June 27, 2011
For Immediate Release
Contact: Brigitte Johnson, APR
ATFS, a program of the American Forest Foundation (AFF), announced today that 480,000 acres of Mississippi “Section 16” school trust forestlands have been certified by AFTS for their sustainable management practices. The certification of so many new acres was possible thanks to an innovative pilot project involving a partnership between the Mississippi Forest Commission and ATFS. The certification of so many acres makes Mississippi a strong competitor to meet increasing global demand for certified timber.
A “Section” is a one-square-mile area of state land, and every 16th section of state-owned land has been set aside by the Mississippi’s legislature to provide supplemental income to Mississippi’s schools. These “Section 16” lands are managed by local school boards. The newly certified Section 16 forestlands give Mississippi schools access to timber markets not available to them before, and will help the state keep timber-related jobs in a highly competitive global market that increasingly demands certified wood.
“This project marks the first time that a significant amount of public land has been certified by ATFS,” says Bob Simpson, senior vice president of forestry at AFF. “Certification gives Mississippi new bragging rights—they are telling the world that they’re managing their forestland in a way that has been internationally recognized as sustainable and credible. Certification assures that the forests behind the Tree Farm sign are being cared for in a manner that’s sustainable over the long term. Certified wood keeps the forest and paper industry strong, competitive and viable, not just in Mississippi, but globally.”
“The Mississippi Forestry Commission is very excited that our state’s 480,000 acres of school trust lands have been certified by the American Forest Foundation’s (AFF) American Tree Farm System (ATFS),” said Charlie Morgan, state forester. “Our goal at MFC is to ensure that these lands, which contain one of our state’s most important resources, are sustainably managed in an environmentally sound manner. We also believe that the certification of these lands adds to the attractiveness of our state as a location for companies in need of certified wood, creating additional opportunities for Mississippi’s private landowners with ATFS certification and for Mississippi’s loggers.”
With the completion of the pilot project in Mississippi, and three others in Alabama, Louisiana, and Maine, AFTS plans to offer this same program to interested companies and state foresters across the U.S. “ATFS is working aggressively to certify more public lands,” says AFF’s Simpson, and we hope Mississippi’s success will inspire other states to take the step of seeking certification. The Mississippi Forestry Commission has shown that certification of state forestlands can be done in an economic and efficient manner.”