Forest Industry Safety & Training Alliance, Inc.

Ben Parsons, FISTA Training CoordinatorMarch 2013

Why SFI®?

As a father of three, with my twins being four years of age, I have become very accustomed to a child’s favorite question: “why?” The inquisitive nature within my kids has prompted some very interesting conversations about the farthest stars, the deepest sea and everything in between. I often wonder why, as adults, we tend to lose this curiosity and fail to have a desire to see the big picture. I too have been guilty of sometimes catching myself going through the daily grind, paying no mind to “why” and the impact I am, or should be, making through my daily efforts.

In the short term, the question “why” is easily answered. It’s the long term reason to the “why” questions that we as humans typically struggle with or ignore altogether. There are also “why” questions that have both a short term and long term answer. In these situations, our nature is to focus on the short term answer and ignore the more important, long term result. I witness prime examples of this during many of our educational opportunities. Many individuals claim their participation in FISTA’s SFI training classes is to “keep their contract with the mill”. While this is a very valid reason for attending a FISTA-organized SFI workshop, let’s not miss the big picture and how the SFI program benefits our present and future industry.

In the 1980’s we began seeing firsthand the impacts and concerns about illegal logging, primarily focused in developing countries. What’s ironic is that public concerns about forest management on our home turf is what drove, in my opinion, some of the demand for wood products out of the U.S. and into these other countries to begin with. Granted, we still had a need to improve upon our own forest management practices. Nonetheless, we were light years ahead of our foreign competitors.

Fast forward to the 1990’s when voluntary third-party forest certification came into play. In 1992, the United Nations held a Conference on Environment and Sustainable Development. (Hmmm, does that term “sustainable development” ring a bell?) The American Forest and Paper Association’s response to the visions discussed at this conference was the adoption in 1994 of the Sustainable Forestry Initiative or SFI program as we now commonly recognize.

Global marketing challenges in the forest products industry aren’t usually the topic of discussion among independent logging contractors, but they do exist. The principles and objectives of the SFI program were developed, in part, by professional loggers, foresters and scientists to combine environmental responsibility with proven business practices in order to ensure future generations a viable forest resource. Capitalizing on the ability to stand behind the SFI program’s performance measures can be a decisive advantage in today’s competitive markets. The benefits of your commitment to the SFI program by registering for FISTA workshops ultimately and collectively results in a healthier resource and a stronger economy for future generations. And that, is the short version of the long term answer to why FISTA wholeheartedly supports training and educational opportunities in the SFI program.

For more information on the Sustainable Forestry Initiative and how we can “do well by doing good”, please visit their website at Also, be sure to review FISTA’s 2013 SFI training workshop schedule in this issue of TPA magazine, or on our website at

Ben Parsons, FISTA Training Coordinator, is originally from West “By God”, Virginia as they say in that part of the Appalachian Mountains. His family’s deeply rooted philosophy of living off the land was monumental in deciding to earn a degree in Forest Management from West Virginia University.  Throughout his career, Ben has had the opportunity to tackle a wide variety of assignments.  He measured Forest Inventory and Analysis research plots in Virginia and Georgia, been involved with urban and utility forestry operations throughout the Appalachian region, procured lowland hardwood timber in the swamps of South Georgia, managed logging contracts and harvest operations in Arkansas and specialized in water quality and harvest planning as well as fighting forest fires in Virginia. As FISTA Training Coordinator, helping to meet your safety and educational needs is the number one priority here at FISTA.  For more information, contact Ben at 800-551-2656 or