I can’t clearly remember what I was doing 20 years ago. I’d like to think that I was exploring the local forest, as eight-year-old boys do… turning over a log in search of a salamander, though likely finding a far less interesting leopard slug. Around that same time, SFI’s founders were embarking on a far more important exploration: sustainable forest certification. It was a profound idea, and one that would chart a new course for forest managers, brand owners, conservation advocates, government, and academia. The Sustainable Forestry Initiative has since enjoyed 20 years of growth and improvement; and has emerged as a powerful instrument to guarantee the innumerable environmental, economic, and social benefits forests provide, be it ensuring carbon cycles, or providing salamander habitat.

DSC_4378_blogAt the SFI Annual Conference two weeks ago, we took pause to recognize SFI’s visionaries. It was a well-deserved celebration, honoring the tireless work of these leaders to develop and promote the critical intersection of thriving forests, sustainable communities, and responsible procurement. Our Conference also provided an opportunity to cultivate the future, through SFI’s Annual Conference Student Scholarship Program.

Since 2010, SFI has offered scholarship opportunities for forestry and natural resource students to attend our conference. This is an excellent chance for students to meet the SFI community, and for those attending our conference to interact with the next generation of forestry leaders. This year’s program was generously supported by Weyerhaeuser, Bureau Veritas, American National Standards Institute, and Stuwix Joint Resource Venture. The 2015 cohort included 14 bright students hailing from University of California Berkley, Humboldt State University, Oregon State University, University of Idaho, and The World Forestry Institute. This year’s program also benefited from great student mentors, who went above and beyond to help welcome the student group into the SFI Community.

While the diversity of students and Universities is exciting, it’s what they had to say about the scholarship and the SFI Annual Conference that reminds me how important our program is:

I know that it would not be possible without our sponsors, and I thanked those that I met. It was such an amazing experience and eye opening opportunity. I thoroughly enjoyed myself and made many great contacts in the process. It is an experience that I will never forget and am so grateful for!”

Hether Ward – BS, Environmental Management and Protection, Humboldt State University

I had an amazing time at the conference. I learned so much more about SFI and made some great contacts. Thank you for helping put together the student group and organizing the fun run. I can’t think of anything I did not like about the conference.”

Kristina Hossley – BS, Forest Engineering and Civil Engineering, Oregon State University

Thanks again for all the effort you put into the SFI conference and the student program. I was very impressed by how well the students were integrated into the community, and how welcoming everyone was. I think you’ll appreciate knowing the networking didn’t stop when the conference ended. I sat next to Doug Onley from Yakama Forest Products on my flight to Seattle, and we spent the flight talking about forestry in Washington and Idaho.”

Rebecca Sheridan, Ph. D., Forest Resources, University of Idaho

I can’t emphasize enough how important this program is; we do need the next generation of foresters to be leaders with the right mind set on issues like conservation and sustainability. I think this program offers the right opportunity to work on that.”

Daniel G. Scognamillo, Ph.D. – Associate Professor Wildlife Ecology and Conservation/GIS, Stephen F. Austin State University (student mentor)

As SFI celebrates our founders, twenty year anniversary, and all the accomplishments marked along the way, one thing is clear: The future is only as bright as those that strive for it. So as we remember our beginnings, we also work toward our future and nurture the leaders who will guide it. To me, it’s not just about discovering the salamander under the log, but about ensuring that there’s a forest for salamanders to thrive in.

Once again, thank you to our 2015 Annual Conference Student Sponsors:



Looking ahead to 2016:

While most students attending our conference come from the general vicinity of the conference venue, we welcome any natural resource students, subject to sufficient sponsorship funding. Please plan now to help support an even greater student turnout next year. To explore sponsorship opportunities, please contact Amy Doty: amy.doty@forests.org, 202-596-3458.

If you work at (or with) a university and would like to receive the scholarship application to distribute, or if you have general questions regarding the SFI Annual Conference Student Scholarship program or mentorship opportunities, please contact Rocco Saracina: rocco.saracina@forests.org, 202-596-3459.


Rocco Saracina, Research Coordinator at SFI, is a 2011 Humboldt State University Alumnus with a BS in Environmental Science, Ecological Restoration, and a Minor in Wildland Soil Science.


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