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Conservation at SFI

Promoting Conservation Through Daily Acts of Responsible Forest Management 

SFI advances conservation objectives in forests throughout North America through the values expressed in our standards, through carefully targeted research and grants, through direct leadership of critical initiatives, and through partnerships that effectively contribute to multiple conservation objectives. Collectively, these actions make a real difference to conservation of species, ecosystems, and ecosystem services that matter to everyone.


Conservation Impact Project

To facilitate good decision-making, and to help make the case for the value of sustainability, the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) began work in 2015 to quantify the conservation benefits of its work, and the connection between sustainable supply chains and important conservation outcomes. This effort, called “Conservation Impact,” will help conservationists understand the values associated with sustainable management, and provide assurance to stakeholders throughout the forest supply chain. By clarifying these conservation attributes, SFI will help make the link between well-managed forests and the public benefits that affect each of us every day.

Formally announced at the IUCN World Conservation Congress in September of 2016, The Conservation Impact Project actually consists of numerous smaller projects, generated by partnerships within the academic, conservation and research community, and including SFI’s own Program Participants. Some projects have been initiated through SFI’s Conservation and Community Partnership Grants program, while others are being directed by partners working in concert with SFI. Quantifying the critical contributions of these managed forests will enable the SFI community to understand and promote the conservation values associated with sustainably managed forests, and will facilitate continual improvement.


Conservation Impact "Sounding Board"

The “Sounding Board” was formed to bring together the community of partners engaged in or knowledgeable about SFI’s Conservation Impact work, to help SFI identify specific pathways to clarify and enumerate our conservation contributions. The Sounding Board does not have a formal structure, but is intended as an open process to help shape this important work, and promote interaction directly between project leaders and experts from a diverse variety of backgrounds. Meetings are held periodically (typically once a year), By design, participation in the Sounding Board is flexible and carries no long-term participation requirements – we continue to take an inclusive approach towards experts that can add knowledge and critical thinking. Effective measurement of conservation impact will be founded in credible science, but will also be characterized by resonance with key audiences. The Sounding Board will play a critical role in ensuring both.


Conservation and Community Partnerships Grant Program

The SFI Conservation and Community Partnerships Grant Program fosters partnerships between organizations interested in improving forest management in the United States and Canada, and responsible procurement globally. Projects address topics of current importance such as improving wildlife habitat management and conservation of biodiversity, avoiding controversial sources of fiber such as those resulting from illegal logging, and assisting local communities through forest education programs and green building projects for low-income families.

Since 2010, SFI Conservation Grants have resulted in improved understanding and deepened partnerships across a number of conservation themes. Some highlights include:

Working with the American Bird Conservancy, SFI is facilitating collaboration between several of America’s largest landowners to reverse the loss of at-risk bird species across the continent. By focusing at the intersection of key geographies and large managed ownerships, ABC is collaboratively developing strategies to “Bring Back the Forest Birds,” affecting change at an unprecedented scale. Past and current bird-related project partners include the Boreal Avian Modeling Project, and Ducks Unlimited, Canada.

In 2016, SFI participated in the organizing committee for the 16th North American Caribou Workshop held in Thunder Bay, Ontario, helping to ensure
a variety of perspectives were brought to bear on the future management of this keystone species of the Canadian boreal forest. 


SFI provides leadership in the conservation community by playing a critical role at the intersection of sustainable forestry and conservation planning and accomplishment. Here are a few examples of SFI engagement in this critical space.

All Lands and Large Ownerships Workshops – A collaborative effort to advance the attainment of landscape-scale conservation goals by ensuring the engagement of
large private landowners. By bringing together large landowners, conservationists, agencies and
academics, SFI and its partners will help to achieve the vision of “all lands” conservation.

SFI-led symposia and workshops, at venues from the Land Trust Alliance National Rally and the NatureServe Biodiversity Without Boundaries conference, to the National Forum on Landscape Conservation, SFI helps advance understanding on the importance of responsibly managed forests to critical conservation goals. SFI staff has presented on a diverse range of topics of the role of well-managed forests in landscape conservation, the use of SFI certification standards to efficiently monitor conservation easements, and the use of species and community data by forest managers to protect biodiversity at multiple scales. 

SFI additionally engages as an active participant in collaborative efforts to advance conservation outcomes in managed landscapes. Examples include Keeping Forests as Forests, The Longleaf Partnership Council, the Network for Landscape Conservation, membership in the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and others.


Conservation and Research Projects Across North America

SFI’s Program Participants engage in a tremendous array of projects every day that help conserve the diversity of habitats, water quality and other important aspects of North America’s great natural heritage. The Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) Inc. is the only forest certification program in North America that requires participants to support research to improve forest health, conservation understanding, productivity and sustainable management of forest resources. In 2016, such research investments amounted to $59 million. Research initiatives, whether developed directly through SFI or SFI Program Participants, advance our collective interests in clean water, biological diversity, climate change, forest health and sustainable forestry, making a real difference in practices implemented on the ground.

In 2016, SFI Program Participants reported 420 projects, which included partnerships with over 500 unique partner organizations on the ground. Some highlights of recent work include:

INDIGENOUS PEOPLES: Program Participants regularly support projects to ensure the conservation of heritage and cultural features important to Indigenous peoples of North America, ranging from Caddo Indian structures in Texas to culturally modified trees on lands of the Heiltsuk Nation in the Pacific Northwest.

FROM LONGLEAF TO STEELHEAD: In 2015, Program Participants reported dozens of projects which help advance restoration of the longleaf pine ecosystem, through planting, prescribed burning and understory habitat restoration. Iconic in the US South, the longleaf ecosystem is home to over 1,000 plant and animal species. A number of other projects support management, research and restoration of anadromous fish on both North American coasts, like steelhead and salmon, which require carefully managed forests upstream for their survival. These projects include efforts to ensure fish passage at stream crossings, and measures to provide compatible stream temperature and conditions in managed forests.

CLEAN WATER: Well-managed forests certified to the SFI Forest Management Standard contribute and protect clean water sources for both wildlife and people.  With over 300 million acres certified under SFI’s Forest Management Standard, and millions more affected by SFI Fiber Sourcing certification, the impact of this is vast.

A 2015 study by the National Association of State Foresters confirmed the important contribution of SFI to advancing training and other practices that protect water quality. A 2017 study from The University of Georgia, supported by an SFI Conservation Grant, indicated a statistically significant increase in water quality Best Management Practice (BMP) implementation in areas where SFI’s Fiber Sourcing Standards were in place. The impact of this effect was compounded in areas where Fiber Sourcing practices overlap from multiple facilities. Other studies and partnerships currently underway should help clarify the relationship between BMPs and the quality of water for downstream communities and ecosystems. 



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