Madison, WI — The Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) announced the winners of this year’s SFI Leadership in Conservation Award at the 2022 SFI/Project Learning Tree (PLT) Annual Conference today. Weyerhaeuser, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), Appalachian Mountains Joint Venture (AMJV), American Bird Conservancy (ABC), West Virginia Division of Natural Resources (WVDNR), and West Virginia University (WVU) are being recognized for fostering partnerships required to combat bird population declines at a landscape-scale. The partners are working together on a project funded by NFWF and managed by SFI to recover critical species habitat in managed forests in West Virginia. Additional support for the project came from the United States Geological Survey, US Fish and Wildlife Service, and National Council for Air and Stream Improvement.
“This project embodies SFI’s fundamental commitment to forest-focused collaborations that advance sustainability solutions and our focus on elevating the conservation benefits of SFI‑certified lands. Bringing together leading conservation organizations and SFI‑certified organizations to make meaningful change on the ground is a hallmark of our approach,” says Kathy Abusow, President and CEO of SFI.
The project focuses on three at-risk bird species: the golden-winged warbler, the cerulean warbler, and the wood thrush.
“This partnership has developed an innovative approach to scaling up conservation in the region by leveraging SFI’s widely adopted certification standards to specifically promote conservation of rare or declining species,” says Amanda Bassow, Director of the Northeast Regional Office for NFWF. “The project has the potential to serve as a model for networking private landowners to promote forest management for wood and wildlife, and NFWF is grateful to our funding partners at the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Richard King Mellon Foundation who make our work in Appalachia possible.”
Weyerhaeuser has provided leadership as an SFI‑certified organization, utilizing its forestland, providing in-kind matching funds, facilitating engagement with family-owned forestlands, and providing financial support for WVU to purchase technical equipment. Weyerhaeuser is also engaging with SFI and ABC to identify, develop, and share best practice guidelines for engaging other institutional landowners in North America.
“Weyerhaeuser is looking forward to continuing to maximize this collaborative effort to better understand the relationships between these at-risk bird species and our working forests,” says Henning Stabins, a wildlife biologist with Weyerhaeuser. Weyerhaeuser’s role is critical, as the company’s active involvement serves as a model for engaging other large private landowners, which helps ensure scale for meaningful research impact.
NFWF’s funding of this SFI-led project reflects its keen understanding of the need for dynamic partnerships and innovation, and ensures the engagement of a wide range of credible partners. AMJV and ABC have led the way in engaging with family forest owners and building understanding of best management practices for birds, extending ABC’s past work with SFI on multiple bird conservation projects. WVDNR plays a key partnership role in the project in linking conservation priorities with WVU, which will carry out the field research to track the impacts of forest management on the target bird species.
“Conservation and management at the landscape scale for species of conservation concern, like the golden-winged warbler, cerulean warbler and wood thrush, necessitates collaboration,” says Chris Lituma, assistant professor of wildlife and fisheries resources at WVU. “This project brings together federal, state, private, university and non-governmental organizations with a shared goal of researching best practices for these species and implementing those practices to improve populations.”
The West Virginia test sites, covering at least 15,000 acres of forests in Central Appalachia, boast some of the most biologically diverse, temperate deciduous forests in the United States. Birds such as golden-winged warblers, cerulean warblers, and wood thrushes require diverse forest habitats that are found in the Central Appalachian Mountains. The majority of these forests are privately owned and managed, underscoring the importance of this project as a model for future strategies.
“Our approach to planning and implementation will help landowners meet landscape biodiversity requirements under SFI certification,” says Paul Trianosky, Chief Conservation Officer at SFI. “This project builds on SFI’s scale, convening experience, and commitment to continual improvement. The best practices developed through this will help inform management actions across SFI-certified lands.”
Weyerhaeuser Company, one of the world’s largest private owners of timberlands, began operations in 1900. We own or control approximately 11 million acres of timberlands in the U.S. and manage additional timberlands under long-term licenses in Canada. We manage these timberlands on a sustainable basis in compliance with internationally recognized forestry standards. We are also one of the largest manufacturers of wood products in America. Our company is a real estate investment trust. In 2021, we generated $10.2 billion in net sales and employed approximately 9,200 people who serve customers worldwide. Our common stock trades on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol WY. Weyerhaeuser is an SFI-certified organization. Learn more at www.weyerhaeuser.com.
About West Virginia University
As a land-grant institution, the faculty, staff and students at West Virginia University commit to creating a diverse and inclusive culture that advances education, healthcare and prosperity for all by providing access and opportunity; by advancing high-impact research; and by leading transformation in West Virginia and the world through local, state and global engagement.
About American Bird Conservancy
American Bird Conservancy is a nonprofit organization dedicated to conserving wild birds and their habitats throughout the Americas. With an emphasis on achieving results and working in partnership, we take on the greatest problems facing birds today, innovating and building on rapid advancements in science to halt extinctions, protect habitats, eliminate threats, and build capacity for bird conservation. Find us on abcbirds.org, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter (@ABCbirds).
About Appalachian Mountains Joint Venture
The Appalachian Mountains Joint Venture (AMJV), one of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Migratory Bird Joint Ventures, is a regional partnership of over 55 state and federal agencies, conservation organizations, and universities. Guided by our Mission and Vision, we are committed to the conservation of habitat for the benefit of birds, wildlife, and people in the core of the Appalachian Region. Our partnership stretches from the southwestern Appalachians in Alabama to the northeastern highlands in southern New York. This area encompasses 103 million acres across portions of Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, and all of West Virginia and contains some of the largest expanses of forest remaining in the eastern United States.
About West Virginia Division of Natural Resources
The mission of the Division of Natural Resources (DNR) is to provide a comprehensive program for the exploration, conservation, development, protection, enjoyment and use of the state’s renewable natural resources. The agency preserves and protects natural areas of unique or exceptional scenic, scientific, cultural, archaeological or historic significance while also providing countless outdoor recreational opportunities for West Virginia residents and visitors.
About the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation
Chartered by Congress in 1984, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) protects and restores the nation’s fish, wildlife, plants and habitats. Working with federal, corporate and individual partners, NFWF has funded more than 5,000 organizations and generated a total conservation impact of $6.1 billion. Learn more at nfwf.org. (Read the NFWF grant announcement, learn more about SFI’s NFWF grant, and watch a short video about the Central Appalachia Habitat Stewardship Program.)