We challenge landowners, decision makers, and society at large to make choices about our forests based on professional knowledge, leading-edge thinking, and a century of practical experience. We seek viable pathways forward, balancing diverse demands on our natural resources. We set the standard in forest management, bringing science, best practice and the best people together to actively shape the future of the profession. ‘For the greatest good. For the greatest number. For the long run.’
The profession of forestry started to take hold in the United States in late 1800s. In 1889, George Vanderbilt hired Gifford Pinchot (pictured at right), a young forester educated in Europe, to manage the forest at the Biltmore Estate. It was the nation’s first professionally managed forest.
In 1891 Congress passed the Forest Reserves Act, which created a reserve of 40 million acres of forestland in the United States. Six years later in 1897, Congress passed the Organic Act, which served as the basis for management of the newly created forest reserves.
At the time, there were fewer than 10 individuals in the nation with any formal forest-management training, and all of them studied in Europe. That changed in 1898, when the Biltmore Forest School and the New York State College of Forestry at Cornell started forestry education programs. Two years later, the Yale School of Forestry began training professionals to manage this vital resource.
Pinchot believed that high standards were essential to bring a level of dignity to this new profession that equaled that of other professions. On November 30, 1900, Pinchot asked seven professional foresters to join him in his office at the Department of Agriculture. The result of that gathering was the formation of SAF.
SAF’s objective was “to further the cause of forestry in America by fostering a spirit of comradeship among foresters; by creating opportunities for a free interchange of views upon forestry and allied subjects; and by disseminating a knowledge of the purpose and achievements of forestry.” Pinchot served as the Society’s first President from 1900 to 1908 and then again from 1910 to 1911.
As the Society grew, so did its programs. A national meeting, held outside Washington, DC, took place on 1914 in Ithaca, New York. The Journal of Forestry was published in January 1917 to bring the latest scientific information about forest management to its members. In 1935, SAF began the accreditation of forestry programs, which has expanded to four standards. In 1994, SAF created the Certified Forester program—the national certification program for foresters and other natural resources professionals. In 1995, SAF launched The Forestry Source newspaper to bring the latest news about forestry and the Society’s activities directly to members.
Today, SAF is a 12,000-member community that has held true to its original objective to bring forestry and natural resources professionals together and keep them informed about the latest advances in forest science and management.
Members of SAF have a deep and enduring love for the land, and are inspired by the profession's historic traditions, such as Gifford Pinchot's utilitarianism and Aldo Leopold's ecological conscience. In their various roles as practitioners, teachers, researchers, advisers, and administrators, foresters seek to sustain and protect a variety of forest uses and attributes, such as aesthetic values, air and water quality, biodiversity, recreation, timber production, and wildlife habitat.
The purpose of this Code of Ethics is to protect and serve society by inspiring, guiding, and governing members in the conduct of their professional lives. Compliance with the code demonstrates members' respect for the land and their commitment to the long-term management of ecosystems, and ensures just and honorable professional and human relationships, mutual confidence and respect, and competent service to society.
On joining the SAF, members assume a special responsibility to the profession and to society by promising to uphold and abide by the following:Principles and Pledges
- Foresters have a responsibility to manage land for both current and future generations. We pledge to practice and advocate management that will maintain the long-term capacity of the land to provide the variety of materials, uses, and values desired by landowners and society.
- Society must respect forest landowners' rights and correspondingly, landowners have a land stewardship responsibility to society. We pledge to practice and advocate forest management in accordance with landowner objectives and professional standards, and to advise landowners of the consequences of deviating from such standards.
- Sound science is the foundation of the forestry profession. We pledge to strive for continuous improvement of our methods and our personal knowledge and skills; to perform only those services for which we are qualified; and in the biological, physical, and social sciences to use the most appropriate data, methods, and technology.
- Public policy related to forests must be based on both scientific principles and societal values. We pledge to use our knowledge and skills to help formulate sound forest policies and laws; to challenge and correct untrue statements about forestry; and to foster dialogue among foresters, other professionals, landowners, and the public regarding forest policies.
- Honest and open communication, coupled with respect for information given in confidence, is essential to good service. We pledge to always present, to the best of our ability, accurate and complete information; to indicate on whose behalf any public statements are made; to fully disclose and resolve any existing or potential conflicts of interest; and to keep proprietary information confidential unless the appropriate person authorizes its disclosure.
- Professional and civic behavior must be based on honesty, fairness, good will, and respect for the law. We pledge to conduct ourselves in a civil and dignified manner; to respect the needs, contributions, and viewpoints of others; and to give due credit to others for their methods, ideas, or assistance.