FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 12, 2021
Washington, D.C. and Ottawa, ON—The Sustainable Forestry Initiative Inc. (SFI) is pleased to announce the Minnesota SFI Implementation Committee as the 2021 winner of the SFI Implementation Committee Achievement Award. This award recognizes the exceptional work done by the grassroots network of 34 SFI Implementation Committees across the U.S. and Canada. These committees respond to local needs and priorities related to implementation of SFI standards, conservation, community, and education work.
The Minnesota SFI Implementation Committee was selected for successfully connecting the efforts of teachers and youth to Indigenous cultures and sustainability and for working with partner organizations to build bat-boxes that help battle white-nose syndrome, a disease caused by a fungus that affects hibernating bats. The Minnesota SFI Implementation Committee’s leadership shows how critical the SFI Implementation Committees are to SFI’s success in advancing community engagement and sustainability through forest-focused collaboration.
“SFI is committed to building and promoting forest-focused collaborations that respect Indigenous Peoples’ rights and traditional knowledge. We also work tirelessly to conserve at‑risk species including bats and are thrilled with the Minnesota SFI Implementation Committee’s leadership,” said Kathy Abusow, SFI’s President and CEO. “The Minnesota SFI Implementation Committee is being recognized for its commitment to broadening awareness of Indigenous cultural values and species at risk. In both cases, they also collaborated with partners, which is a hallmark of SFI’s work.”
Curriculum that reflects Indigenous culture, language, values, and ways of learning
The Minnesota SFI Implementation Committee saw an opportunity to adapt Project Learning Tree (PLT) lessons to help engage Indigenous youth by including educational perspectives that affirm and value their unique cultural identities. Project Learning Tree, an initiative of SFI, advances environmental literacy, stewardship, and career pathways using trees and forests as windows on the world. After consulting the Office of American Indian Education, the committee hired Larissa Harris, a Native American educator, to adapt six Project Learning Tree lessons to better relate to Indigenous people, and to educate non-Indigenous people about Indigenous perspectives.
Harris relied on her close ties to Ojibwe and Dakota communities in northern Minnesota. She researched and wrote detailed content about how Ojibwe and Dakota people use and manage forests for homes, food, industry, recreation, and spiritual purposes. The revised lessons reflect Indigenous culture, language, values, and ways of learning. The completed lessons will be posted on the state’s PLT website and are available to all Minnesota teachers. These lessons will help serve state teaching standards that require Indigenous curriculum.
Increasing forest literacy through youth engagement
The Minnesota SFI Implementation Committee partnered with SFI-certified organizations Boy Scouts and West Fraser along with Bat Conservation International and Minnesota Power to build 70 bat boxes using wood from SFI‑certified forests.
The project supports SFI’s focus on building youth forest literacy by making connections to forests and biodiversity. Several forest bat species are affected by white-nose syndrome, and up to 90% of some populations have disappeared in Minnesota. Bats are now being considered for the endangered species list. Youth learned how bats can raise their young safely in these boxes so they can repopulate the skies of Minnesota.
“We want to thank SFI for the community grant, which allowed us to leverage funding to make these projects possible. One of the hallmarks of SFI is its work in community outreach and sustainability. Together, SFI and the SFI Implementation Committees make an invaluable contribution to promoting sustainable forestry,” said Quintin Legler, Chair of the Minnesota SFI Implementation Committee.
Both projects were funded by the SFI Community Grant Program and support SFI’s commitment to better choices for people and the planet.