As 2001 rolled into its first breath of spring, the Southeast saw rise to a new alliance whose sole mission is dealing with sustainable forestry and landowner outreach.
Unlike other multi-organizational groups, the Southern Sustainable Forestry Alliance (SSFA), as it is called, reaches out to not only conservation organizations, but also to landowners, foresters, loggers, mill operators, herb gatherers and anyone working with the long-term, sustainable management of forests.
In late March, the SSFA met for the first time in Moulton, Alabama. Over half a dozen groups from all over the Southeast from Alabama to Virginia met for a weekend of questions and answers. There were more questions than answers, but there was a consensus that the practice of sustainable forestry, or social forestry as some may call it, is one of the hottest issues in private land forestry in the south.
As mandated by the first gathering, the SSFA met again on June 9, 2001 to once again share ideas about private lands forestry. Conservation organizations, foresters, and forest landowners attended the second gathering, much like the first. The meeting was held in beautiful southwestern Virginia at the Natural Tunnel State Park.
At this meeting, the group focused more on the path of the SSFA. Identifying the mission, vision, and goals; brainstorming ways to reach a wider audience; and committing to several collaboration efforts to empower landowners in the methods of long-term, uneven aged management.
The meeting’s highlight was a presentation by the highly successful Northern Forest Alliance out of Montpelier, Vermont. Michael Giamusso, policy and program coordinator for the NFA, gave a 90-minute account of 10 years of celebratory successes. The NFA works with 40 different conservation groups, foresters, land trusts, and consultants to manage nearly 6 million acres combined in the northern forest.
The Northern Forest Alliance’s present and future projects are impressive and revolutionary in scope. The SSFA saw many correlations to the issues of sustainable forestry and landowner outreach in the north. Landowners in both locales seem interested in finding alternatives to the damaging impacts of clearcutting and other heavy-handed logging practices.
The SSFA exists solely to reach out to private landowners looking to change the way their forests are managed. The group supports value-added techniques, non-timber forest products, economical solar kilns and overall health of southern forests and the communities that flourish from them. Participants see the shift going to less impactive methods of timber harvest, utilizing artisan co-ops, and the increased education of forest landowners as a major step to strengthening rural economies that rely on the forest for their livelihood.
The outlook for this newly organized collection of forestry advocates looks promising. With the guidance and knowledge of their northern counterpart, the SSFA is sure to make its mark and become a strong leader in private lands outreach. The current 50 members are already working on a southeastern landowners guide, position papers, and an educational video of up and running sustainable communities in the South. The group has also started an online virtual office in which to communicate and educate those working in sustainable forestry.
The next meeting is set for sometime early in November in Asheville, NC. The alliance welcomes all who are interested in sustainable forestry and its long-term economic benefits. If you would like to learn more about the SSFA or attend the next gathering, contact Zog Aitken, Appalachian Voices’ forester, at email@example.com or (828) 225-9685.