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The Sustainable Forestry Initiative® Program: Growing Tomorrow's Forests Today
by Rick Cantrell

Courtesy of USDA Forest Service
Certification schemes, including the Sustainable Forestry Initiative®. are designed to help forest managers continue growing and harvesting trees while still protecting wildlife, plants, soil, water and air.
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Rick Cantrell is the senior director for sustainable forestry and forest policy, American Forest & Paper Association, Washington, DC.
"Sustainable development is ... development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of further generations to meet their own needs." So declared the World Commission on Environment and Development in 1987, inspiring a new vision of forest management worldwide. We now know that responsible environmental behavior and sound forest management can go together, for the mutual benefit of landowners, shareholders, customers, the environment, and future generations.

In 1994, in the same spirit, the American Forest & Paper Association launched the Sustainable Forestry Initiative® program in the United States. The program is designed to help forest managers continue growing and harvesting trees while still protecting wildlife, plants, soil, water, and air.

At the core of the Sustainable Forestry Initiative® program is a formal standard. The standard is based on principles that translate into the following objectives:

  • broadening the practice of sustainable forestry,
  • ensuring long-term forest productivity,
  • protecting water quality,
  • enhancing wildlife habitat and contributing to biodiversity,
  • protecting special sites,
  • continuously improving wood utilization,
  • continuously improving sustainable forestry practices,
  • fostering the practice of sustainable forestry on all forest lands, and
  • reporting publicly on program progress.

Program participants who want to label their products as certified must follow an independent third-party certification procedure to show conformance to the program standard and to gauge progress in meeting its objectives. The process for conducting the audit is rigorous, and all auditors must meet precise educational and professional criteria.

The Sustainable Forestry Board manages the standard and the certification procedures. To ensure the board's impartiality, two-thirds of its members are drawn from outside the American Forest & Paper Association. They come from environmental and conservation groups, public agencies, and professional and academic groups. Some are independent logging professionals and family forest landowners.

The Sustainable Forestry Initiative® program is growing. Today, more than 135 million acres (54 million hectares) of forest land are enrolled, and more than 100 million acres (40 million hectares) have been independently third-party certified to meet the program standard. More than 650 million new trees are planted each year in the United States by program participants-more than 1.7 million each day.

That's good for everyone. Through sustainable forestry and certification programs such as the Sustainable Forestry Initiative®, people worldwide are growing tomorrow's forests today in a way that will protect the environment for generations to come.

USDA Forest Service Helps Shape Sustainable Forestry Initiative© Program
As part of the USDA Forest Service commitment to improve forest management domestically and internationally on all ownerships, the Agency has served on the External Review Panel for the Sustainable Forestry Initiative© program for several years. Representatives from the USDA Forest Service have provided advice on ways to improve and shape the program and its goals. Past members from the USDA Forest Service have included: Jack Ward Thomas (former Chief), Phil Janik (former Chief Operating Officer), and Barbara Weber (Deputy Chief for Research and Development). The current representative on the panel are Elizabeth Estill (Deputy Chief for Programs, Legislation and Communications) and Wini Kessler (Alaska Regional Director for Wildlife, Fisheries, Ecology and Watershed).


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