alliance, which is raising visibility about the importance FSC certification,” said Lisa Morden, Vice President of Safety and Sustainability. “Kimberly-Clark thanks the Rainforest Alliance, the Appalachian Woodlands Alliance, and the FSC for demonstrating the value in FSC certification and growing smallholder participation in the FSC system.”

 “The SAP is a forward-looking initiative that aligns perfectly with our own sustainability strategy,” said Renae Kazar, Senior Director and Global Leader for Sustainability at Avery Dennison. “We’re glad to be part of a solution that enhances peoples’ livelihoods and sustained forest health.”

“This pilot is part of Rainforest Alliance’s global push to transform the forest products industry; we see the SAP as a great opportunity,” said Andrew Goldberg, Project Manager for the Appalachian Woodlands Alliance and the SAP. “The SAP will work to make responsible forestry the norm, starting in the heart of the Appalachians and hopefully expanding around the world.”

The SAP pilot will be formally operated by AWA partners Evergreen Packaging at their Canton, North Carolina mill, Columbia Forest Products at their mills in Old Fort, North Carolina and Craigsville, West Virginia, and the University of Kentucky’s Center for Forest and Wood Certification, with concurrent monitoring by the AWA, FSC, and technical experts in addition to the required auditing. All these partners have a long history of FSC certification and stewardship across the region.

Pending the success of the Smallholder Access Program, the principles behind the approach may be applied in other locations in the US and around the globe, with the intention of making FSC certification more available and relevant to smallholders in other regions.

About the Rainforest Alliance

The Rainforest Alliance is an international non-profit organization working at the intersection of business, agriculture, and forests to make responsible business the new normal. We are an alliance of companies, farmers, foresters, communities, and consumers committed to creating a world where people and nature thrive in harmony.

About the Appalachian Woodlands Alliance

The Appalachian Woodlands Alliance (AWA) is a project of Rainforest Alliance and leading forest products companies including Avery Dennison, Columbia Forest Products, Domtar, Evergreen Packaging, Kimberly-Clark, and Staples. Aimed at developing new resources and increasing forest owner participation in scientific, sustainable forest management in the Southern and Central Appalachians, the AWA promotes good stewardship.

About the Forest Stewardship Council

The Forest Stewardship Council, the world’s most trusted forest certification, is an independent nonprofit organization that promotes environmentally sound, socially beneficial, and economically prosperous management of forests. FSC was created in 1993 to set the standards by which forests are certified, offering assurance to consumers and businesses that the wood products they buy originate from well-managed forests. More than 4,000 companies and 170 million acres of forestland are certified under FSC in the United States and Canada. For more information visit

FSC’s New Approaches for Smallholders and Communities Certification (New Approaches) program seeks to improve access to, and uptake of, the FSC system by small forest owners and communities globally. The New Approaches team reflects the different regional needs of smallholders and communities, while also representing the depth of expertise within the international FSC system.

For press inquiries, please contact:

Brittany Wienke

Media Relations Officer, Rainforest Alliance

NC State Extension: Preventing Timber Trespass and Theft

The North Carolina State Extension has published valuable information on proactive preventative measures you can take to avoid and prevent timber trespass and theft on your woodlands, whether in NC or elsewhere in the region. They also provide additional information on NC timber theft and trespass laws, how to assess and report an incident, and actions for seeking legal recourse. Follow the link below to learn more.

Cradle of Forestry Event: "May The Forest Be With You" presented by AWA


The Cradle of Forestry in Pisgah Forest, NC is celebrating forest resources and conservation during their "May The Forest Be With You" event on Saturday, May 4, 2019. Local and regional conservation organizations, including AWA, will have exhibits and demonstrations that show innovative ways to conserve forest resources. The event also includes guided forest walks, speaking sessions, and a film screening.

For more information visit the Cradle's event webpage HERE.

