SmartWood Program Certifies First U.S. National Park

SmartWood Program Certifies First U.S. National Park

The Rainforest Alliance's SmartWood program has awarded the first Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification of a national park to Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller (MBR) National Historical Park, making it only the second U.S. federal land to receive such certification.

SmartWood is an independent, third-party certifier accredited by the FSC, the global body that sets standards for responsible forest management.

In praising MBR's dedication to sustainable land management, Rainforest Alliance executive director Tensie Whelan said, "Given the history and current practice of conscientious land stewardship on this property, it is with great pleasure that we award certification to the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park. The National Park Service's management of this property has been exemplary, and we look forward to working with other National Parks and federal lands."

MBR's forest is one of the oldest continuously managed woodlands in North America and the first national park with a mandate to interpret the history and evolution of conservation. The managed forest includes 50 tree stands, 11 of which were planted by Frederick Billings, who in 1869 purchased the property that had belonged to the family of George Perkins Marsh. As a boy growing up on the slopes of Vermont’s Mount Tom, Marsh had seen deforestation’s devastating impacts firsthand: erosion and loss of topsoil, increased siltation in rivers, destruction of fish habitat and loss of fertility in agricultural fields. This experience helped inspire Marsh’s seminal work Man and Nature, the first modern discussion of our ecological problems.

Billings, a leading member of Vermont’s first forestry commission, was moved by Marsh’s writing on forestry and began to take action to halt deforestation. Under his management the Marsh property was reforested and a model dairy farm was established. In 1951, the farm and forest passed to the hands of Mary French Rockefeller, Billings’ granddaughter, and her husband, conservationist Laurance S. Rockefeller. They opened the Billings Farm & Museum in 1983, and donated the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller mansion and the adjacent 555-acre forest, to the National Park Service (NPS) in 1992 with the stipulation that the NPS continue the tradition of sustainable forest management of this historic landscape.

Park superintendent Rolf Diamant is clear about the importance of FSC certification of MBR: "The educational value of certification, particularly its emphasis on transparency and accountability, is good not only for Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park, but will hopefully encourage a broader dialogue in the NPS about using more certified wood in our construction projects, and how we, as institutional consumers, can do a better job of aligning our procurement practices with our organizational values."

According to Diamant, MBR demonstrates these values in practice: wood cut and milled during MBR’s Working Woodlands educational programs was used in the renovation of the Park’s Carriage Barn and Visitor Center. Participating in this renovation were furniture makers who had been awarded SmartWood chain-of-custody certification.

"MBR has been sensitive to balancing the historical nature of the park while practicing exemplary forestry that will benefit future generations," says Eric Palola, northeast director of the National Wildlife Federation and a member of the FSC/SmartWood audit team that reviewed MBR against the ten FSC Principles and Criteria. "We salute MBR for its commitment to advancing the science and practice of sustainable forest management."