In its 150th year, Canada has a lot to celebrate including what deserves to be at the very top of the list — our forests. 

Without healthy forests, our shared quality of life would be in jeopardy. That’s why at the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), we believe we all share a fundamental relationship with forests.

Forests clean the air we breathe and the water we drink, store carbon to mitigate climate change, and provide habitats for an incredible range of species. Water is just one example of why we can’t live without forests — nearly two-thirds of the water Canadians drink comes from our forests. Forests also provide the many wood and paper products that we use every day, along with opportunities to enjoy the great outdoors.

Communities across Canada also depend on forests to sustain their economies. More than 650 Canadian communities rely on forestry, half of those depend on forestry for at least 50 percent of household income, and about 160 of those communities are solely reliant on forestry.

Forests also provide a future for the next generation of green jobs, as foresters rely on teams that include biologists, hydrologists, and many other skilled workers. SFI is helping to build this future by supporting education and training for youth, so they see a future for themselves as environmentalists working in the forest sector.

But to realize these fundamental environmental, social, and economic benefits, we need to ensure our forests are responsibly managed and valued by all Canadians. SFI works with the forest sector, brand owners, conservation groups, resource professionals, landowners, local communities, Indigenous peoples, governments, universities, and educators to conserve forests and make sure working forests are managed sustainably.

The SFI Conservation and Community Partnerships Grant Program helps to bring these and other groups together on behalf of forests in the spirit of cooperation. SFI has awarded grants totalling more than $3.4 million. When leveraged with project partner contributions, that total investment exceeds $13.2 million.

On an individual level, I like to get people thinking about and understanding the value of forests by encouraging them to buy responsibly sourced forest products. The more value we place on these products, the more likely we are to have vibrant forests and sustainable communities. 

As we celebrate Canada’s birthday, take some time to cherish the forests that have shaped our past and will define our future.

Kathy Abusow is President and CEO of SFI Inc., an independent, non-profit sustainability leader that stands for future forests.