One of the best parts of my work at the Sustainable Forestry Initiative is the opportunity I have to collaborate with researchers, academics and other conservation leaders throughout Canada and the United States. I see first-hand the fascinating and innovative ways they are working together to tackle conservation challenges. Increasingly, people are using forest certification to take conservation in exciting new directions.
Certification maintains landscapes and conserves habitats
Forest certification, a voluntary process where an independent third party assesses the quality of forest management and production against a set of requirements, is one of the best choices you can make for forests and the markets that depend on forest-based products. Forest certification is supported in part by three major ideas: working forests are critical for conservation success, science must guide decisions, and active forest management backed by third-party certification is a proven conservation tool.
A big marker of success is the ability of forest certification to help species thrive and ultimately no longer need coverage under the Endangered Species Act. Conservation Through Collaboration, an excellent article from The Wildlife Society, tells a compelling story of forest certification and species conservation.
The Kirtland’s warbler, for example, was recently taken off the endangered species list thanks in large measure to a public-private collaboration on managed forests. Other iconic species like the Louisiana black bear have recovered from a population of 300 in 1992—when it earned a designation under the Endangered Species Act. By 2016, there were as many as 1,000 bears.
Restoring the population had to involve private landowners who came together with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to figure out how to support the bear’s habitat, all while sustainably managing for timber production. After recovery, the Louisiana black bear was removed from the list of endangered and threatened species.
Conserving species in working forests through collaborative research
Certification can be used in other ways as well. The National Alliance of Forest Owners Wildlife Conservation Initiative (WCI) is a new way to approach the challenge of conserving species in working forests. Collaborative research and management of habitat for threatened and endangered species are key to the WCI approach.
WCI brings together private landowners and multiple private and public stakeholders. They explore the relationship between forest management and conservation of at-risk and listed species. WCI aims to increase landowner understanding of species conservation needs and improve the appreciation of managed forests by the public and conservation stakeholders. SFI, an active partner in the initiative, provides assurance to the public and government agencies that best management practices and forest management planning are constantly and consistently applied, to drive positive conservation outcomes
The SFI Conservation Impact project
At SFI, we are focused on leveraging the value of sustainably managed forests and the conservation benefits resulting from the application of our standards. To illustrate these outcomes, SFI initiated the SFI Conservation Impact project.
The project develops approaches to help landowners, land managers, conservationists and government officials quantify biodiversity conservation, water quality protection, and climate change mitigation on lands influenced by the SFI Forest Management Standard and the SFI Fiber Sourcing Standard. This helps conservationists understand the values associated with sustainable management and provides assurance to regulators, customers, and the public at large.
Quantifying conservation benefits of well-managed forests will produce better data on forest management and lead to continuous improvements in SFI’s standards. This in turn will build trust and support a commitment both to conservation and to keeping well-managed forests working for all of us.