Story | 06/15/2021 13:33:05 | 4 min Read time

Minnesota forest committee projects protect endangered species and increase cultural awareness

Minnesota forest committee wins national award for innovative projects protecting endangered species and increasing cultural awareness​.

Did you know one bat can consume 1,000 mosquito sized insects in just one hour? Bats are essential to the health of forest ecosystems as they spread seeds of trees and other plants playing a critical role in helping forest regrowth.  The Minnesota SFI Implementation Committee (SIC) is working with local partners to build boxes to protect young bats.  

The SIC has also successfully worked with a Native American educator to adapt Project Learning Tree (PLT) lessons to help engage Indigenous youth by including educational perspectives that value their unique cultural identities. Project Learning Tree, an initiative of SFI, advances environmental literacy, stewardship, and career pathways using trees and forests as windows on the world.  


​The Sustainable Forestry Initiative Inc. (SFI) recently announced the Minnesota SFI Implementation Committee as the 2021 winner of the SFI Implementation Committee Achievement Award. The Minnesota SFI Implementation Committee was selected for successfully connecting the efforts of teachers and youth to Indigenous cultures and working with partner organizations to build bat-boxes that help battle white-nose syndrome, a disease caused by a fungus that affects hibernating bats. 

The Minnesota SFI Implementation Committee is chaired by UPM Blandin Forest Resources Manager, Quintin Legler.  He says, “We want to thank SFI for the community grant, which allowed us to leverage funding to make these projects possible. One of the hallmarks of SFI is its work in community outreach and sustainability. Together, SFI and the SFI Implementation Committees make an invaluable contribution to promoting sustainable forestry.”   

 The Minnesota SFI Implementation Committee’s leadership shows how critical the SFI Implementation Committees are to SFI’s success in advancing community engagement and sustainability through forest-focused collaboration.  

 “SFI is committed to building and promoting forest-focused collaborations that respect Indigenous Peoples’ rights and traditional knowledge. We also work tirelessly to conserve at risk species including bats and are thrilled with the Minnesota SFI Implementation Committee’s leadership,” says Kathy Abusow, SFI’s President and CEO. “The Minnesota SFI Implementation Committee is being recognized for its commitment to broadening awareness of Indigenous cultural values and species at risk. In both cases, they also collaborated with partners, which is a hallmark of SFI’s work.”  

PLT lessons that reflect Indigenous culture, language, values, and ways of learning 

The Minnesota SFI Implementation Committee saw an opportunity to adapt Project Learning Tree (PLT) lessons to help engage Indigenous youth. Project Learning Tree, an initiative of SFI, uses forests to connect children to nature and develop critical thinking. After consulting the Office of American Indian Education, the committee hired Larissa Harris, a Native American educator, to adapt six PLT lessons to better relate to Indigenous people, and to educate non-Indigenous people about Indigenous perspectives.  

Harris relied on her close ties to Ojibwe and Dakota communities in northern Minnesota. She researched and wrote detailed content about how Ojibwe and Dakota people use and manage forests for homes, food, industry, recreation, and spiritual purposes. The revised lessons reflect Indigenous culture, language, values, and ways of learning. The completed lessons will be posted on the state’s PLT website and are available to all Minnesota teachers. These lessons will help serve state teaching standards that require Indigenous curriculum.   

Increasing forest literacy through youth engagement ​

The Minnesota SFI Implementation Committee partnered with SFI-certified organizations – the Boy Scouts and West Fraser along with Bat Conservation International and Minnesota Power to build 70 bat boxes using wood from SFIcertified forests.  

The project supports SFI’s focus on building youth forest literacy by making connections to forests and biodiversity. Several forest bat species are affected by white-nose syndrome, which is considered one of the worst wildlife diseases in modern times with reduction of up to 90% of some populations in Minnesota. Bats are now being considered for the endangered species list. Youth learn how bats can raise their young safely in these boxes so they can repopulate the skies of Minnesota.  

​Both projects were funded by the SFI Community Grant Program and support SFI’s commitment to better choices for people and the planet.  




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