The close of 1994 marked the end of one era in forestry and the
start of another when members of the American Forest & Paper
Association (AF&PA) adopted the principles and guidelines
of the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI ). Through the SFI,
AF&PA members have established a major industry goal: to enhance
the environment by visibly changing the practice of forestry on
industrial forestland, especially as it pertains to water quality,
wildlife and biodiversity. Equally important, AF&PA members
are engaging loggers and private woodland owners in an ongoing
dialogue to encourage reforestation, to use environmental Best
Management Practices, and to improve the appearance of harvesting
Today - two years later - AF&PA members are on their way toward
meeting the goal of sustainable forestry. Through the collection
and analysis of reports from individual companies, AF&PA compiled
data on environmental performance across the industry. This information
- available for the first time in 1996 - is being used to identify
trends in the practice of sustainable forestry. The data cover
a variety of topics ranging from harvesting practices to wildlife
habitat diversity on more than 52 million acres members own or
control. An independent panel of experts, who recently reviewed
the second annual sustainable forestry progress report, noted
the significant positive change underway in America's forests
being fostered by the SFI.
AF&PA is about to issue the second Annual Progress
Report. For the first time it has been possible to compare data
and the results are quite positive:
- The number of loggers trained more than doubled
- from 3 300 to 7 800.
- Trained loggers delivered over 60 percent
of the raw material used to make paper and wood products, compared
to 34 percent in 1995.
- The number of non-industrial private foresters
receiving information on sustainable forestry grew from 35 300
in 1995 to over 40 000 in 1996.
- Member companies spent US$61.9 million on research
related to forestry, wildlife and the environment a 17.6 percent
increase over the 1995 figure.
- The average size of clearcuts declined from 66
acres in 1995 to 61 acres in 1996.
- Total acres reforested in 1996 equalled 1.2 million.
This was about the same level as 1995, so a trend is not yet
This is the first time this type of data have been
collected in the US. More information will enable AF&PA to
continually improve its programme and measure the progress.
Public expectations regarding the management of
US forests has grown dramatically. A more educated and aware
public now demands that industry be better stewards of the forest
resource. Forest management is no longer simply cutting trees
- rather, it is essential to manage for multiple societal values
such as wildlife, biodiversity, aesthetics, and water quality
protection. In other words, the power of the American public
to withdraw AF&PA's social license to continue managing forests
is not underestimated. Therefore, their demands must be met.
Growing consumer awareness is now impacting the
market. A growing number of contractors, architects and retailers
are looking for supplies of "sustainably produced" forest
products. Government procurement policies are written to favour
"environmentally preferable" products. The intergovernmental
dialogue is focusing on "market based incentives" to
encourage sustainable forest management. Not only is caring for
the environment the right thing to do, there is mounting pressure
by government and businesses to address the issue.
Through the SFI, AF&PA is working to respond
to public concerns, and the response has been positive. However,
the global market place will demand that other producers take
similar steps as well. If the American public demands accountability
and responsibility from its own industry, foreign suppliers will
face similar pressures.
As industry is globally changing, new and better
ways of cooperation are continuously being sought even though
there is the need sometimes to operate under very different cultural,
political and social systems - this means that all concerned can't
and shouldn't approach sustainability in the same way. Although
the destination is a common one, the paths to take to get there
will necessarily be different.
The forest products industry has now participated
in three meetings of the International Forestry Roundtable process.
Last year in Chile, ten countries met to discuss industry's vision
and principles of sustainable forestry. Just as the chemical
industry globally came to agreement on a set of environment and
health and safety standards through the Responsible Care programme,
the forest products industry also needs to agree on the basic
vision and principle behind sustainable forestry. AF&PA will
continue to work with its counterparts globally to ensure this