The Georgia Forestry Association Seizes on the Unique Opportunities to Provide Value to the Forestry Community
Written By: Matt Hested Summer 2020
The COVID-19 pandemic has presented several challenges and opportunities for the forestry economy in Georgia and the U.S. As demand and market dynamics continued to shift throughout the first half of the year, the Georgia Forestry Association (GFA) has worked closely with its volunteer leaders to identify ways to adapt the execution of its programs so we can continue to provide value to those who have invested in working forests and manufacturing assets across the state. That effort has resulted in taking a bold step to restructure GFA’s in-person Annual Conference to a fully virtual event that attracts a national forestry audience while also pivoting through the Georgia Forestry Foundation to focus on providing at-home education resources to parents, caregivers and educators.
Leading a National Forestry Conversation
Landowners, logging operations and forest product manufacturers have all been presented with great challenges in the wake of the pandemic. Mill curtailments and shifts in consumer demand have caused a ripple in the American economy that has enhanced some forest product markets while putting downward pressure on others. As GFA looked for opportunities to restructure its Annual Conference, it became clear that a gather- ing of the American forestry community was necessary to ensure that business leaders are positioned to address the current challenges while growing future opportunities to leverage America’s working forests as a solution. On July 27-30, GFA hosted the first-ever American Forestry Conference, an all-virtual event that united national leaders and experts in forest policy, business and economics to provide critical insight on the current and future state of America’s forestry industry.
“For centuries, scientists, business leaders and foresters have turned to trees for answers, and they have delivered essential products and solutions that have literally helped to build our nation,” said GFA President and CEO Andres Villegas. “Our forests are positioned to continue meeting and exceeding the needs of our society today and in the future. I believe this conference provided attendees information and insights that helped them to make informed decisions about their forestry and manufacturing assets across the nation.” The conference featured general sessions and roundtable discussions with more than 30 speakers including Congressional Minority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy, Ivanka Trump, Rep. Bruce Westerman, Rep. Sanford Bishop, Governors from several major forestry states and CEOs from Weyerhaeuser, Georgia-Pacific and WestRock. Event attendees gained more than 16 hours of continuing education credits and were provided with opportunities to interact with speakers and other attendees in a virtual environment.
Georgia Forestry Foundation: Bringing Working Forests to At-Home Learning
Sandi Parrish, Pine Grove Elementary School teacher.
Starting in mid-March, schools around the state closed their doors, and parents, caregivers and educators had to adjust quickly to continue education efforts from home. The Georgia Forestry Foundation (GFF) responded by pivoting education efforts to create a campaign focused on providing fun and interactive forestry education resources for parents and educators across our state.
The campaign leveraged GFF’s relationships with Georgia Public Broadcasting (GPB), the Chattahoochee Nature Center, Georgia Forestry Commission and Project Learning Tree to meet the increased demand for engaging education content that can be delivered to K-12th grade students across the state. Support and funding for these partnerships ar made possible thanks to the support of GFF donors.
Sandi Parrish, teacher at Pine Grove Elementary School in Valdosta, Georgia, said the tools were easy to use and implement in her online classroom.
“I just want to thank GFF for getting these educational resources out to teachers across the state,” Parrish said. “It has helped me immensely in making online teaching a fun and interactive experience for my 66 students. It is easy to use for me as a teacher and my students.”
The effect of the pandemic on the education environment has further reinforced the value of GFF’s investment in building a digital forestry curriculum through a partnership with GPB. This partnership started in 2017 and has provided world-class learning experiences focused on working forests for students in grades 3-12.
“When we originally established our partnership with GPB, our goal was to ensure that children across Georgia, no matter their geography or socio-economic status, could have access to quality forestry education resources from a trusted organization,” said GFF Chairman Ken Stewart. “With education leaders around the state determining the best path forward for their schools, it has reiterated the need for these resources tobe accessed digitally from any location.
We will continue to work with educators and our partners to ensure that the next generation of Georgians understands the benefits of working forests whether they are educated at home or online.”
As education leaders determine whether or not students will return to school in August, GFF leadership plans to capitalize on this campaign to continue outreach to parents and educators. Recently, GPB and GFF launched a forestry career game called Make that Paper, which focuses on building career readiness for high school students across the state. To learn more and play the game, go to www.gpb.org/education/forestry.
“We are excited to launch this tool, which will be a continuation of our investment to provide fun and interactive resources to students at a state-wide level,” said GFA President and CEO Andres Villegas. “Between our existing resources and this new feature, more and more students will learn about the importance of working forests and forest product industries, the types of jobs in the forestry sector and the skills needed to be successful.” TO LEARN MORE about the Georgia Forestry Foundation and its education initiatives, visit www.gffgrow.org. To learn how you can support the foundation, contact Development Director Jo Hodges at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Matt Hestad is the Executive Director of Communications & Strategy for the Georgia Forestry Association (GFA). GFA is the premier advocate for a healthy political and business environment for Georgia’s working forests, forest landowners and forestry-related businesses.
Georgia Forestry Magazine is published by HL Strategy, an integrated marketing and communications firm focused on our nation's biggest challenges and opportunities. Learn more at hlstrategy.com