Forests for Humanity

Since 1997, the Minnesota Society of American Foresters (MN SAF) and Habitat Minnesota have partnered with land owners harvesting timber, loggers and forest products manufacturers in the Forests for Humanity program. Forests for Humanity incorporates donated wood products into Minnesota’s Habitat homes and raises awareness of the importance for sustainable management, including timber harvest as a valuable tool, to maintain healthy forest ecosystems while providing for the needs of people from this most renewable of resources.

The mission of Forests for Humanity is to promote public understanding of the value of sustainable forest management to maintain high quality, diverse forest ecosystems while providing for human needs. It puts the concept of “think globally, act locally” into realistic, meaningful terms people can appreciate and participate in directly.

Forests for Humanity is a partnership between sustainable forest management and meeting people’s needs

Forests for Humanity (FFH) was created by SAF in 1997 to reflect the mission of the 100+ year old organization. Since then, donations of cash and products generated for Habitat for Humanity have likely exceeded $200,000 since 1997, and MN SAF members have contributed many, many volunteer hours building Habitat homes, setting up and coordinating timber harvests, and delivering locally manufactured products derived from donated timber. In addition to that estimate, Minnesota SAF has raised $30,000 for Log-a-Load for Kids.

An SAF member soliciting a landowner donation starts the ball rolling for FFH. Additional donations can be made by the logger (for harvesting the timber); the trucker (or logger) for hauling it to the mill; and the mill (for processing the timber into 2 x 4s or OSB or millwork for cabinets). Every donated product or service increases the total end-value of the contribution to Habitat for Humanity. The multiplying effect can mean that a landowner donation of one truckload of logs worth $500 (about 10 cords) might supply enough 2 x 4s or OSB for two or more homes—with an end-value of up to $2,500.

Habitat homeowners “complete the cycle.” Another unique aspect of the FFH program is that it demonstrates, in a very real manner, the renewable life cycle of forests. Mature trees are harvested, and the timber is used to build homes. To complete the cycle, Habitat homeowners can use some of the “sweat equity” they must expend to “earn” the keys to their new home (about 200 hours per adult) to plant trees or participate in other forest management activities.

“Teachable moments:” There is another side benefit to the FFH program. It provides foresters and landowners with countless “teachable moments” that can help to put a face on important messages related to forest management. FFH has been able to mentor forestry students by having them actively work with working professionals on actual timber harvests. Newspaper, radio and TV coverage of FFH projects and SAF member presentations at meeting and HFH events have provided many opportunities to capture the public’s attention, increase public awareness, and even correct some misperceptions about forestry.

We depend on countless wood products for our everyday lives—and wood products come from harvesting trees. We depend on trees, we harvest trees to fulfill basic needs, and then we plant new trees. With sustainable forest management, the cycle goes on and on. Furthermore, if we don’t meet our need for wood products here in the United States, we end up exporting our demand to other countries less able to protect the environment. That’s why FFH emphasizes the need to ‘think globally, act locally."

The mission of Forests for Humanity is, in part, to “put the concept of ‘think globally, act locally’ into realistic, meaningful terms that people can appreciate and participate in directly. The enthusiastic generosity and growing participation of many individuals and organizations in FFH programs reinforces that vision, while also building stronger public awareness of the value of effectively managing our renewable forest resources to meet the needs of people today—and for many generations to come.

Want to help? For more information about the Forests for Humanity program, upcoming FFH events, or how you can make a donation, contact Rick Dahlman, chair, Forests for Humanity program, Minnesota SAF at 763-441-1253 or