Since its premiere at the Great Lakes Forest Alliance Conference in June, Forest floor to Showroom Floor: Marketing Green Forestry in Minnesota has generated quite a buzz. So much so that we decided to post the video on our web site. We still have a few copies of the DVD here at the office so email vfvc@blandinfoundation.org if you’d like a copy. Please include your name and mailing address.

The video tells an important story about forests, people, communities and change. It was produced by FretlessFilms Writer and Director John Whitehead for the Blandin Foundation’s Vital Forests/Vital Communities initiative.


Folks interested in enhancing the role forest-based industries play in sustaining our region’s economy, environment and quality of life have plenty of reasons to attend next week’s Crisis or Opportunity? – Sustaining and Strengthening Forest-Based Industries in the Great Lakes Region conference in Madison.

The June 23-25 meeting is being organized by the Great Lakes Forest Alliance, a non-profit organization established to foster and facilitate cooperative efforts that enhance the social, economic and environmental values of forests in Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Ontario.

Besides sessions on forestland ownership trends, conservation easements, and forestry’s role in the bioeconomy, participants will have a chance to attend the world premiere of a new video, Forest Floor to Showroom Floor: Marketing “Green Forestry” in Minnesota. Produced by John Whitehead and Fretless Films for Blandin Foundation’s Vital Forests/Vital Communities initiatives. The thirteen-minute documentary examines the impact on forestry, forest products and local economies of Aitkin County Land Department’s now ten-year commitment to third party certification through the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).

The video includes footage from Aitkin County’s latest FSC audit, follows Aitkin County’s local, value-added chain-of-custody for certified forest products, and illustrates how third party certification supports the county’s overall approach to practicing ecologically-based and economically-viable forestry. [John Whitehead also produced and directored another Blandin-commissioned video product, Minnesota: A History of the Land – The Northern Forest, which chronicles efforts to understand and restore Minnesota’s forest landscape in the face of the increasing threat of parcelization and fragmentation.]

A newly updated report to be released at the conference provides the larger context for the Aitkin story. Prepared by Dovetails Partners with support from Blandin Foundation, The Great Lakes Region: A Forest Certification Hub documents the Great Lakes Region’s continued leadership in forest certification efforts, representing 29% of all the certified forestland in the United States. And in just the first six months of 2008, at least 120 new companies in the region have achieved chain-of-custody certification, allowing them to label and market certified products.

From Forest Floor to Showroom Floor does a great job of telling the human story behind this success, including the importance of local vision and leadership, in Aitkin’s case, provided so ably by Aitkin’s modest but impressive Land Commissioner Mark Jacobs.

To order a copy of the Forest Floor to Showroom floor video, email vfvc@blandinfoundation.org

So What? All of us working to make a positive difference in the world ask ourselves that question. “So What?” “Are our efforts on target?” “What lessons can we learn?” “What next?” “How can we do better?”

After four years and nearly $8 million in investments , these questions are increasingly front and center for those of us working on Blandin Foundation’s VFVC Initiative.

In service to the Initiative’s objectives and to the Foundation’s commitment to sharing our learning, we are launching this new VFVC Blog. We hope this tool will help us all advance our shared commitment to promoting the connections between a healthy forest-based economy, healthy forest ecosystems and healthy communities.

One on-going focus of the Initiative is to encourage sustainable forestry, including by increasing the amount of forested land being managed under third-party certification programs.

As part of this work, the Foundation has provided financial and operational support to six northern Minnesota counties – Becker, Beltrami, Carlton, Clearwater, Crow Wing and Koochiching – to cooperatively undertake the process of preparing themselves for certification.

County Representatives, 2006
Photo above: County representatives participating in a work session, March, 2006.

Recently, we commissioned an evaluation of this work to date. We are pleased to share the results with you here in the form of an Executive Summary or the Full Report.

One of the study’s key findings is that the participating county land commissioners believe that “certification is the present and future of forest management.” Vital Forests/Vital Communities is eager to continue to be a resource for county and other certification efforts in our state, and we welcome your input as we figure out the best opportunities to do so.

As we at Blandin contemplate the “So What?” question and deliberate on what to do next, we invite your comments and feedback.