New Forest Management Standard Helps SFI® Strengthen Aboriginal and Tribal Relations

By Andrew de Vries

The Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) works to ensure forest health through its Forest Management Standard, while strengthening its relationships with aboriginal and tribal groups. The new SFI 2015-2019 Forest Management Standard builds on principles shared by aboriginal groups, and is designed to enhance the relationship between sustainable forestry and those groups.

SFI has a strong track record of addressing Aboriginal interests, and more Aboriginal groups use SFI than any other forest certification standard. Over 25 Aboriginal and tribal groups in Canada and the U.S. have over 3 million hectares certified to the SFI Standard. In Canada, there are lands managed to the SFI standard in B.C., Saskatchewan and Ontario. The SFI Standard continues to grow in popularity with Aboriginal communities that have land-management responsibilities because it’s aligned with traditional values.

“We specialize in the management of First Nations forestry operations. Our clients’ territories range from the central mainland coast through north, west and south Vancouver Island to the southern Interior. We found that a significant number of the SFI principles incorporated the objectives, values and goals of our First Nations clients for long-term management of their land base,” said Corby Lamb, President of Capacity Forest Management, which is certified to the SFI Forest Management Standard.

The 2015-2019 Forest Management Standard explicitly recognizes that forests are central to the cultural beliefs and livelihoods of many Aboriginal peoples with a new objective called “Recognize and Respect Indigenous Peoples’ Rights.” This new objective reflects SFI forest management requirements about respect for Aboriginal rights and values.

SFI principles include sustainable forest management, protecting water quality, maintaining biodiversity, and conserving wildlife habitat. The SFI Standard also directly respects traditional aboriginal knowledge about forests, the identification and protection of historical and culturally important sites, and the use of non-timber forest products. The SFI Standard’s strong focus on training and knowledge transfer helps facilitate passing knowledge from tribal elders to foresters, loggers and youth.

“As an SFI Board member, I am pleased that the new standard reflects aboriginal values more strongly, and that Aboriginal peoples in Canada and tribes in the U.S. were able to provide direct input to the standard revision,” said Chief David Walkem, President of Stuwix Resources in British Columbia.

SFI reaches out to the Aboriginal community in many ways, including by maintaining relationships with organizations such as the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business (CCAB).

“SFI’s memorandum of understanding with the CCAB helps grow our relationship, engagement and outreach with the aboriginal community by encouraging SFI Program Participants to seek certification under the CCAB’s Progressive Aboriginal Relations program. We were pleased to see TimberWest join the CCAB in 2014 and continue its commitments to forming valuable relationships with aboriginal business and communities,” said Kathy Abusow, President and CEO of SFI.

Another way SFI builds relationships is through the SFI Conservation and Community Partnerships Grant Program. Several tribal and First Nations organizations have been successful in obtaining grants, including Tk’emlups and Heiltsuk First Nation. The Heiltsuk will use spatial analysis in GIS to improve understanding of location and importance of culturally-modified trees distributed throughout Heiltsuk Traditional Territory.

SFI values its relationships with Aboriginal communities and tribal communities in Canada and the U.S. and hopes to continue to build these relationships.

Andrew de Vries is the SFI Vice President of Conservation and Indigenous Relations. For more information on SFI’s aboriginal programs please contact Andrew de Vries ( or 613-424-8734).