Getting a Chance to Make a Difference

Posted by Barry Graden, SFI Director, Southeast U.S. Community Outreach

When I joined SFI Inc. last month, I knew I would have a chance to work with many partners who share my interest in sustainable forest management and third-party forest certification.

Last week, I learned just how much these partnerships can achieve. The second phase of an innovative pilot project in Maine, involving Time Inc., Hearst Enterprises, National Geographic Society, Verso Paper Corp. and Sappi Fine Paper North America, led to 790,000 acres/320,000 hectares of additional forest lands being certified to the SFI Standard.

Now that’s worth celebrating. These corporate leaders understand we need more certified lands to address the growing market and customer interest in how resources are managed – and they are willing to act. We are interested in replicating this kind of work in other locations, which is why I am currently looking to identify corporate sponsors.

That’s what I have always liked about the SFI program – it has a strong foundation as an internationally recognized forest certification standard then builds on this by supporting responsible forest management locally. It draws on the strengths of diverse partners to improve forest practices across North America through landowner and community outreach, through science, through market awareness.

I’m a registered forester and I have been involved with the forest sector for 31 years so I’ve watched SFI from its inception. I’ve seen how it has helped to improve practices and advance knowledge over time. This view has been reinforced in the last month as I met with members of the vast SFI community – with SFI Implementation Committees, forestry associations and family forest owners; with suppliers and customers.

There is so much happening, and so much more we can do. Let me know if you have ideas about how we can grow certification or if you want to join with SFI and its many partners. Together, we can strengthen third-party certification and spread the word about the benefits of the SFI program – and build more successes like the Maine pilot.

Barry Graden recently joined SFI Inc. in the new position of Director, Southeast U.S. Community Outreach. He will build on the program’s community activities to promote and strengthen forest certification throughout the United States, with emphasis on the south. His office is in Greenville, SC, and he can be reached by email or telephone at 864-451-7958.

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