By Kathy Abusow, President and CEO of the Sustainable Forestry Initiative Inc.

Canada’s boreal forest is part of each of our lives every day. The boreal forest filters the air we breathe and cleans the water we drink. It provides wildlife habitat and improves our quality of life through recreation and its astounding natural beauty.

I’m encouraged that so many people agree with my view that the boreal forest must be conserved and managed responsibly. I also see an ever-growing understanding that responsibly sourced forest products from certified forests advance environmental and societal causes, and also produce quality products from a renewable resource.



A life’s work

Conserving the boreal forest has been at the centre of my life for 25 years and I’m thankful to be able to look back on all the progress that has been made on behalf of this precious natural resource. Today, forest managers understand that earning a social licence to operate, caring about environmental credibility, respecting Indigenous rights, and operating transparently and openly are non-negotiable.

What inspires me the most about the future of Canada’s boreal forest is the growing understanding that we can achieve more through collaboration than confrontation. I am reminded of this regularly as our network of collaborators continues to expand every year. In 2015 alone, SFI Program Participants were involved in 400 different conservation and research projects with more than 500 unique partner organizations including conservation, government, community, indigenous, academic and research groups.

Conservation and community grants

We have also expanded our knowledge of critical issues and how best to address them through collaborative initiatives that have taken place under the auspices of the SFI Conservation & Community Partnerships Grant Program. It is a program where conservation groups and researchers bring to us their best ideas about how to restore a species, or measure the conservation impact of managed forests so we can apply this knowledge.

Since the program began in 2010, SFI has awarded 53 Conservation and 49 Community Partnership grants totaling more than $3.4 million to foster conservation and community-building projects. The total investment exceeds $13.2 million when we count the funds leveraged by the groups we collaborate with.

Standing with conservation leaders

We work with leading environmental groups on issues of relevance to Canada’s boreal including Ducks Unlimited Canada, the Nature Conservancy of Canada and Bird Studies Canada to name just a few.

  • SFI is investing in research on vernal pools with the Nature Conservancy of Canada to address amphibian decline.  Through DNA testing of vernal pools in the Kenauk Nature Reserve we can identify those pools with the highest and most significant amphibian biological diversity and actively manage for their conservation.  The Kenauk Nature Reserve property is certified to the SFI Standard and is owned in partnership with Kenauk Canada, the Nature Conservancy of Canada and four local families. SFI is supporting fRI Research in identifying high-quality habitat and movement pathways of caribou in West-Central Alberta to help restore habitat for caribou.
  • SFI teamed up with the Saskatchewan Research Council, SFI Program Participants Louisiana-Pacific and Spruce Products, and Ducks Unlimited Canada to develop a rapid assessment tool to measure carbon storage in wetlands.
  • SFI supported Bird Studies Canada Breeding Bird Atlases that are driving conservation policy, species at risk recovery, habitat management and stewardship, land acquisition, and more.

2017 SFI Conservation Grants

Just today we announced the 2017 SFI conservation grant projects. These grants speak to the diversity of the SFI community and represent collaborations between 37 groups including academics, conservationists, forest managers and government officials. This year’s grants focus on the connection between sustainable supply chains and natural resource issues we all care about — like carbon storage, wildlife habitat, species at risk and forests with exceptional conservation value.

The importance of third-party certification

The majority of Canada’s boreal forests are third-party certified to a variety of standards, including SFI, CSA and FSC. I remember 25 years ago, when forest certification was first being discussed, it was a challenge for the industry to get their heads around. The concept of opening their doors, enabling third-party audits and publicly available reporting on how they measure up to standards was a stretch. Today, the environmental community can claim victory for changing the way the forest sector operates. It is inclusive, it is transparent, it is research and collaboration driven. It is a success story. Let’s embrace it, and hold it up as a model.

SFI wants to hear from everyone in the boreal forest community

For those that are interested in learning more about the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) Forest Management Standard you can give me a call or check out our website. The standard is revised every five years through a collaborative process with multiple stakeholders. When we issued our last standard in January 2015, we strengthened our landscape measures, our water quality and vernal pool requirements, and several of these changes were informed by collaborative research that had taken place through collaborative processes.

We also addressed other important issues of national and international relevance and took measures to ban WHO 1A and 1B chemicals as well as add a new objective that requires certificate holders to recognize and respect Indigenous peoples’ rights. (See an op-ed in the Prince George Citizen by David Walkem Chief of the Cooks Ferry Band and SFI Board Member, and the SFI Indigenous fact sheet.)

We believe collaboration is the answer. We are ready to work with anybody that wants to make a positive contribution to the management of forests.

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