Monday, October 09, 2006

Seeing and saving the forest as well as the trees

If you're looking for an example of a comprehensive approach to community development based on the integration of sound conservation and economic principles, grab a parka and head north (northeast to be precise). The Vermont Family Forests program offers a vision that is a unique blend of new-age idealism and down-to-earth Yankee pragmatism. Oh yeah, it also seems to be working on all levels. (GW)

Vermont Family Forests (VFF) is a non-profit family forest conservation organization that promotes the conservation of forest community health, and when appropriate, promotes careful cultivation of local family forests for community benefits. At VFF, we believe that the three great conservers of family forests are well-informed forest stewards, sound economic returns from ecological forestry, and a community-shared land ethic. VFF promotes management which provides for human needs while preserving the forest's capacity to maintain itself as a healthy, natural ecosystem.

The mission of VFF is to conserve the health of the forest community, and when appropriate, to promote the careful cultivation of local family forests for community benefits.

VFF has developed many systems and tools to support the family forest steward. VFF provides family forest stewards with affordable access to FSC certification. VFF makes products such as non-petroleum bar and chain oil, and publications, such as log and tree scale and grade systems, management plan templates, sample contracts, and forest health monitoring protocols readily available to family forest stewards.

VFF conducts research through teams of natural resource managers, forest ecologists, community organizers, ecological economists and other private contractors. Our most recently completed project assessed the availability of sustainably harvested, local, forest biomass as a fuel source for Middlebury College. The report received high praise from Middlebury College.

VFF continues to work on the groundbreaking Community Forests Project, which seeks to create conservation easements that actually conserve the health of the forest while valuing the forest so that landowners receive reasonable returns on their investments. This is a critically important element, in that even if landowners increase their success in the forest product marketplace exponentially, the gap between the values of land as forest and developed land continue to widen.

VFF has developed and tested a unique Community Supported Forestry System that is circular, collaborative, and local. In the VFF CSF System, forest products flow from healthy forests through local value-adding processes and are then sold as branded products to well-informed customers. More value is generated in the local community and more value is returned to the forest and the stewards of the forest. VFF experiments have identified substantial demand for high quality forest products that originate from healthy local forests and that result from collaborative local value adding.


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