XXVI World Congress on Forest Science is Underway

Nearly 4,000 scientists and experts from more than 105 countries have convened for the 24th IUFRO World Congress & SAF/CIF Convention in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA this week to share their research and discuss the leading issues facing the world’s forests. Conference attendees were awed by a traditional song and dance performance by Native American dancers  and welcomed to the Congress by Richard Guldin, Chair of the Congress Organizing Committee.

Dancer from Twoshields Production Co.
Dancer from Twoshields Production Co.

Sustaining Forests, Sustaining People: The Role of Research is the theme of the Congress, and it will be carried throughout the 168 sessions happening this week.

A number of dignitaries shared the stage during the opening ceremony such as Steve Bullard, President, National Association of University Forest Resources Programs (NAUFRP) and Jimmy Reaves, Deputy Chief for Research and Development for the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) who raised the IUFRO flag.

Niels Elers Koch, IUFRO President, opened by reminiscing on his first IUFRO World Congress in Norway, 1976, which, “…changed the rest of his life – for the better.” He continued by parting his wisdom with those who are first-timers to such a large gathering of scientists wishing the following:

  1. May you make the same experiences and get the same excellent opportunities that I have got through IUFRO.
  2. Use the Congress to share knowledge, because when two people share knowledge they both get out more.
  3. Be committed to and get involved in IUFRO, because the great strength of IUFRO is that it builds on people who are committed and get involved.

Tom Tidwell, Chief of the USFS, the host organization outlined the importance of partnerships in developing science, “… because it is the science that is essential for sustainable forest management throughout America.” Tidwell further recognized the importance of partnerships on a global stage, “Through our partnership with IUFRO we have provided ‘sound science’ to land managers and policy makers around the world”.

Next, USDA Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment, Robert Bonnie introduced the history of the FS and provided examples of the economic, and cultural importance forests have played in America. He spoke on the importance forests play in challenging today’s global problems, noting that fire season in the U.S. is 60-80 days longer than it was three decades ago.

“The role of forests in mitigating and adapting to climate change cannot be overstated.” Bonnie continued, “While much of the public and media’s attention around climate change focuses on societies use of energy, our job in confronting climate change will be substantially cheaper and easier if we conserve forests.”

Delegates were welcomed again to the Congress by Thomas Gass, UN Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Inter-Agency Affairs, who appeared via video and shared his appreciation for the forest science being conducted around the world.

Eduardo Rojas Briales, Assistant Director General for Forests, UN-FAO, focused his address on the forest-governance interface and discussed the urgency needed to promote forests on a global level. Urging the crowd, Briales implored, “We all have a crucial responsiblity  to communicate by all means possible that from a technical and scientific perspective the short term social, midterm economic, and long term environmental demands can be integrated through sustainable forest management”

May Anne Then was the last speaker of the opening ceremony, representing the International Forestry Students Association (IFSA) as their President. She spoke proudly about how IFSA is a source for knowledge and cultural exchange, connecting students, and promoting learning.

Ultimately this is why delegates the world over have travelled to IUFRO 2014, to kindle relationships, and share their science.

Link to video of Opening Ceremony

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