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Date of Award

Winter 2023

Document Type

Masters Thesis

Department or Program Affiliation

Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Environmental Studies

First Advisor

Wang, Grace A.

Second Advisor

Tuxill, John D.

Third Advisor

Wallin, David O.


Forest management certification is a system to assess whether forests are grown in a manner that complies to a pre-determined set of requirements. Certification programs (called “Standards”) are designed to indicate that compliance to those conditions demonstrate the forest is managed in a way that is environmentally responsible, economically viable, and socially beneficial. In the United States, there are two recognized forest certification programs: the Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC®) and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative® (SFI®). The Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) certifies 100% of their forested trust lands to the SFI Standard. Of those lands, 8% are dual certified to both SFI and FSC. This study explores why SFI is the dominant certification program at DNR, what motivates the decisions to certify to one standard or both, and what barriers exist to certification to a preferred standard. Interviews with DNR personnel were used to generate data for grounded theory content analysis. This allowed construction of theories as to the motivation for and barriers to forest certification of DNR-managed lands in Washington state.

The research suggests that DNR personnel believe forest certification is a valuable operating procedure primarily because of the positive ecological and socially responsible message it sends to the public. It also finds that DNR personnel greatly prefer certification to the SFI Standard over FSC because of SFI’s relative procedural simplicity. FSC was found burdensome to implement, primarily due to paperwork processes and the necessity of engaging with FSC-International. However, having an existing Habitat Conservation Plan in place to meet requirements of the federal Endangered Species Act, makes compliance to the FSC Standard somewhat easier because documentation of environmental and operational procedures is already completed. Respondents to this study commonly stated they did not want to see coverage of FSC-certified lands expanded despite some environmentalist pressure to do so.

These findings cannot directly be applied to federally- or privately-owned landowners, both of whom are likely to have very different motivations and barriers than a state-owned and state-managed agency. Recommendations for further research include a study similar to this in which data is gathered from stakeholders, such as harvesters, sawmill owners, and trust beneficiaries. Because public pressure is a major motivation for forest certification, the opinions of other parties, such as environmental groups, and members of the Board of Natural Resources (BNR) would also be of importance.




Forest Certification, SFI, FSC, DNR, Sustainable Forestry Initiative, Forest Stewardship Council, Washington State Department of Natural Resources


Western Washington University

OCLC Number


Subjects – Names (LCNAF)

Forest Stewardship Council.; Sustainable Forestry Initiative (American Forest & Paper Association)

Subject – LCSH

Forest management--Washington (State); Forests and forestry--Certification--Washington (State); Sustainable forestry--Washington (State)

Geographic Coverage

Washington (State)




masters theses




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