“We have found that collaboration with a diverse array of partners, such as AFF, GreenBlue, the Forest Service and Esri, has provided us a deeper understanding into our supply chain and the importance of family-owned forests,” said Rachel Goldstein, Global Sustainability Director at Mars.
WASHINGTON (PRWEB) April 17, 2018
Today, the American Forest Foundation (AFF) and GreenBlue announced the collaboration of a diverse set of partners that will support the development of a new forest sustainability tool that complements forest certification. The digital mapping tool, called Forests in Focus, will assess the sustainability of family-owned forests at the landscape-level, or across a wood supply region, in the United States.
The USDA Forest Service Research and Development division, and the Environmental Systems Research Institute, Inc. (Esri) will assist in the construction of Forests in Focus and populate it with authoritative data. Mars, McDonald’s, Staples and several other companies that source wood fiber from the U.S. will provide input in the tool’s development and, once complete, use the tool to inform their sustainability strategies.
“We have found that collaboration with a diverse array of partners, such as AFF, GreenBlue, the Forest Service and Esri, has provided us a deeper understanding into our supply chain and the importance of family-owned forests,” said Rachel Goldstein, Global Sustainability Director at Mars. “Collaboration and innovative technology solutions are essential for companies such as ours to better understand how we can support the sustainability of forests.”
Collectively, individual and family-owned land accounts for more than one-third of all forests across the United States, more forest land than the federal government manages on behalf of the public. These lands are owned by more than 21 million individual owners, in small tracts that average ten to 20 acres in size. According to the Forest Service, these lands collectively supply more than 50 percent of the wood harvested and flowing into supply chains in the U.S.
“Forests in Focus will help companies that source wood fiber have confidence that their supply from family woodlands is consistent with the values of sustainability and respect for the environment. This in turn will help sustain existing and support new markets for forest products for these families, giving them the income needed to continue to manage sustainably,” said Tom Martin, President and CEO of AFF.
“If market forces can align around a shared understanding of the real issues facing forests in a region, the potential for positive impact is immense,” said Nina Goodrich, Executive Director of GreenBlue. “Forests in Focus provides companies that opportunity.”
Forest certification has historically been used to provide assurance that specific practices are being used at the individual property level. While families and individuals continue to become certified each year, adoption rates remains relatively low. Forests in Focus is designed to complement existing forest certification systems, to show how all of the individual practices add up to sustainability at the landscape scale.
In addition, Forests in Focus will support companies in achieving their sustainable sourcing goals, by identifying gaps in sustainability across family forestland, and providing them with opportunities to create positive impacts through engagement of family landowners.
In order to provide a comprehensive view of family forestland, Forests in Focus will aggregate data from multiple sources, including from the Forest Service Forest Inventory and Analysis Program (FIA), which includes status and trends in forest area and location; in the species, size, and health of trees; in total tree growth, mortality, and removals by harvest; and more.
“The Forest Service is committed to ensuring the future of all forests, including family forests,” said Carlos Rodriguez-Franco, Deputy Chief of Forest Service Research and Development. “We are excited about the launch of this new tool build around FIA program data, which can help decision-makers across the board better support privately-owned forests.”
Esri, the global leader in spatial analytics will use ArcGIS, the world’s leading GIS platform to analyze this data and produce rich, multi-faceted visualizations of the assessment results.
“As a long-time partner of the Forest Service, we’re excited to bring new innovation in GIS and remote sensing technology to addressing this important need: understanding what’s happening in our forests,” said Peter Eredics, Global Forestry Manager and Forest Practices Lead at Esri. “We look forward to supporting this cutting edge endeavor.”
Forests in Focus is the result of a multi-year partnership led by AFF and GreenBlue’s Forest Products Working Group, a stakeholder group of more than 15 member companies including Staples Inc., Mars, McDonald’s, Havi, Sappi North America, Catalyst, Domtar Corporation, Georgia Pacific, Evergreen, International Paper and others. These stakeholders have prioritized the sustainability and health of U.S. forests, by collaborating with conservation organizations, federal agencies and more to identify and invest in new solutions for family-owned land.