Letter from the Chairman and President/CEO

In our 17th year, we increased our project impact and supported our partners and grantees in their quest to shape the future of forestry.

The Endowment occupies a unique niche. We are the nation’s largest public charity dedicated to working forests, but we put equal emphasis on the health and vitality of forest-reliant communities. Benefitting the North American forest industry is in our DNA. We also seek to ensure that America’s forests are sustainably managed to meet broad, societal objectives, such as marketable products, clean waters and other ecological services, and wildlife habitat. This is a tall order.

Our ability to shape the future is rooted in four organizational traits. First, we strive to be a catalyst, searching for leverage points to spur change beyond what our limited financial resources will allow. For example, with industry partners and the USDA Forest Service, we are developing a digital platform that highlights the carbon-saving potential of using wood over more carbon-intensive materials. This will aid architects and engineers in making environmentally conscious decisions. This collaborative initiative enhances transparency in carbon data reporting across the forest sector, positioning forests and forest products as a sustainability leader.

Second, we embrace markets to help bring about systemic, transformative, and sustainable change. For instance, in 2023 we concluded the Future Forests Economy Initiative with the Northern Forest Center and the Economic Development Administration that resulted in 10 new forest products being developed that will drive regional wood demand, create jobs, and keep forests healthy. The Endowment’s ability to nimbly administer federal funds and convene top-notch partners played a key role in this collaboration.

Third, we seek to be bridge builders. We are testing our skills in this area through the release of “Preparing Plan B: A Guidebook for Forest-Reliant Communities Facing Economic Transition.”  Designed to increase a community’s ability to anticipate change and shape a desired future, we are now taking recommendations to action and furthering learning by launching place-based pilot projects.

Finally, to shape the future of forestry we will emphasize collaboration even more. Part of the Endowment’s “secret sauce” is identifying and funding the most innovative and effective public and private partners.

In 2023, our staff grew with the addition of Laura Garner as the organization’s first Investment Director and Charlie Livingston as Administrative Coordinator. Laura brings rich experience in investor relations, business development, and marketing experience to the Endowment. We look forward to tapping Laura’s expertise and contacts to further boost our impact. Charlie keeps the trains running and plays an essential role organizing our board meetings, staff gatherings, and internal communications. Charlie is the “detail guy” who makes sure we don’t miss a beat. We were also thrilled to have Kelly Ryan join the team as an Executive in Residence, courtesy of the Heron Foundation. Kelly’s rural and community expertise has proven invaluable as we work collaboratively to expand the Endowment’s partnership base through a multi-capitals approach to equitable and sustainable community growth.

A special thanks to Caroline Dauzat, Mark Emmerson, and Kevin Schuyler, who transitioned off the Endowment’s Board in 2023. Caroline brought a mill owner and community perspective to our Board that helped shape our programmatic focus. She also acted as a bridge to our sister organization, the Softwood Lumber Board. Mark, who also served as Chair, brought business savvy and a large landowner viewpoint to our operations. His steady leadership helped improve the efficiency of our operations and the launch of our impact investing program. Kevin served as Treasurer and Chair of our Investment Committee and helped re-shape our investment strategy to reflect the perpetual nature of our corpus. We are grateful that Kevin has agreed to stay on for another year as Chair of the Investment Committee.

The loss of Caroline, Mark, and Kevin was softened by the addition of three new board members: Anna Torma, Vice President Public Affairs and Chief ESG Officer at PotlatchDeltic Corporation; Paul Hossain, Vice President of Natural Resources and Climate Solutions with Weyerhaeuser Company; and Fritz Mason, President of Lumber at Georgia-Pacific. These industry professionals will help us shape the Endowment’s future.

The future is filled with challenges. Chairman McIver and I are industry veterans. Value optimization has defined our careers and this principle will help guide the Endowment’s future. We see many bright spots to optimize the value of forests for society, including: sustainable community prosperity, particularly in in rural areas and underserved communities; essential day-to-day products such as wood and paper; climate change mitigation; the provision of essential ecological services; human physical and mental health benefits; recreation; and wildlife habitats.

Looking forward, in 2024 the Endowment will begin implementing a new vision for our forest-reliant communities initiative. We will seek to enhance the carbon sequestration value of forests and watch for market opportunities, such as sustainable aviation fuels and wood substitutes for single-use plastics, to reduce emissions. We want to explore forest sector applications for artificial intelligence, machine learning, Blockchain traceability, drones, and robotics to address challenges. We plan to attract more capital to forest investment and sustainability.

People are central to everything we do. We will continue to lead formation of the U.S. Forest and Wood Products Inclusion Council, whose vision is to create equitable workplaces where people feel valued, safe, and that they belong, so that all people can sustain and benefit from forests. The Council seeks to invite a growing community to explore, learn, and drive positive change in the forestry sector so we can shape a diverse workforce for the future of forestry.