Outreach efforts to landowners, loggers, educators and legislators that are housed at UGA's Langdale Center for Forest Business received a national honor this week.
During its annual conference, the Sustainable Forestry Initiative Inc. (SFI) announced that the Georgia SFI Implementation Committee was the winner of the SFI Implementation Committee Achievement Award. The Georgia SFI Implementation Committee was selected for its leadership on logger training, water quality and outreach to a variety of stakeholders.
Chase Cook, program coordinator for the Georgia SFI Implementation Committee, housed at the University of Georgia Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, said the honor reflects the cooperative effort among landowners, state agencies, businesses and other organizations across Georgia.
“Georgia is blessed with abundant natural resources, as well as an SFI implementation committee of team members dedicated to supporting sustainable forestry across the state,” said Cook. “This award is a much-appreciated nod to the collective work of SFI-certified mills and landowners, state agencies and our supporting organizations. To be recognized among our peers across the U.S. and Canada is both humbling and gratifying for us.”
Georgia SFI is housed at the Langdale Center for Forest Business at the University of Georgia and represents a partnership between SFI and Warnell. Cook has led the Georgia SFI Implementation Committee since 2013.
“The Georgia SFI Implementation Committee is being recognized for the difference they are making on the ground to support sustainable forestry," said Kathy Abusow, president and CEO of SFI Inc. "They have collaborated with government partners to engage new and underserved landowners in an SFI-aligned technical assistance program, addressed workforce development needs in consultation with community colleges, industry, and universities, and helped Scouts earn their sustainability merit badge.”
More than 80 scouts earned their sustainability merit badge with the support of the Georgia SFI Implementation Committee, at the annual Northeast Georgia Council Boy Scouts of America Cherokee District’s Advance-A-Rama by presenting on sustainable forestry, certification, and giving green building walking tours.
The Implementation Committee Award was one of two awards given out at this week's conference where Warnell played a role. Emily Jo Williams (BSFR ’83, MS ’86), vice president, migratory birds and habitats at the American Bird Conservancy, received the SFI Conservation Leadership Award.
She and Healy Hamilton, NatureServe's chief scientist, were recognized for their leadership in facilitating projects that illustrate conservation on lands certified to SFI standards.
The Georgia SFI Implementation Committee’s work in logger training is a testament to its leadership on critical issues like water quality. The workshops are effective—more than 90% of 270 participants from the last three years said they would apply knowledge gained from the workshop in their work operations. The Georgia SFI Implementation Committee’s leadership role was enhanced over the past three years with new online training options for loggers, which the Georgia SFI Implementation Committee coordinated with Southern Regional Extension Forestry to adapt for logger education programs.
“Logger training is at the heart of our success in Georgia. This training reaches the independent contractors that are the key to the quality of forest harvesting operations and ensures they are well equipped to protect the environment,” said Steve Fowler, chair of the Georgia SFI Implementation Committee. “We are proud to be recognized for our collaborative work to link sustainable forestry, community engagement, policy initiatives, and strategic outreach to legislators. These efforts, coupled with a suitable business climate, contribute to making Georgia the number one forestry state in the nation.”
The SFI Forest Management and SFI Fiber Sourcing Standards, and the logger training initiatives and collaborative efforts of the SFI Implementation Committees have also been nationally recognized for their contributions to water quality. A June 2016 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency decision on stormwater discharges from forest roads pointed to the positive contributions of SFI standards in improving state forestry best management practices (BMPs) for protecting water quality. By the end of 2018, more than 200,000 loggers and foresters had completed SFI-approved training programs.
Logger training in Georgia is delivered through the Georgia Master Timber Harvester program. It’s a voluntary logger education program offered by the Harley Langdale Center for Forest Business at Warnell and the Georgia SFI Implementation Committee in cooperation with the Georgia Forestry Association, Georgia Forestry Commission, Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Georgia Department of Public Safety and the Southeastern Wood Producers Association.
Puneet Dwivedi, associate professor of sustainability sciences at Warnell, has quantified the effect of SFI’s fiber sourcing standards in Georgia, which require logger training. Dwivedi demonstrated that BMPs for water quality are higher on harvested sites that are within the wood baskets of mills certified to the SFI Fiber Sourcing Standard. This research has been shared with landowners, educators, legislators, and others to highlight the role of forest certification in forest sustainability.