You’ve probably heard me talk lots about the fact that only 10% of the world’s forests are certified. Today I want to talk about the other 90% — that’s not certified. There are lots of reasons for this, developing nations may lack the capacity, support and legal framework to implement credible, independent forest certification programs. But what about uncertified lands in developed countries, like right here in the United States?
In December I had the privilege of touring uncertified lands owned by private land owners in Georgia. Today there are more than 10 million small family-owned forests in the United States and they produce 60% of the fiber in forest products manufactured in the US. I got to see firsthand this week the commitment these family forest owners have to sustainable forest management. Joe Hopkins, one such forest land owner, showed me a forest that he had recently planted and he told me “I’m not planting these forests for me, I’m planting them for my children and their children. In fact, I will unlikely live to see this forest harvested, but I still care about it because it’s the right thing to do.” Joe represents four generations of family forest owners and he’s just one of thousands across North America who participates in the SFI program through our unique fiber sourcing program.
For many family forest owners in both the US and Canada, certification is not a cost effective option for them. They may make money off their forests or woodlot twice in their lifetime, yet there are annual costs associated with a certification audit. While landowners can’t always justify the cost of an audit, our fiber sourcing program ensures that a company buying the fiber from these landowners undergoes a third-party audit by an accredited certification body to ensure the fiber sourcing requirements associated with landowner outreach, best management practices and logger training were met. In fact, since 1995, more than 110,000 loggers have been trained across North America through the SFI program.
I was moved by the commitment these family forest owners, loggers, foresters and SFI program participants have towards managing forests responsibly, respecting the rights of privacy of land owners and working to ensure forests for future generations. I’m proud that the SFI program has this unique feature – it shows our commitment to sustainable forest management not just on certified lands but on all forest land. Keep up the good work Joe… and the millions of other family forest owners across North America!