VANCOUVER, British Columbia, Sept. 23 /PRNewswire/ -- The immense value of strong and diverse partnerships that yield benefits for forests, communities and markets across North America and around the world was evident throughout the 2010 Sustainable Forestry Initiative® (SFI®) Annual Conference this week.
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"Partnerships breathe life into our program and drive home the importance of what we do for many people," SFI President and CEO Kathy Abusow told delegates at the conclusion of the conference today. "Partnerships with groups from Habitat for Humanity to Time Inc. to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation allow us to get involved in so many projects we're proud of."
"The SFI program welcomes the involvement of anyone who shares our passion for forest management, for strong communities, for responsible procurement, and for respecting diverse values and interests," said Marvin Brown, chair of the SFI board of directors and state forester in Oregon. "SFI is truly a world-class standard, and our participants deliver it with a passion that is unparalleled."
The conference celebrated partnerships at every link of the supply chain – with more than 200 delegates representing large and small landowners, government officials, professional foresters, conservation groups, academia, aboriginal communities, auditors, buyers, forest products companies and biologists. Topics included collaboration to meet market demands; partnerships to tackle global issues, strengthen local communities and achieve conservation goals; and emerging issues such as carbon offset markets. Delegates learned about the new SFI Conservation and Community Partnerships Grant program, developments in the green building market, and trends in the international arena.
Recent reports show the growing convergence among many of the largest third-party forest certification programs. The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe and Food and Agriculture Organization 2009/2010 Forest Products Annual Market Review says that "over the years many of the issues that previously divided (certification) systems have become much less distinct." For the second year, the report noted the rapid rise in SFI chain-of-custody certification – with 976 certificates in May 2010, up from 500 in January 2009, and more than 2,000 certified locations, up from just 48 at the start of 2007.
"About 20 years ago, there was a sense that the forest sector was the main cause of forest degradation," Benjamin Singer, forest affairs officer, UN Forum on Forests Secretariat, told the conference. "We now know it is actually a good source for solutions. It's important to understand that forests are for people, for local communities – something certification can reinforce."
"Companies can make a difference if they are willing to work together to give customers responsible choices, and to help them understand why this is important," said Al Dragone, CEO, Unisource Worldwide Inc. "This is certainly true when it comes to products like paper and wood, which are backed by well-established certification programs."
Presentations showed how the SFI program is encouraging and supporting collaborative activities such as partnerships with Habitat for Humanity affiliates and an investment of $307,500 so far this year in the new ongoing SFI Conservation and Community Partnerships Grant initiative.
Daniel Petit, director of the Bird Conservation Initiative for the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, spoke of how the SFI conservation grant program is helping a partnership project that aims to reverse the decline of some species at risk by enhancing the biodiversity of young forest habitats. "We are able to work with conservation groups, government agencies and 30 SFI program participants in 14 U.S. states and two Canadian provinces," he said. "The SFI-funded project will have a measureable, positive impact on species of high national significance, including American woodcock, golden-winged warbler, chestnut-sided warbler, and other bird species."
Corby Lamb, president of Capacity Forest Management, a company that manages forest tenures for First Nations companies across British Columbia, talked about the choice of the SFI 2010-2014 Standard to certify 32 forest tenures involving 12 First Nations communities – the first SFI certification on Aboriginal lands: "We found that a lot of the SFI principles matched the objectives and goals of First Nations communities for long-term management of their land base."
Also during the conference, Alabama received the 12th annual SFI Implementation Committee achievement award for innovative activities that strengthen forest practices and raise awareness about the benefits of using wood from responsible sources. The 37 grassroots SFI Implementation Committees, whose members include loggers, teachers, biologists and public officials, are a unique and important part of the SFI program.
"Close to half of the 950 implementation committee members are involved not because their organization is an SFI program participant, but because they understand the relevance and value of what we do," Abusow said. "They know that they can, and are making a difference. They are working to meet the needs of communities across the United States and Canada, arranging training sessions and workshops for loggers and family forest owners to expand the reach of responsible forest management."
Also at the conference, Port Blakely Tree Farms was awarded an SFI Conservation Leadership Award for Biodiversity Research for its participation in a cooperative project with non-profit conservation groups and government agencies to reintroduce endangered Oregon spotted frogs to their historic range in Washington state.
Time Inc., Hearst Enterprises, Verso Paper, NewPage Corporation and Sappi Fine Papers received the SFI President's Award for a pilot program that increased the amount of certified land in Maine by making third-party certification more accessible to small- and medium-sized landowners. The companies worked in partnership with SFI Inc. and the American Tree Farm System.
About SFI Inc.
SFI Inc. is an independent 501c(3) non-profit charitable organization, and is solely responsible for maintaining, overseeing and improving the internationally recognized Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) program (www.sfiprogram.org). Across North America, more than 175 million acres/70 million hectares are certified to the SFI forest management standard, making it the largest single standard in the world. SFI chain-of-custody certification tells buyers how much certified, responsibly sourced and/or recycled content is in a product. The SFI program's unique fiber sourcing requirements promote responsible forest management on all suppliers' lands. SFI Inc. is governed by a three-chamber board of directors representing environmental, social and economic sectors equally.
SOURCE Sustainable Forestry Initiative, Inc.