Balancing Environmental Interests and Timber in Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests

The Forest Service is currently preparing the first draft of a new management plan for the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests.  Columbia Forest Products timber manager, Jim Sitts, and local organization MountainTrue, work with the Nantahala-Pisgah Forest Partnership to make recommendations to the Forest Service on the plan. This collaborative group aims to support all values in the management plan, including the broad range of forest activities popular in our forests, cultural heritage, wildlife management, timber sales, and everything in between. 

Read the full article on Citizen Times:

Local NGOs and Retail Giants Join Forces to Make Sustainable Forestry a Reality in Appalachia

Environmental NGO Dogwood Alliance has teamed up with retail giants like Staples to promote sustainable forestry in the Southeastern U.S. wood basket in an effort to restore our forests as they are harvested.  AWA brings smaller woodland owners into the fold by exploring a new path to certification.

Read the article "The Grand Experiment to Save Appalachia's Forests" on Ecosystem Marketplace:

AWA Project Manager Presents at 2017 FSC General Assembly: Making FSC Certification Work for Smallholder Forests

Earlier this month, AWA project manager Andrew Goldberg attended the 2017 FSC General Assembly in Vancouver.  Andrew presented to a very receptive crowd on AWA's novel approach to give smallholders in the Southeast access to benefits of FSC certification.  Follow the link to Andrew's article or read below:


Collaborative Efforts Save a Clinch River Mussel from Extinction

Before a chemical spill devastated their populations, the federally endangered golden riffleshell mussel could only be found in Virginia's Clinch River and one of its tributaries.  Recently, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services teamed up with state agencies, local NGOs, and universities in a collaborative effort to reintroduce one of the rarest freshwater mussels on Earth.  Read how their incredible efforts are saving this species from extinction:

Read the latest article by Avery Dennison's Global VP on Rainforest Alliance's The Frog Business Blog

Roland Simon, Global Vice President, Procurement, Label and Graphic Materials of Avery Dennison, one of AWA's partners, discusses the importance of protecting forests through sustainably sourced paper products.

Read the article here!:

Domtar's Sustainability Monthly Minute for September Highlights Recent Field Trip VIDEO

Domtar, Staples, and AWA recently hosted a field trip in western North Carolina for forest products professionals and customers to learn how their supply chain decisions impact our forests.  Domtar's Sustainability Monthly Minute showcases a video of the field trip and their promotion of responsible on-the-ground forestry.

Read and watch below!


Congratulations to Domtar on their 2017 Sustainability Report

Domtar just released their 2017 Sustainability Report:  Working Smart for the Long Term.  The report mentions Domtar's collaboration with AWA to help landowners sustainably manage forests around their mills.  It's great to see this forest products industry leader progressing across sustainability issues in our region!  Follow the link below to read about Domtar's commitment to working more sustainably.

Staples and Domtar Hold a Customer Learning and Appreciation Event with Support from AWA

AWA is proud to be partners with industry leaders in sustainability, Staples and Domtar.  In early June we joined forces to host a field day for Staples and Domtar customers to explore the working forests of the southeast that produce the forest products we use every day. 

We learned how responsible paper procurement efforts help benefit local economies, support landowners in good forest management, and protect conservation values in the southern Appalachians.  Not another typical day at the office!

Join us for a landowner workshop at the Cradle of Forestry in Pisgah National Forest on June 3, 2017

If you are a woodland owner in western North Carolina, local forest product companies and conservation organizations invite you to come and learn how local forest professionals can work with you to achieve goals for your land and leave a lasting legacy for your family.  Come join us at the Cradle of Forestry in beautiful Pisgah National Forest on Saturday, June 3, 2017 for a free information session from knowledgeable speakers and lunch.  

Seating is limited and advanced registration is required to get a head count for food and handouts.  For more information and to register, please visit the website at or contact the NC State Forestry Extension at 919-515-9563. The deadline to register is 5pm on June 1st.  

For more information about the Cradle of Forestry in America visit:

AWA in the Mountain Xpress

Read about AWA's forest stewardship initiative and recent landowner outreach event in Morganton, NC!