Forest certification systems maintain their own independent standards, developed through transparent public review and comment processes. Forest certification standards cover topics such as:
- management planning
- monitoring processes
- adherence to state and federal laws
- protection of rare, threatened, or endangered species and plant communities
- implementation of soil and water quality best management practices
- regeneration and reforestation goals
- clearcutting average acreage limits
- other broad environmental impact considerations.
Certificate holders must successfully undergo annual audits to assure compliance with the standards. Recertification assessments are required every five years for FSC® and three years for SFI®. With annual surveillance audits during each nonreassessment year. Audits must be performed by accredited auditing firms.
During a forest certification audit, external accredited auditors conduct on-the-ground evaluations of DNR-managed lands. This includes:
- review of existing management plans
- consideration of monitoring data
- detailed inspection of DNR's oversight of active management operations (including herbicide application and timber sale / logging operations)
- interviews of people familiar with DNR's management practices and approach.
Auditors consider ecological, economic, and social aspects of resource management. Activities that contribute to improving ecological diversity or broader natural resource goals, such as retention of snags and down woody debris, are encouraged.
After each audit, corrective action requests are assigned for compliance gaps. The organization seeking or striving to maintain forest certification must correct each compliance gap within the time frame allowed, generally three months to one year.