Forest Impacts Matter, But What Are They?

Conservation_Impact_BlogIt seems that we live in a time of magnified environmental impacts. When I was a kid, we didn’t worry about recycling, or air pollution, or water pollution, or whether the wood in our dining table came from a sustainable source. But the world is a much smaller place these days. Now we understand that the seemingly negligible act of recycling an aluminum can, or seeking a label that assures sustainability, will add up to something important over the course of a week, or a lifetime, or across the lifetimes of many people. These impacts matter.

For those of us who chose natural resources as a profession, the sense of consequences and impacts are driven home again and again through training, and observation. We understand very well that management of forests and other natural resources will result in consequences to be enjoyed, or regretted, by multiple generations. As foresters, we’re trained to find ways to maximize the collective values that flow from managed forests – from water quality to wildlife habitat, and much more.

The Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2015, just after the footprint of lands certified to SFI exceeded 250 million acres (100 million hectares) in the United States and Canada. A quarter billion acres. That sounds like a lot, because it is. That’s roughly the size of France and Germany combined. So what does that mean for all of us, or for our children and grandchildren? What is the real impact of a sustainable forest footprint of that magnitude?

In 2015, recognizing the importance of that question, SFI began a quest to better understand the true magnitude of the conservation benefits, or “Conservation Impact,” of SFI’s enormous footprint. Though it’s a daunting task, the reasons to quantify conservation impact are compelling: Brand owners seek to understand the impact of their sourcing; conservation stakeholders may engage forest managers most effectively if conservation values are better understood; and improved understanding and tracking will better equip SFI to ensure continual improvement.

This week, SFI formally announced the Conservation Impact Project at the World Conservation Congress, being hosted by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in Honolulu. As one of the newest members of IUCN, it seemed like the perfect opportunity for SFI to share this ambitious effort with the global community of conservation scientists, and invite them to join us in the endeavor. Investigations on water quality, carbon values and biodiversity will help all of us ensure that the values of well-managed forests are both recognized and maximized.

To guide the Conservation Impact Project, SFI has also brought together a diverse group of scientists and leaders from academia, public agencies, the non-profit conservation community, SFI Program Participants and the SFI leadership. These experts will act as a “sounding board” to help ensure credibility and transparency, and will provide direct input into how the project develops. Ultimately, the Conservation Impact Project will help ensure that these forests contribute meaningfully to conservation goals, and help build confidence about the connection between well-managed forests and conservation outcomes.

For more information about the SFI Conservation Impact Project, please contact Paul Trianosky, Chief Conservation Officer at SFI: paul.trianosky@sfiprogram.org.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *