What a thrill it is to welcome some 200 delegates to our annual conference this afternoon! From the buzz in the halls as people renew relationships to the informative exhibits on display, and the productive SFI Implementation Committee sessions this morning, we are off to a rousing start.
Indeed the future is decided now. One theme that I am consistently hearing from delegates so far is the concern that if we don’t have healthy markets, we won’t have healthy forests. And without healthy forests, we don’t have strong communities. That has surfaced numerous times today and will, no doubt, be woven throughout our sessions over the next two days.
We have lots to be proud of and celebrate at this conference. To quote one delegate, with almost 200 million acres/81 million hectares certified to the SFI Standard, who wouldn’t want to be associated with such a successful program?
Here are just some of our achievements within the SFI community as noted in my opening remarks: through our conservation grant program we leveraged $3.5 million in funding in 2012; we expect to reach 2.7 million future leaders through our new partnership with the Boy Scouts of America; over 193 million acres/ 81 million ha of forest land have been certified to the SFI standard across the United States and Canada; and perhaps most noteworthy, we are seeing steady growth in label requests. Year-to-date SFI has already received label use 4400 requests. That’s an average of 26 label requests per day.
Perhaps the most exciting aspect of being here is that this conference underscores we can make a difference. We have a wealth of expertise here, and all of our partners and members stand to benefit from our discussions and the work we will accomplish here in the months to come.
Again, welcome to Milwaukee and for those of you unable to attend, be sure to check in with me tomorrow for an update!