Procedures for use of the certification standard

The woodland management unit

The unit of certification is a woodland management unit (WMU). A WMU is a clearly defined woodland area, or areas, with mapped boundaries, managed to a set of explicit long-term objectives. The WMU is covered by the management planning documentation set out in section 2.2 of the certification standard. Elements of management planning documentation may apply to a specific WMU, or may be set at a higher level (such as group schemes, or state forest services) and apply to multiple WMUs.

For example, a WMU might be a single ownership incorporating several areas of woodland that are managed within a woodland management plan; several separate ownerships managed within a woodland management plan; a community-managed forest; a management subdivision of a national forest service such as a forest district covered by a woodland management plan.

In large and/or widely geographically dispersed WMUs, the spirit of the certification standard and any best practice should be conformed to throughout the WMU.

Note: The terms ‘woodland management unit’ and ‘forest management unit’ are synonymous.

Flexibility in meeting requirements

Not all requirements will be applicable to every WMU, for example requirements relating to plantations on ancient woodland sites can only apply if such sites are present.

While all applicable requirements must be met, there may be flexibility in exactly how requirements are fulfilled. Any different approach taken must be an equally or more effective way of achieving the objectives intended by the requirement. The impacts of the approach taken shall be carefully monitored and recorded.

The certification body carrying out the audit shall make a professional judgement as to the acceptability of the flexibility (see Interpretation of the certification standard).

See also ‘Using the certification standard’ regarding flexibility in verifiers (see definition of example verifiers in that section).


The establishment of research trials or plots may be undertaken only in the context of a research policy and should conform to the spirit of the certification standard.

Third-party rights – leases, burdens in title, ownership rights and legal restrictions on management

In certain situations, pre-existing leases, burdens in title and third-party ownership rights may restrict management actions in such a way that the owner/manager may not be able to fully meet all the requirements of the certification standard. For example:

  • Forestry-only or long-term sporting leases where sporting or access rights may be restricted
  • Timber leases under which the restocking obligation reverts to the landowner
  • Wayleaves, and servitude rights
  • Mineral extraction rights held by third parties
  • Traditional rights (e.g. peat cutting).

In these circumstances conformance to the certification standard may still be achieved provided the owner/manager is able to demonstrate that:

  • The holder of the third-party rights has been made aware of those requirements of the standard which are relevant to the rights they hold and how they can assist with conformance. It is not however necessary for the third party to agree to conform to the requirements of the standard
  • All reasonable measures have been taken to mitigate negative impacts caused by the holders of third-party rights
  • The third-party rights have not been created intentionally to avoid conformance.

Certification schemes may have their own requirements which apply when the owner/manager does not have full management control of a woodland management unit.

Timing for full implementation of the requirements relating to woodland structure and layout

A special feature of woodland management is its long-term nature. Decisions made in the past have a strong influence on the woodlands of today.

Therefore, when assessing conformance with the certification standard, certification bodies will not evaluate woodlands solely on the present structure and layout, but will consider the plans for management in the short, medium and long term.

Where present structure and layout fail to meet the requirements, woodland owners/managers will need to demonstrate through management planning documentation and ongoing activities in the woodland that they are taking active measures to achieve conformance with the requirements. They will also need to demonstrate that there is a time frame for achieving full conformance based on sound management principles. Further guidance on how non-conformities are dealt with can be obtained from certification bodies or group scheme managers.

Application of the certification standard to different scales of woodland management unit and intensities of operation

Woodland management units vary in terms of the scale and intensity of management and the risk of negative impacts. While the principles remain the same regardless of woodland size and intensity of management, the level and complexity of management needed to meet the requirements of the certification standard, and the nature of the evidence to demonstrate conformance, may vary depending on the size and type of the woodland management unit. Certification schemes have different sampling intensities depending on the scale and intensity of management and operations. In drafting this standard, every effort has been made to ensure that requirements are sufficiently flexible to apply to all scales and intensities of management.

In the UK context, scale has not been found to be closely correlated with intensity or risk of woodland management; for example, many large operations may be in woodlands with relatively low environmental or social values, while the potential impacts of operations in those small woodlands which have higher environmental and social values may be commensurately high. As such, it has not proved possible to define a threshold or specify different requirements for lower potential impact operations, although this will be subject to review in future revisions of the standard. However, it is considered appropriate to specify different requirements for higher potential impact operations, and some of the requirements of this standard apply only where the entity holding or applying for certification, and therefore responsible for demonstrating conformance, is a large enterprise, as defined in the glossary.

Use of the certification standard by certification bodies

Individual certification schemes may have specific requirements regarding the official version of this standard to be used by auditors. Certification bodies should check with the relevant scheme.