The US Forest Service is investigating the possibility of securing environmental certification for federal forests.

The move, the first time the US Forest Service has looked into certifying national forests, involves audits of several forests under the standards of the Sustainable Forestry Initiative and the Forest Stewardship Council.

The service, which will not immediately seek final certification, said its decision reflects a global trend to have third parties declare forest management as sustainable. It also needs the public’s confidence at a time of new challenges, including invasive species, global warming and cracking down on unauthorised off-highway vehicle trails.

Part of the Fremont National Forest in southern Oregon and the Allegheny National Forest in Pennsylvania will be the first federal forests to be audited. Audits will also take place in Wyoming, Wisconsin and all national forests in Florida.

But environmental groups are sceptical about the move, with the Wilderness Society openly questioning whether certification would result in the removal of environmental laws.