Skip to main content

County Forest Certification

Collectively, county forests in Wisconsin represent the largest public landholding in the state. A cooperative management framework between the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and the counties provides the opportunity for the county forest group certification program. DNR holds the certificate for 27 participating counties with 2.4 million acres.

The Sustainable Forestry Initiative logo.

Individual counties are free to choose either or both Sustainable Forestry Initiative® (SFI®) [exit DNR] and Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC®) [exit DNR] standards. These are the two most widely accepted forest certification systems in North America. NSF-International Strategic Registrations and Scientific Certification Systems provided the evaluation and certification.

FSC certification means that the forest is managed according to strict environmental, social and economic standards. The Wisconsin County Forest Program currently holds this certification [PDF]. Wisconsin is also a participant in the Sustainable Forestry Initiative program [exit DNR], and holds a certificate of registration [PDF].

The Forest Stewardship Council logo.

At a certification ceremony on March 18, 2005, Gov. Jim Doyle acknowledged that the county forest program is "a unique partnership that stretches back 76 years and it's a great example how local governments and state agencies can work together in addressing statewide needs." Wisconsin County Forest Association Director Colette Matthews added, "Our County Forest people have felt for a long time that they have been doing things right. They are extremely proud of the management being done on these forest lands. Having their work verified by the certification systems confirms their beliefs and gives all those who work on the County Forests a reason to feel very proud of their accomplishments."

The county forest system provides more than 9,100 miles of managed snowmobile trails, 1,700 miles of managed ATV trails, 460 miles of cross-country skiing trails, 400 miles of horse trails, 400 miles of bicycle trails and thousands of miles of forest roads, along with a wealth of hunting and fishing opportunities. Forest products from these forests generate in excess of $40 million dollars annually in timber sale revenue for the counties plus an additional $28 million in economic impact to the local communities.

County forest assessment reports

The Sustainable Forestry Initiative and Forest Stewardship Council audit reports identifying strengths and areas of improvement for the Certified Wisconsin County Forest are available for review.

Forest Stewardship Council

Sustainable Forestry Initiative

Twenty-seven of Wisconsin's 30 county forests are currently certificated under the standards of the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, the Forest Stewardship Council or both. Independent, third-party certification means management of the county forests meets strict standards for ecological, social and economic sustainability.

The table below displays the location and acreage of all certified county forest lands in the state.

County SFI-only
certified acres
certified acres
FSC- and SFI-certified acres
(dual certification)
Ashland     40,305
Barron     16,304
Bayfield     174,487
Burnett 111,516    
Chippewa   34,738  
Clark   134,742  
Douglas     281,893
Eau Claire     52,712
Florence     37,003
Forest     15,251
Iron     175,343
Jackson     122,685
Juneau     17,799
Langlade 130,839    
Lincoln     100,843
Marathon 30,674    
Marinette 230,103    
Oconto     43,792
Oneida     82,920
Polk 17,183    
Price     92,294
Rusk 89,253    
Sawyer     115,199
Taylor     17,728
Vilas     41,151
Washburn     150,196
Wood     37,826
TOTALS 609,567 169,480 1,615,731


With the long-term goal to eliminate the use of chemicals in FSC-certified forests, a revised FSC Pesticides Policy [PDF] was published and became effective on August 1, 2019. Full implementation began December 31, 2020.


  • Need to complete Environmental and Social Risk Assessments (ESRA) to identify whether a pesticide is toxic to the environment and humans in the local environment. ESRA considers not only the hazard of the active ingredient, but also under what circumstances chemical pesticides are used (Risk = toxicity x exposure to humans and the environment).
  • No Derogations/Exemptions process for the use of FSC prohibited highly hazardous pesticides.
  • Revised list of FSC Highly Hazardous Pesticides (HHP) [PDF] categorizes HHPs as follows:
    • FSC prohibited HHPs
    • FSC highly restricted HHPs
    • FSC restricted HHPs


The Wisconsin DNR in collaboration with UW-Extension have completed ESRA protocol for many of the pesticides commonly used for forest management in Wisconsin.