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Pennsylvania SFI Implementation Committee Celebrates 20th Anniversary in 2015

Posted: August 17, 2015

This year marks the 20th Anniversary for the Pennsylvania Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) Implementation Committee (SIC) and its work fostering an appreciation of forest conservation and sustainable management throughout Pennsylvania’s forest community.

The Pennsylvania SFI-SIC formed in 1995, in conjunction with the development of the SFI Program at the national level by the American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA), at a time when rising concern over industrial forestry practices was igniting major lawsuits, public hearings, work stoppages, and boisterous demonstrations. The goal of the SFI Program was to enhance the environment and improve public confidence by visibly changing the practice of forestry on industrial and other private forest lands through a program of self-regulation and continuous improvement.

Owing to the diversity of forest types and local circumstances across the nation, SFI Program organizers recognized that successful implementation would depend upon action by member companies in cooperation with state, regional, and national forestry and logging associations, state and federal agencies, academia, professional and conservation organizations, consulting foresters, and landowner technical assistance programs. As a result, SFI Implementation Committees (SICs), made up of volunteers from a variety of interests, were established across the country. The newly formed Pennsylvania SIC was organized under the Hardwood Lumber Manufacturers Association of Pennsylvania (now the Pennsylvania Forest Products Association) and began meeting monthly in State College.

The Pennsylvania SIC worked hard to not only improve forestry practices on industrial lands but also reached beyond and included efforts to educate loggers, private forest landowners, and the general public on sustainable forestry issues. The early focus of the SIC was on developing landowner and public outreach, establishing a logger training program, and exploring a Best Management Practices (BMP) monitoring system for measuring success. These three efforts eventually developed into the core of the PA SIC’s programing for many years.

The SFI program itself has evolved a great deal since its inception. In early 1999, AF&PA released formal standards and added procedures for participants to independently certify their compliance through voluntary third-party audits. On-product labeling for certified materials followed. In 2000, the SFI program was transferred from AF&PA to SFI Inc., an independent non-profit organization. In 2005, the SFI program was endorsed by the international Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification schemes (PEFC), increasing its legitimacy and reach. The SFI Standard itself has evolved over the years to reflect the dynamic concept of sustainable forestry, which is reviewed and updated on a 5-year cycle. This year, SFI Inc. released its newest version, with the adoption of the SFI 2015-2019 Standard. To date, there are more than quarter billion acres of forestland across the United States and Canada certified to the SFI standard.

The efforts of the Pennsylvania SIC over the last two decades have helped shine a light on sustainable forestry and timber harvesting practices across Pennsylvania. The SIC has distributed more than 26,000 landowner outreach packets designed to help private landowners make sound management decisions on their forests. With web access (www.sfiofpa.org), these materials have been updated, made more comprehensive, and are now more accessible to a wider audience.

The Pennsylvania SIC has also sponsored a number of worthy organizations and events to support sustainable forestry. These include the Pennsylvania 4-H Forestry Program, the Log A Load for Kids charity (which supports Children’s Miracle Network-affiliated hospitals), The Penn State Center for Private Forests’ biennial landowner conferences, the annual Wayne County Woodsmen’s Competition, and the HDC’s WoodMobile. More recently, the SIC began supporting the future of Pennsylvania’s forest products industry workforce by partnering with high school vo tech programs to offer students the core component of the PA SFI Professional Timber Harvester Training Program at no cost.

The Professional Timber Harvester Training Program has also had a direct impact on the state’s forest resources. Training focused on reducing the impacts of harvesting operations on soil and water resources by advocating for the use of BMPs has increased acceptance and recognition of sustainable forestry practices. More than 7,000 individuals (e.g., loggers, foresters, and landowners) have participated in the program, with approximately 700 maintaining a current training status each year. Some long-time participants have completed more than 100 hours of training. Our success in teaching the importance of BMPs is evident in the latest PA Department of Environmental Protection data that places logging nearly last in the list of water polluters across the state.

To celebrate this important milestone the Pennsylvania SIC enthusiastically engaged in an attempt to set the Guinness World Record for the most trees planted in one-hour simultaneously by small groups. The record setting attempt was held from 1:00 to 2:00 pm EDT on May 20th and was organized by SFI Inc. Two Pennsylvania teams, made up of 101 volunteers, joined twenty-six other teams across the United States and Canada, and planted a total of 7,258 trees. The combined efforts of all the teams, representing more than 1,100 participants planting across four time zones, resulted in 202,330 trees planted during the one-hour attempt. The benchmark that the attempt needed to exceed to obtain the record was 40,885 trees; however, the record will not be official until Guinness World Records reviews and confirms the results, which is expected to take 6-8 weeks.

The Pennsylvania General Assembly also recognized the SIC’s 20th anniversary by unanimously passing House Resolution 375 and Senate Resolution 144, identifying the achievements of the SIC and declaring June 5, 2015 to be Pennsylvania Sustainable Forestry Initiative Day in Pennsylvania.

The organization’s success over the past 20 years is a testament to the dedication of the Committee’s first members (several of whom still volunteer today) and all those who followed, PA SIC staff members, strong partnerships with key organizations such as the Bureau of Forestry, Penn State, the Hardwood Development Council, and the Pennsylvania Forest Products Association, and financial support from SFI Certified Program Participants and many SIC Partners and Supporters. We owe a great deal of gratitude to these individuals and entities, as well as those who have participated in training programs or received forest stewardship guidance from the SIC and who then implement sustainable practices to conserve our forests for the future.

Contact Information

Chuck Coup
  • Pennsylvania SFI Implementation Committee Program Manager