Linda Casey, Alabama’s State Forester and a member of the SFI External Review Panel, talks about the benefits of SFI certification in her state.
In Alabama, we take great pride in the fact that our implementation rate for best management practices stands at 97 percent. A recent review by the Southern Group of State Foresters Water Resources Committee said Alabama’s level of commitment to its BMP program can serve as an example for other states.
Much of this success can be traced to SFI third-party certification and the program’s commitment to improving practices, building knowledge and training logging professionals. This means a lot to me as State Forester and to people in communities across Alabama.
These facts are in sharp contrast to the misinformation disseminated by market campaigners. Groups like ForestEthics might claim to care about our forests but their tactics suggest otherwise.
Negative, misleading reports do nothing to improve forest management – and risk driving consumers to markets beyond our borders. That’s not good news in Alabama where forests not only support our second-largest manufacturing industry but also provide clean air and water, and habitat for hundreds of wildlife species.
You only have to look at the list of SFI board members to realize they represent environmental, social and economic interests equally, and honestly. And suggestions that the SFI audit process is not rigorous would be news to the independent certification bodies who verify that forest operations meet standard requirements – and are accountable to internationally recognized accreditation bodies.
Close to 2.4 million acres of Alabama’s forests are certified to the SFI Standard, and I see the benefits almost every day. And SFI’s reach goes far beyond certified lands – it addresses the reality that 80 percent of our 22.7 million acres of Alabama’s forests are owned by more than 440,000 non-industrial private landowners.
As one of the independent experts advising the SFI program, I have watched as SFI certification rightfully gained credibility and respect in the forest sector and in markets around the world. In my own state, the Alabama SFI Implementation Committee was awarded an achievement award last year for its outreach and training activities.
As a State Forester, I wish more organizations would follow SFI’s lead in raising awareness about the value of third-party forest certification, and inviting diverse partners to work with them. Encouraging consumers to buy products certified to all credible programs, which definitely includes SFI, is one of the best ways to make a difference in the forest and in the marketplace.