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Forest management certification has been applied to virtually every type of land ownership around the world and in the United States, except for U.S. National Forests. The debate over the certification of federal lands, and National Forests in particular, has been wide-ranging. Forests within different categories of federal land in the US have been certified, including lands managed by the Department of Defense, National Park Service, and Fish and Wildlife Service. To date, however, there has been no certification of National Forests. There are several reasons for this situation, including opposition by environmental interest groups, barriers erected within FSC-US as a result of that opposition, and reticence on the part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Forest Service to pursue National Forest certification.

The U.S. Forest Service manages 193 million acres (78 million hectares) of land and has 155 national forests. These lands comprise 8.5 percent of the total land area of the United States. Management activities that occur (or don’t occur) on these lands have environmental impacts as well as implications for businesses and local, often rural, communities. 

This report explores the history of the discussion about certification of the National Forest System (NFS), potential challenges associated with certifying these lands, and the importance of moving forward.

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