Michigan’s timber industry adopts new operational standards

The Michigan forest products industry has adopted the Standard Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI)’s new Standards and Rules for 2015.

The Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) first developed Standards and Rules for the management and harvesting of timberlands in 1995. Michigan’s forest products industry voluntarily adopted these standards as operational guidelines for how timberlands should be managed and harvested across the state.

To meet the needs of shifting public expectations, changing environmental factors and changes in scientific research these SFI standards are reviewed, modified and updated on a five-year cycle. Following extensive public review, they published and introduced newly-enhanced Standards and Rules in January 2015.

The SFI’s goal is to ensure the health and future of our forests. This “health” encompasses the broad spectrum of forest ecology including wildlife, water quality, threatened and endangered species and much more in addition to providing for a healthy sustainable timber resource. The newly-revised standards mandate the use of comprehensive water quality practices that go beyond current legal requirements. They also emphasize protection of sensitive sites for the better protection of species of concern.

One area that was newly-addressed in this revision deals with Indigenous Peoples. As part of this new objective, program participants need to be aware of traditional forest-related knowledge, such as known cultural heritage sites, the use of wood in traditional buildings and crafts, and flora that may be used in cultural practices for food, ceremonies or medicine.

This Indigenous Peoples’ rights effort is to be applied on both public and private lands. Currently Michigan has just less than five million acres of forestlands certified under the SFI standards. These certified lands include most of the state owned forest lands and in total encompass more than 25 percent of the state’s total timber resource.

Michigan State University Extension has been involved in providing training for logging professionals since the initial implementation of the SFI program. One example of this continued educational effort is the upcoming 11th Annual Sustainable Forestry Conference cosponsored by MSU Extension, offered on April 16.

It is hoped that through continued effort by the forest products industry to follow the voluntary standards outlined in the Standards and Rules, our timber resources and all the inner related forest ecology factors will remain healthy and sustainable through generations to come.

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