Seven Islands History of Sustainability
In the early 1990's, Seven Islands' management team became progressively frustrated by the rapidly growing public perception that all forest management practices were environmentally unsound. The managers knew that their approach to forestry was sound, but had no tangible way to distinguish their practices in the eyes of the public. They thought about trying to market their wood as a ‘green’ product, but could not find a practical way of demonstrating this. Then, in 1993, management read a magazine article that referenced ‘certified’ environmental products. The article referred to certifiers of environmental ‘green’ claims made by industry.
It turned out there was a special forest conservation program, concentrating in forest management and the certification of well-managed forests. Seven Islands decided to undergo an assessment of the company's forest management practices. At the very least the assessment would be a worthwhile internal audit - a critical review by an independent party.
A team of experts representing three different scientific disciplines was assembled, conducted an in-depth study during the summer and fall of 1993. The team independently chose over sixty sites for field investigation. They examined historic harvesting records and prospective management plans. Since good forest management is not limited to the forest, the team also evaluated Seven Islands' relationships with its employees, customers, contractors, and the communities influenced by its operations. All criteria were given a quantitative score and factored by a weight multiplier, and then totaled to arrive at three final scores. The evaluation encompassed three basic areas: 1) the sustainability of the forest resource, 2) maintenance of the health of the ecosystem, and 3) community benefits and financial considerations. Seven Islands scored sufficiently high to pass in all three categories and thus, was certified as a ‘Well-Managed Forest.’ In its final report the evaluation team stated that it was ‘favorably impressed by Seven Islands’ management program and the integration of wildlife and general forest ecosystem considerations into that program.’
With that report Seven Islands became the largest certified forest in the northern hemisphere. Seven Islands' lands have since undergone annual audits and re-certifications. In 1995, Seven Islands’ ‘Well-Managed Forest’ label transitioned under the Forest Stewardship Council’s certificate and is to known today as FSC® certified (FSC License Code: FSC-C017694). Additionally, in 1999, the lands were certified by the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) becoming one of a few dual-certified forests of the time. Since then, SFI has evolved to the largest certification program in the US when measured by acres certified to their standard. Certification is one way of demonstrating Seven Islands’ commitment to this forest’s future and to the region overall.
Seven Islands has a staff of thirty two, approximately twenty of whom are graduate or licensed professional foresters. Our management can be best described as focusing on natural forest systems. Timber from Seven Islands land is sold to regional, mills, a number of which are independent, family-owned enterprises. Many of the mill and harvesting contractor relationships go back several generations.
Over the years, many mills have received chain-of-custody certification for the production of certified forest products. Certified forest products - construction lumber, cedar shingles, hardwood lumber, and hardwood flooring, for example - are now available in the marketplace. Over the years, Seven Islands Land Company has remained committed to strengthening the position of certified forest products through value-added manufacturing in the New England and Canadian maritime region.
In 1990 the Pingree family deeded over 5,000 acres to the Nature Conservancy for the Big Reed Forest Reserve.
In 2001 the family partnered with the New England Forestry Foundation to protect approximately 80 percent of the Pingree forest from development, while continuing the focus on keeping the timberlands productive.
Seven Islands has also pioneered cooperative management agreements with the State of Maine and other landowners to protect valuable wildlife habitat such as deeryards, heron rookeries, falcon and eagle nesting sites, and unique natural areas for rare and endangered species such as the Furbish lousewort. We support and encourage research projects such as the Manomet observatory's study of migratory bird populations in selectively managed forests currently being conducted in our forest. Our forest lands are open to the public for traditional recreational use.