John Muir saw the beauty in our forests over a century ago and recognized the importance of preservation and sustainable forestry. My great grandpa also understood this as he began his small sawmill in the woods. This is evident in this newspaper clipping of my great grandpa, Harry Hickman receiving a forestry award for meeting the requirements of the American Tree Farming Association. This love, respect and understanding of the forests has continued through our family for generations.
In 1999 Hickman Timber Management and HIckman Lumber became the first in Pennsylvania to become certified with the FSC (Forest Steward Council) by Smartwood (Smartwood is a 3rd party global certification program). Hickman Timber Management’s certification code is SW-COC-000064. When you see another company’s FSC number check it out, it is a good chance it is way up in the thousands. This is an international, independent, non government, not-for-profit establishment created to promote responsible forest management. Hickman Lumber & Allegheny Mountain Hardwood Flooring eventually had to have a separate certification code which was the SW-COC-000106, and we were so bummed it ended up being too late that we weren’t under the 100 first companies in the world to be certified with all our three entities.
I’ve been reading up and learning a lot more on the FSC lately and what we have had to change in our management of the forests to adapt to their standards. First I’ll give you some background on the FSC. Learn more on their website www.fsc.org
- It was established in 1993 but it really took close to a decade to start catching on and growing in participation.
- Purpose – promote responsible forest management through chain of custody standards and Trademark assurance, & providing accreditation services.
- It’s the ONLY internationally recognized standard setting organization for responsible forest management supported by the corporate sector as well as environmental organization and social groups.
- Forest managed to meet social, economical, ecological, cultural a spiritual needs of present and future generations.
- Legality verification
- Demonstrate long-term land tenure and use rights
- Respect Right of Workers
- Equitable use and sharing of benefits
- Reduction of environmental impact of logging activities
- identification and appropriate management of areas that need special attention.
I grew up in school in the 90s when the environmental movement really was in high gear. We talked a lot about how the rainforest was being destroyed and we are all doomed. I remember having mixed feelings at one point as a kid because from school I was receiving this message that anyone who cuts down trees are bad and totally destroying all the trees and soon there won’t be any air left to breathe. I’m on the edge of having a nervous breakdown and finally talk to my dad about it and his response was something along the lines of “That’s insane. Who loves trees more than I do?” Along with properly managing the forest using a combination of single tree and group selection cutting have diversity and regeneration in the forests they were planting acres of trees.
The “Tube Farm”, as I’ve known it my whole life, is 50 acres of an old coal strip where we replanted 30,000 new trees. Neither Pop or Dad are going to see a harvest from that planting in their lifetime, so they planted all these trees because they really do care about having and maintaining the forests. Possibly it was foresight that our family may still be in this business in another 100 years, but they had no idea. I was 6 at that time and none of us kids were forced into working for the family.
So Pop Larry heard about this FSC in 1997 and thought it would be a good organization for us to be apart of. My dad initially thought the last thing he needed was “Al Gore telling me how to grow Oak Trees.” After looking into the program he realized it is all the same sustainable forestry that we’ve always done. On February 15, 1999 both Hickman Lumber Company and Hickman Timber Management received both forest resource management and chain-of-custody certificates from Smartwood.
I’ve asked before what they had to change or do differently and all I’d been told was that they didn’t really change anything with their management practices, that it was just a bunch of paperwork. Through the FSC website you can see all the audits and information on any accredited company. http://info.fsc.org/ They have reports and the audits records from each year since 1999. The audits are all done by a 3rd party. I have read through them and there were a few things we’ve had to do differently. Always minor Compliance and Applicable Corrective (CAR) actions. Some examples are below,
- The foresters were not wearing their seat belts as they drove through and between the properties
- They had to contact state historic Preservations office to identify if any archaeological sites group lands.
- A written summary of the management plan was needed and be made available to pubic
- Monitoring presence of non-native invasive species
As far as the FSC main concerns and goals, REGENERATION & SUSTAINABILITY, we have been practicing this type of management above and beyond what was expected. It really was just a change in our paper work. Fortunately FSC has grown and has become recognizable in the general public and our investment is paying off with the social change of people buying green and being more environmentally aware! It’s great, because while this has been the philosophy in our family for generations, it’s not always the case with everyone around the world. Be a smart, educated consumer!