Collaboration for Conservation in the Southern Blue Ridge

The Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) and the Forest Stewards Guild have brought together partners who live and work in the Southern Blue Ridge, including Evergreen Packaging (a business unit of Pactiv Evergreen), an SFI-certified company, to collaborate on forest conservation approaches. Forests of the Southern Blue Ridge are biologically rich and span Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. The area supports a diverse ecosystem, provides recreational opportunities, and is a source of sustainable forest products. Stakeholders have identified mountain oak forests and mountain cove forests as two types of forest worthy of conservation attention, to help ensure the health and vitality of this unique place.

Project partners identified areas of collaboration to address a few key themes, with a focus on leveraging the SFI Fiber Sourcing Standard. One priority was to examine enhancements to water quality practices for ecological benefits. This aligns well with the SFI Fiber Sourcing Standard requirements for all participants to adhere to water quality best management practices (BMPs). Additional themes include leveraging landowner outreach approaches under the SFI Fiber Sourcing Standard requirements, piloting land-management practices to connect separately owned parcels of land, and broadening the impact of conservation strategies.

With a particular focus on the Southern Blue Ridge in North Carolina, the project aims to use the momentum of the forest marketplace, and a shared sustainability vision, to improve biodiversity outcomes in the regions’ forests. The project’s success will depend on collaborative engagement, a mutual commitment to conservation, and developing specific strategies.

Q: What does SFI bring to the project?

A: Paul Trianosky, Chief Conservation Officer, SFI

Sustainably managed forests are critical for our collective future for so many reasons ranging from mitigating climate change to protecting fresh water. Certification provides assurances of performance, through audited actions relative to forest management and procurement activities. The SFI Fiber Sourcing Standard is unique among forest certification systems because it ensures responsible fiber procurement and conservation action on forestland, regardless of whether that land is certified or not. Responsible procurement offers many benefits including protecting biodiversity and water resources, using trained harvesting professionals, and landowner outreach to build understanding of sustainable practices. In addition to our standard, SFI brings convening experience, and a network of diverse partners committed to solving complex problems. This project presents a new way to think about the power of fiber sourcing certification, as a tool to leverage conservation.

Q: What does the Guild bring to the project?

A: Jennifer L. Chandler, Southeast Region Manager, Forest Stewards Guild

The Guild brings real expertise within this region and the ability to connect conservation efforts across a range of landowners.With numerous SFI Fiber Sourcing certified facilities within or near the Southern Blue Ridge region of North Carolina, we realized the potential of Fiber Sourcing requirements to positively impact forest conservation using responsible forest management approaches. We were uniquely situated to align landowners, procurement foresters, non-profit partners, and mills with actions to improve conservation outcomes on the ground. The Guild brought together the needed experts and practitioners from across the region to best connect sustainable supply chains with critical conservation action.

Q: How does Evergreen see its place in promoting conservation outcomes in the Southern Blue Ridge of North Carolina?

A: Gregory Ward, Fiber Certification Manager, Evergreen Packaging

Evergreen is interested in sourcing fiber from forests that are sustainably managed for forest health and species diversity. Through our fiber procurement activities, we have an opportunity to promote responsible forestry practices and reinforce favorable outcomes such as protecting water quality, biodiversity, and following BMPs.
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